Jessica Ahlquist Appears on CNN

Email conversation I had earlier today (slightly paraphrased):

Random Guy: I was gonna donate to Jessica Ahlquist’s scholarship fund but my money said “In God We Trust” and I knew you wouldn’t like that, so forget it.

Me: I didn’t know credit cards said “In God We Trust” on them. BOOYA!

And then I did a little dance.

Actually, with the recent influx of articles about the fund, I’ve been getting more-than-usual amounts of emails from crazy people.

A lot of them are asking why anyone would want to support someone like Jessica.

Watch this video of her recent appearance on CNN, speaking with Soledad O’Brien, and you’ll see why I believe she’s well-deserving of the fund. The way she has handled herself throughout this whole ordeal is admirable far beyond anything most people would expect from a high school student:

One more week until the scholarship drive closes:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rachlebek Rod Chlebek

    just fucking awesome… the amount of courage she has and the continuous support!

    • http://twitter.com/notlobau John

      x2

      And I need to say this, Peter Palumbo you’re a MORON!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rachlebek Rod Chlebek

    just fucking awesome… the amount of courage she has and the continuous support!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    That annoying currency thing has been coming up a lot lately.  My canned response is that I’m not going to deprive my son of bubble gum from the machine while waiting for the government to stop putting false messages on my money.  This pragmatic atheist prioritizes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

       A response to that I’ve heard and think is pretty smart is to say that if atheists can’t use money with god on it, then Christians can’t use calendars because it has other holidays on it for religions they don’t believe in.

      • Michael

        Would it help if I were to point out that a lot of British coins have unicorns on them?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I’ve used that too, which led to a humorous exchange last week.  Paraphrased (mostly because I can’t remember all the grammar errors, but the end is accurate:

        Me:  Do you have a problem celebrating pagan gods on your calendar?
        They:  I don’t have a calendar.  Besides, pagans can celebrate their holidays.  What do you mean?
        Me: The days of the week are named after pagan gods.  Like today, Thursday, is Thor’s day.   You know, the god of thunder?
        They:  Thor’s not pagan, he’s Greek.

        • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

           yes! the pagan godly names for the weekday names. I forgot about that…

        • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

          >  Thor’s not pagan, he’s Greek.

          So. Much. Fail.

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    Um, we want to support her because she is awesome.

  • Roshan Menon

    A state rep has called her “an evil little thing” publicly??? And he still has his job? That bugger should be thrown out of office!

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

       that’s nothing. People have said at the last meeting where they decided not to appeal the lawsuit that state rep made a long rant involving Obama’s attack in religion being biblical prophecies and if there’s no appeal it would make American a communist country. Apparently there’s video of it yet to be uploaded.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jared.scheib Jared Scheib

    Contributed! Thanks for hosting this, Hemant. So happy to support such a brave new leader and inspiration for all of us.

  • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

    Any chance you could find the story page that goes with this interview, it looks like they cut the beginning and end of it off and I’d be interested in seeing the whole thing.

    I tried looking for it myself on the CNN website but typing in the title of the video, even Jessica’s name, doesn’t pull the video up let alone any written story they might have included.  I have no idea how you found that video to be honest.  :-)

    Still, kudos to her for being so poised and coherent.  I’ve seen a LOT of interviews where people are so nervous they come off looking bad, she was on target and quite focussed; I know I could not have done the same.

    Are we absolutely certain that she’s only sixteen? lol :-)

    • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com/ TCC

      I was about to say that I found the direct link to the video on the CNN site, but it’s equally incomplete, so chalk this up to CNN’s incompetence (Soledad O’Brien excepted).

  • Eivind Kjorstad

    It amuse me when it’s used as an argument -against- removing unconstitutional banners like this one, that cash has “In God we trust” on it. And people ask, “should we do away with that too” as if that was some kinda ridicolous notion.

    The answer is, offcourse, *yes* we should do away with that. Thanks for asking.

    • Flora

      In Canada, we now have the words “Medical Innovation” with a woman looking into a microscope, a bottle of insulin,  strand of DNA and an EKG trace on our $100 bill. But you know, In God We Trust is just as good.

      • Eivind Kjorstad

         That’s hilarous, especially if seen as a deliberate jab in the ribs of USA. I mean, if I have a medical problem, I’m gonna go with the antibiotics, the anaestethics, the transplant or whatever medical research recommends, rather than putting my trust in God.

        That’s what most religious folks do too, offcourse. In the real world.

  • http://twitter.com/happy_skeptic David

    This is so awesome that I don’t have sufficient words to express how awesome it is. I wish I’d had the wherewithal as a high schooler to come out like this. From one “evil little thing” to another, Jessica is a hero for free thought.

  • Thin-ice

    She is amazingly poised and eloquent, and no doubt sharp as a whip, that she figured out at such a young age that prayer doesn’t work. My guess is that she will get a full ride university scholarship, and I don’t care what the hell she does with $43,000 (or whatever it ends up being): she’s earned every penny.

  • Tim

    Jessica you are fabtastic. 

    (BTW I love the way America TV stations do everyone’s hair to make them look so damm glamourous)

  • Keith Collyer

    Every time I hear or see Jessica speak I am more impressed. She is a credit to atheism.
    BTW, it may be caching, but I am not seeing any change in the fund total over the last week or so, what is it at now?

    • Silver_fox-trot

       It’s at $43 598! Of course, that still doesn’t include the sales from the ‘Evil Little Thing’ shirts, nor does it include the amount that people gave the other organization whose name currently slips my sleep-deprived mind to give to her. It also doesn’t include any of the other scholarships she has received either.

      Basically, anyway you look at it, her university fees are covered for a few years, at least!

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    people on the facebook support group had been arguing over whether or not it’s time to close the group down, some claiming to keep going would be beating a dead horse. I think with the case finally over we are finally seeing the national news media attention this case deserves, and we need to continue support as more people become involved in the discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Love it. She’s very well-spoken.

    I would like if she was able to articulate further why believing in a deity is absurd. Too many people will dismiss “unanswered prayers” and not catch the concept of looking closer at religion or the idea of a god.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Did it seem off to anyone else that she was asked to explain what convinced her to be an atheist? I know atheism is strange to Americans and some might want to understand why they hold that view, but is this the appropriate place for that? When you see Christians on the news because of a legal dispute involving faith, they’re never asked for this explanation.

    It could simply be curiosity of atheism, but in this setting it feels more like 1 or 2 things.
    1. The atheist’s true religious views are being called into question. As if Jessica’s motives are being faked so she can be used as a pawn by the ACLU. This one feels like an obvious undertone to the question in this specific instance since that is one of the most popular narratives of the anti-ACLU people.
    2. in contrast, a very subtle undertone seems implied that atheists need something significant in their life to convince them of atheism.

    • Silo

      Christians in America are never asked for an explanation for their beliefs because believing in Jesus is considered the norm. Society never questions the norm, only the deviations and outliers.

    • BC3free

       Larry – I was miffed about that, too.  The implication was that her atheism had to be the result of Jessica being mad at god for not answering her prayers during her mother’s death (forgive me, illness). That, and “You were born Catholic?” Clearly O’Brien falls into the 80% of Americans that just can’t wrap their minds around the idea that someone can be an atheist by way of rational thinking.  But even so, Jessica answered with the class that has earned her such admiration and respect.  Well done Jessica.

  • http://nefariousnewt.blogspot.com NefariousNewt

    As a person of some faith, I admire her for her honest and forthright appraisal of why she became an atheist. She made up her own mind. If there’s anything that drives this hysterical squawking about a “war on religion,” it’s that the powers-that-be behind Christian fundamentalism and the Roman Catholic Church do not want anyone getting the idea that they are allowed to read The Bible and think for themselves. Whether you choose to believe in one god, many gods, or no god, the point always is that it is your choice, and that no one has the right to impose their belief system upon you.

  • Ggsillars

    The scholarship is a great idea and I pitched in myself, but I also think that there will be any number of top colleges and universities that will go out of their way to make it possible for such an outstanding young person to attend.

  • wright1

    The comments on her blog are mixed, but the majority are supportive. She has definitely drawn many sympathizers as well as detractors out of the woodwork. Well fought, well won, Ms. Ahlquist.

  • Anonymous

    What a well spoken young lady.  Her future is very bright indeed.

  • Tiffany

    This young lady has demonstrated such grace and poise in contrast the to the petty, vitriolic comments from her detractors!  She should be very proud.  Well done Jessica!

  • http://twitter.com/hipopotamo Hipopótamo de Río

    Thanks CNN for making a quite objective interview, without guiding questions or a skew point of view. Yes, I even approve of Soledad asking how Jess became an atheist. And I love the way she plays the undertones on Mr. Palumbo’s faux-pass.

    On the other hand, kudos to Jess, I admire her more every day; few times you see a a person so articulated and with that clarity of mind. A bright future is ahead.

    Cheers from the hippo

  • bismarket

    Remind me how old she is again? Maybe by the time she’s out of college we could be voting for State rep Ahlquist, now that would be sweet!

  • Question

    Honest question- why is the banner unconstitutional, but “In God We Trust” on money isn’t?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Honest answer- read the judges decision.  He lays it all out.  40 pages may seem like a lot, but it’s not.  It’s not a large font and it’s double spaced with large margins.  If you still don’t get it after that, then come back and many of us will be happy to add our opinions, although AFAIK know none of us are federal judges.

       http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/files/2012/01/ahlquist_decision_011112.pdf  


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