Why I joined the humanist fight against cancer


LLS LTNNoelle George, Foundation Beyond Belief’s operations manager, shares her personal reasons for joining her local Light the Night walk to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The knowledge that this life is our only life has been the single most motivating factor in my choice to dedicate most of my free time to the freethought movement. The thought of whittling away my short consciousness with distractions like television and movies is unbearable. When you ask most people to make a list of what’s most important to them—relationships, family, friends, and taking care of each other—people are consistently at the top of the list. This is my expression of humanism: advocating for equality for all human beings, and taking care of each other (in times of need).

Foundation Beyond Belief’s partnership with Stiefel Freethought Society and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to raise $1 million to fight cancer in 2012 is our chance to do that in a way that is consistent with our values, as a community, together. As FBB’s recently appointed operations manager, it seems obvious that I would support this unprecedented effort to mobilize nonbelievers for a very good cause, one that is consistent with the values of scientific research, humanism, and relying upon each other for help instead of a mythical god. But fighting cancer is also a deeply personal cause for me.

Evan and LenoreMy father’s side of our family has been hit especially hard by cancer. Both of his parents suffered from cancer: My grandmother Lenore died in 1982 at age 57 of brain cancer, and my grandfather Evan died in 2006 of complications from prostate cancer. My only memory of Grandma Lenore was of her in a wheelchair, after her body had suffered some difficult setbacks from the disease.

Grandpa Evan and I had the same birthday, March 5, and although he was almost 60 years older than me, I always felt a special connection to him for that reason. He was a quiet, serious man who had four children. He served in World War II and he was a civil engineer, starting an engineering tradition in our family that continued with my father’s electrical engineering degree, and also with my graduation from the University of Washington with a degree in chemical engineering.

My grandpa’s death was the first in my immediate family after I became an adult and was very difficult for me to process, especially without the comforting thoughts of his essence existing somewhere else. As an atheist and a skeptic, thoughts of heaven or an everlasting life are no comfort, since I can’t make myself believe what doesn’t make sense. Every time a loved one dies, it is a reminder that life is so short, so valuable, and we never know how much longer we have to make a difference, and to impact the memories our loved ones have of us. Each moment is precious, and beautiful moments like the birth of my daughter even more miraculous because of the improbability of our existence.

I joined my local FBB team in Houston because I want to do something positive with a community of people who do it because we want to help others. I want to be a part of the largest organized atheist charity effort in history, and I do believe that we can make a huge difference by working together, with the two hands that we have. We are so good at talking, at debating, at debunking, at writing, at reading, and at discussing issues that are important. We can also be good at doing: doing something to make this world, this life, a better place for ourselves and others is a very worthy use of our time.

Please join me and others on the 120+ FBB Light the Night teams to raise money for cancer research, and consider joining a team in your local area. If you don’t have one, consider starting one, or joining the Foundation Beyond Belief virtual team. If you aren’t able for whatever reason to join a team, please consider donating to your local team in support of this community effort to make a positive difference in the world. Your donation will be split evenly between all the current members of the team.