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Meet a member: Life Member Marian Wiggins went from faith to reason

Marian Wiggins

Name: Marian Wiggins

Where I live: Bremerton, Wash.

Where and when I was born: Tulsa, Okla., in 1949.

Family: Sister, age 68; younger brother died at 60, four years ago.

Education: Speech-language pathology at Oklahoma State University and postgraduate studies at University of California at Santa Barbara and University of Washington. Deaf studies and American Sign Language at Seattle Central Community College.

Occupation: Retired speech-language pathologist; former senior editor at Gospel Light Publications.

How I got where I am today: As a speech-language pathologist (SLP), I worked in clinics, hospitals, private practice and the public schools. Due to my professional background as an SLP and as an editor, I have skills that allow me to volunteer as an English tutor at Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center, edit blog posts for the atheist-activist Valerie Tarico (, and sit on the Kitsap County Developmental Disabilities Advisory Council Board of Directors.

Where I’m headed: I’m headed where we’re all headed (and it isn’t heaven or hell). In the meantime, I maintain a healthy diet and do some form of exercise daily in my home gym (which includes stretch bands, several pairs of hand weights and a BodyBlade, currently in a corner of my study).

I’m learning (and loving) t’ai chi and I’m in a book club and a dinner group. The plan is to stay healthy and helpful and connected for as long as possible, and then to die with a heart full of gratitude for all who helped me have a life well-lived.

Person in history I admire and why: This one’s so difficult to answer; I can add new people to the list almost every day. Today I choose Darnella Frazier, the young teen who bravely filmed the police officers who knelt on George Floyd, even after being told by one of them to stop. I don’t know that I would have been so brave at that tender age. Her footage marked a turning point in our understanding of the depth and breadth of the fears of Black Americans.

A quotation I like: “Nothing fails like prayer.” — Anne Nicol Gaylor. (I doubt a week goes by that I’m not reminded of this quotation.)

Things I like: Sunshine, walks, books, coffee, friendships, classical music, books, good wine, dark chocolate, a gentle Pacific Northwest rain, and — need I say it again? — BOOKS!

Things I smite: Meanness, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, bullying.

My doubts about religion started: The seed of doubt was planted in 1984 by Dan Barker (yes, that one) while I was at Gospel Light Publications, trying to locate him so that we could start our annual collaboration on the Vacation Bible School Mini-Musicale. No longer in L.A., he’d moved to Madison, Wis., and had announced that he was an atheist, of all things! That revelation, coupled with my near-daily work with the bible while developing children’s Sunday School and VBS curricula, enabled me to understand how someone could make that long and tangled journey. I had no idea I’d soon be making a similar journey, myself. Or did I? Denial is a mysterious force.

Before I die: I want to conduct a “Swedish death cleaning” of my closets, files, cupboards, garage (shudder!) — meaning that I want my heirs not to hate me for leaving loads of sorting to them.

Ways I promote freethought: Supporting Valerie Tarico’s atheist-activism by editing her articles and by daily curating the news for her; sharing with others articles of hers and of those in Freethought Today; talking to others about my journey from faith to reason.

I wish you’d have asked me: Who has had the greatest impact on your life? My paternal grandfather was a self-taught man, having dropped out of school in eighth grade (1908) to help support his family. He was a voracious reader, an entrepreneur, a leader in his community (Tulsa, Okla.), and a kind and loving grandfather. Luckily for me, he lived next door. He taught me the value of study, the wisdom of both saving and sharing money, the undying necessity of truth, and the importance of a strong and a gentle character. I think of him — and am so grateful for him — every day.