Happy first full week of the New Year! I’m Cherry Teresa and I’m delighted to bring in 2015 as the newest addition to the Skeptic Ink Network with my Very Cherry blog. I’ve been a fan of this group since shortly after its inception and am honored to be writing alongside such talented and intelligent thinkers. I’m also excited because I’ve been following the comments on the blogs and on social media, so I know that the readers of Skeptic Ink are great minds. I look forward to the interactions.
Here’s some background on who I am and how I got involved in skepticism:
From childhood until junior high, I grew up on the edge of the Bible Belt in Southern Ohio. I went to music school studying and performing classical piano. I also became very involved with church, and played piano and handbell during Sunday services. This resulted in realizing I wasn’t a Christian. Reading the Bible and interacting with congregants and church leaders made me realize how many inconsistencies there were in Christianity. I also could not support a belief system that promoted homophobia. I became an atheist and an ally for LGBT issues when I was a preteen.
My family and I then moved to the much bigger city of Baltimore, MD and I lived in the Baltimore-DC Metro area from my teenage years through most of my adulthood thus far. It was there that I finally started to tell people I was an atheist. I felt more comfortable in a place with greater religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity.
I went from classical pianist to alternative keyboardist. My teens and 20s were consumed by my rock bands: Writing, rehearsing, collaborating, performing, recording, and promoting. Most notably, I was in Skitzo Calypso for a few years and we played quite a bit on the East Coast, particularly the Mid-Atlantic region. You can check out some of my recordings on the music section of my website.
The music scene and business changed drastically within a relatively short time and I was barely scraping by, so I went to college and got my Applied Sciences degree in Information Technology. During this period of focused learning and studying, I spent more time examining my views. I started realizing that I was wrong on certain things.
I also experienced the tragic, unexpected loss of a close friend during this time. He died by suicide from jumping off a bridge. He was only 27 years old. This devastated me and I could barely sleep. I was incredibly upset and also could not wrap my head around certain beliefs I had. While I had been an atheist and used critical thinking on many issues, I wasn’t an all-around skeptic. I still believed in woo, including the supernatural. In order to feel comfortable with my own brain, there were confusing topics that I had to study and figure out. I did a lot of reading.
I eventually got to the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I initially wasn’t interested in it. I didn’t think I’d learn much from it since I already didn’t believe in God and was critical of various religions, but my friend kept singing its praises and convinced me to read it. I did and it sharpened the way I looked at the world. I then started reading other Dawkins books and watched his documentary The Enemies of Reason. He not only covered religion, but other topics such as psychics, astrology, and alternative medicine. I’d previously heard arguments against these subjects, but nothing really convinced me before Dawkins’ explanations. Most importantly, he was the first person to finally make me realize that I was wrong to believe in alternative medicine.
I watched many YouTube videos of Dawkins. In the related videos, I was introduced to other great thinkers such as James Randi, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and rediscovered Carl Sagan. I learned that skepticism wasn’t cynicism, as I had previously thought. It’s a way to examine the world and to help protect and educate yourself. It’s an empowering thought process. Shortly after my introduction to skepticism, I was interviewed by the Baltimore Sun about an atheist billboard. The interactions I had with friends and online commenters about the article strengthened my desire to become more involved and meet other freethinkers.
Through my new friends Brian Gregory and Bruce Press, who would soon start Drinking Skeptically Baltimore, I was introduced to Center For Inquiry in early 2010. I attended as many DC and Baltimore events as I could squeeze in while working full-time in the healthcare industry and attending college. I also took the Megabus up to New York for NYC Skeptics events when I could. The fantastic people I met and wonderful talks I saw put a new spring in my step, which had been lacking since my rock band days.
At the end of 2011, I moved to Los Angeles, CA in the Hollywood district. I quickly became part of the skeptic and atheist communities here, including Drinking Skeptically, CFI-West, Atheists United, Investigation Network, and the former L.A. office of the James Randi Educational Foundation.
It wasn’t long after moving here that I noticed just how common and mainstream alternative medicine is compared to cities I lived previously. Since I was once an advocate and user of complementary and alternative medicine, I decided to use my knowledge and experiences to promote science-based medicine. I endured harm from alt med, but if I can use my understanding of why people believe those false ideas, some good can come from it. Some of my pieces on that include How Alternative Medicine Harmed Me and How I Was Scammed By Kevin Trudeau. I plan to write more on this topic, as well as my thoughts on other issues related to skepticism, humanism, atheism, and secularism. I might even discuss relevant issues that involve music and pop culture.
My day job is in Finance at an LGBT nonprofit. I love the organization I work for, but having a “big girl job” doesn’t allow me as much time to create music as in the past. However, I do still record solo music when I can, and my more recent songs have incorporated critical thinking. Unborn Ghosts includes the spoken word of Richard Dawkins. Faith is a Slippery Pig is a collaboration with philosopher Peter Boghossian. You can hear more on my YouTube channel and my SoundCloud page.
Thanks for letting me introduce myself here and I look forward to getting to know you.