I was raised in the liberal United Church of Christ, but was born again as an emotionally vulnerable thirteen-year-old, whose parents had just divorced. I experienced peace of mind, and so vowed to enter the Christian ministry. After high school, I attended a Calvinist junior college, where I began to experience doubts about the existence of the supernatural and, therefore, the efficacy of worship and prayer.
I transferred to a marginally more liberal Anabaptist college with a solid history of human service, but even this failed to assuage my doubts. I attempted to enter the ministry but after two weeks in a liberal Seminary I knew it was not for me. How could I talk to parishioners about their faith when I couldn t even define my own? Nevertheless, I stayed in the Seminary, earning a Master s degree in religion, with a concentration in theology and ethics.
Still, I was doubtful, and ultimately came to think about theologies as interesting and (perhaps) even important, not as realistic explanations of the universe, but to the extent to which they motivate human behaviors. Frankly, I think I became an agnostic (perhaps even an atheist) twenty years ago, but simply failed to admit it to myself until recently.
One of the reasons, I think, was that I had nothing scientific or philosophical with which to replace my religious world view; as a Christian college student I had learned straw man versions of Darwin, Spinoza, Marx, Nietzsche, Russell, Sartre, and any other public intellectual who dared criticize religious belief. This, clearly, left a huge void in my understanding.
Around 1998, a colleague of mine introduced me to Richard Dawkins books. I began with River Out of Eden and moved on to The Blind Watchmaker. At last, I encountered true reason! And through my reading of Dawkins I have been introduced to the writings of Stephen Pinker, Dan Dennett, Jared Diamond, Sam Harris and Bart Ehrman, all of whom I consider to be my intellectual mentors.
I remain in the process of educating myself, even as I teach three subjects — Sociology, Ethics and Comparative Religions — to college students. In many of my students I see myself twenty-five years ago, struggling with the same issues of human existence, behavior and meaning. My teaching always contains a discussion of relevant evolutionary history, with the simple goal of offering students a rational alternative to their baseless myths and crippling superstitions.
Thank you, thank you, Professor Dawkins! Since — in Dawkins own words — my consciousness has been raised by Darwin, I feel more confident in my place in the universe, more useful as a teacher, and more hopeful about the future (goodbye Armageddon!).