Meet the New CFE Intern: Isabel Wheat

Please welcome the Center for Freethought Equality’s summer intern, Isabel Wheat! What is your educational and work background?

I’m entering my senior year at Boston University and am on track to graduate with a Bachelor of Music degree in viola performance and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. In 2020, I transferred from the University of Kansas to pursue more opportunities as a classical musician and pre-law student. At both BU and my high school, I founded the first chapters of the Ethics Bowl Teams through the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and the Parr Center for Ethics’ National High School Ethics Bowl, respectively. I’ve learned how rewarding philosophical inquiry in an oral and collaborative manner can be, and what kind of attitude is present towards even the most fundamental moral issues that surface throughout our daily lives. How did you first learn about humanism?

I first learned about humanism in early high school during my journey to figure out if I personally sympathized with Judeo-Christian doctrine. I quickly realized I didn’t, but I found a new appreciation for the kind of dialectical reasoning I engaged with about whether or not religion was right for me. From Hinduism to Satanism to Discordianism, learning about many different schools of thought made me realize that secular humanism will be something I always identify with, solely because I relate with its good-faith responses to pressing issues, such as the overwhelming presence of organized religion within our socio-economic institutions. Did you grow up in a traditional religious faith? How did it impact you?

Growing up very close to the Bible Belt, I actually have never identified with any religious faith nor has my immediate family. Many of my friends, peers, and mentors were religious, but my Sundays were always either empty or spent with the Youth Symphony of Kansas City at weekly rehearsals. Having grown up with an absence of faith lent me the intellectual opportunity to both question and try to understand it. At fourteen, I tackled my own inquiries by committing my Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings to my local church’s services and youth groups. Since then, I found clarity about how it operates, what it has become since its conception, and its function in people’s lives at both personal and civil levels. I’ve been identifying as an atheist activist since engaging in the enterprise of the philosophy of religion. What interested you most about working for the American Humanist Association?

After making a personal decision to identify with humanism, I felt like the next appropriate step would be to associate with activist collectives, such as the AHA. I’ve been following the work of the AHA since high school and, ever since then, I made it a priority to ‘do what a humanist would do’ in terms of engaging in activism, investigating ethical dilemmas through a humanist lens, and doing other life-affirming activities, like playing the viola. Having the AHA act as such a large influence in my personal growth for so long, I figured I could show something for it by actually working for them one day. And so, here I am as a summer intern! What book has influenced you the most?

The most influential book I’ve read has been Lectures on the Philosophy of History by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. I read some parts of it for a class I took on 19th-century philosophers, and I’ve been continuing to cite it for some of my other classes since then. The book essentially separates the conception of history into three major parts, and depending on where one is in relation to any of the three parts, history has and will always follow a pattern which leads to intellectual freedom. The book is especially important to me because I had never privileged the discipline of history so highly until I realized I was making intellectual mistakes in appropriating it, like thinking history is something to be learned from or taking it as objective truth. I encourage anyone interested in politics, knowledge, or psychology to read this work. If you could have dinner with any three people in the world (living or dead), who would they be and why?

If I could have dinner with any three people, I would pick any of my relatives who were born in what is now present-day Mexico from both sides of my family. Learning from them would help me discover exactly where I descended from in terms of their cultures, value-systems, and especially the lost narratives of history as Indigenous folk. Given the ethical implications of modern-day DNA tests being risky for anyone to take, talking with them while eating their traditional cuisine could give me the opportunity to connect with my roots as a Mexican-American in the best way possible.