Greetings Dr. Dawkins,
My first introduction to you was as my intellectual opponent. At the time, I was a bold young evangelical Christian in college, very much a leader of other young Christians. That was 9 years ago. 4 years ago I was accepted into a church leadership training program and was eventually ordained as the senior pastor of a small Baptist church. Just eight months ago, finally compelled by reason, I gave up my faith completely.
At the point of my deconversion – as I like to call it – I had not yet read any of your books, but you were still the catalyst that eventually changed my mind about god. Interestingly enough, it was your contribution to Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that finally won me over. Though I had seen the documentary many years earlier, something you said (even though you were obviously cast as the antagonist in that setting) finally struck a personal cord in me. You were asked what you might say if you ever came face to face with God. You responded by attempting to quote Bertrand Russell’s response to the same question (I say “attempted” because, while on the spot, you misquoted Russell slightly, but it was your misquote I remember most). You replied to the question with “Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself”. After a life completely dedicated to the church, believing the bible to be infallible, and that Heaven was waiting for me after death – I felt myself asking the same question.
I am a professional geologist surprisingly enough. For years I belonged to the most absurd group of christian scientists – those believing the fossil record is evidence of the biblical flood, there was a literal 6 day creation, dinosaurs walked in the Garden of Eden, and evolution is some kind of anti-religious conspiracy. I am evidence of the powerful grip our beliefs can hold on our minds, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. I am far from stupid, simple or dimwitted, but I am nevertheless ashamed of the truly stupid ideas I accepted as fact for so many years.
Most Christians presume I have lost my faith because I am pursuing some terrible sin, that I must not have actually been a very serious believer in the first place, or I had poor theology. Unfortunately, they are completely mistaken. It was simply reason that finally won me over. I only wanted to better understand the truth, and as you understand, it led me away from religion.
I just wanted to say thank you for your efforts, and encourage you that you do make a difference.