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You are my hero

Created on Aug 02 2013
Prof. Dawkins
I grew up in a Christian household. Nothing in particular, my parents just believed in a personal relationship with a creator. We didn't go to church but I was enrolled in a Christian school in Georgia from Kindergarten through sixth grade. I never really recall much being shared in science class except memorizing the names of planets and volcanos I suppose. Anyway, when I was introduced into public school I began learning so many things I never even dreamed of. It all got me questioning this idea of religion. For many years I stay awake at night, terrified of an eternal afterlife - not in hell but in Heaven. You see, I see life as beautiful only if chaos is present to really contrast how beautiful the world is. In heaven that is taken away and it terrified me. I guess I was agnostic for most of my life. Things got bad and I tried to kill myself and I didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. I felt relieved. I felt like maybe I wouldn't have to live in fear. When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis on my 18th birthday two years ago, I felt very angry and upset at first, for there are some who felt God did this to me. But I realized that he had nothing to do with it. It was in my genetics and modern medicine is helping me combat it full force. However the life of an atheist in the Bible belt is not a good one. We don't speak up like we should. I thought I was the only one who felt this way. But then something wonderful happened. I discovered you. Soon, I began telling people my views politely and with dignity. I found that there's more people like me than I ever thought imaginable in Georgia. While I have not gotten the courage to discuss this with my parents, I can openly discuss it with friends and strangers (a big step for me). I am currently reading your amazing book The God Delusion and I've watched several of your lectures. Late nights my favorite thing to do is watching you debate atheism. The world needs more people like you to inspire us quiet atheists to speak up. You have inspired me and have helped me feel accepted. I just want to take a moment to tell you thank you so much. You handle yourself with dignity and express your opinions politely, which is something I really admire and have applied to my own actions. You really are a remarkable person and I am very glad that I found you in a dark time in my life. You, and scientific minds like you, give me hope for the future.
Jessica Stephens