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You've Changed My Life

Created on Nov 05 2013
Professor Dawkins,
I struggled for just a moment over deciding whether this should go in the "Good" or "Converts" section. Simply put, I've entered an intense questioning period in my life over the course of the past two years. While I was raised in a Christian home to a family that was thankfully not steeped in extremism, my home-schooled education afforded me an early appreciation for critical thinking. And as I grew up, that critical thinking inevitably turned inward and upon the things I was raised to believe about the universe and the existence and nature of God. In all honesty, the jury is still out for me on that question; I still have more questions than I can comfortably address at once so to "officially" grab one label (atheist, Christian, agnostic, etc.) seems premature. As such I've taken it upon myself to read as many books on the topic(s) as I can, attend lectures and debates (either in person or via YouTube), and generally pick the brains of men far more intelligent than I. Yours has been one such brain, as it were, and I wish to first and foremost thank you for your writings. At this point I've only read The Selfish Gene and bits and pieces of The God Delusion and The Extended Phenotype. All have been thoroughly edifying and enlightening and brought to me a better understanding of the universe at large, and moreover answered concretely many questions I once had.
So while you're a demonstrably self-assured individual and certainly not in need of my approval, I nonetheless wish to say that I am indebted to you for an expansion of my own worldview and am continually impressed at the profundity of many of your observations. While I occasionally cringe at how stridently (because I know how much you *love* it when that word is thrown around) you often approach certain people or discussions, more often than not I still find myself agreeing with you in principle if not necessarily in practice.
So the heart of my message here is simply this: I feel genuinely privileged and even blessed (if you'll forgive the use of such a "churchy" word) to be sharing this planet with you at this very moment. It is one thing to be effected by the writings of philosophers and scientists of the past; it is quite another to be effected the writings of a contemporary. I still have quite a journey ahead of me as I wade through your bibliography; the sheer size of what remains is a source of dual excitement and intimidation.
I hope that, in some small way, you enjoy a measure of encouragement from my letter and those like it; I'm certainly not alone in expressing these kinds of sentiments. And while your rhetoric occasionally strays into the strident (there it is again, eh?) I think you've brought many important scientific and philosophical issues to the forefront of postmodern thought in a way that a more diplomatic approach might not have.
So thank you; for educating and continuing to educate me personally as I listen through your audiobooks and thumb through your printed materials and watch your debates and listen to your lectures. I hope I have the opportunity to meet you one day, and I trust that you will continue to share the fruits of your intellect with the world at large for a long while yet.
Ben Johnson