Dear Professor Dawkins,
Thank you. (ironically my next thought was 'thank god', lol. finally someone has seen the light and told the truth so eloquently)
Your book 'The God Delusion' has finally helped me to jump gladly off the right side of the faith/science tightrope.
For most of my life i have fought battles between a christian faith that gripped me in heart and mind and a strong belief in the scientific evidence presented to me, and doubts that tormented me.
When i read your description of an all knowing, all seeing god who can see inside our heads and read our thoughts i had a euphoric moment of revelation. i actually laughed and cried because it all just clicked into place, how ridiculous the very idea is.
I'd like to give you some background, although I'm sure my story will not be unfamiliar.i was not indoctrinated by my parents, they never really gave their opinions too me, when i asked to join Brownies as a child, they took me, and my mother came to the church, but never pressed me either way. i asked to be christened aged 8. they had never pushed me, or promised me to a faith as a baby. It was what i wanted. Aged 10, as a shy child with few friends, i joined a church choir, i loved music and at last, i had a talent and people praised me there and i felt so good, as the years went by i sat in two or three church services ever Sunday, heard every sermon under the sun, sung praises to god in all my spare time and studied. that was my other love, science. biology in particular. Aged 12 i decided to be confirmed, it seemed the thing to do, i wanted to take communion and celebrate with the others. looking back i didn't know what i was doing. my enduring memory of that event was the preparation classes, me sitting there in the lesson on how god created the world saying to all the other 12 year old's and the priest. "No, i don't believe God created the world in six days, he started off evolution" Even at that age i was clear-minded enough to know that evidence pointed to an alternative to the bible, but i was unconcerned by this, as far is i saw, they didn't have evidence then, so now we know we can change what we think. i think this allowed me to eventually break free.
i spent the next 8 years in that environment, a harmless, Anglican girl who took the 'facts' of the bible with a pinch of salt and tried to be good and love God. The trouble came when aged 18, my boyfriend introduced me to evangelicals, they were so nice, so friendly, and so clever in their manipulation. before long i was terrified of hell, i was convinced my family were going to hell because they did not believe. the music and the clapping and the 'social activities' all geared to make teenagers love god more than anything or anyone else, and be afraid of sin, of their natural urges, of the sins they committed years ago, of doubting. if you doubt god and turn your back on him and you die, there's no time then to be sorry and repent, you are going to hell.When i split from the boyfriend these people were all i had, i was distanced from my parents by both being a teenager and being so christian. i got full-immersion baptised and thought i was destined for heaven, announced to my parents that i was going to go to war zones to save people for god and scared everyone stupid. i was totally indoctrinated. this went on for two years. then i went away to university to study biology. i was exposed to the real world again and i began to question, only trouble was, now i had 'the fear'. i was going away from god and the devil would be after me. however i ignored the thoughts and i met a man and fell pregnant in my first year of uni. i became so ill i had to leave uni and go home, i went back to my old churches to see some friends, at the evangelical church i was met with polite smile, snigger's and stares in equal measure, and it was made clear that i (who had been youth leader, singer in the band and paid up member of the 'all for god squad') was not welcome anymore. At the Anglican church of my childhood i was met by friends, people who were kind and pleased to see me, or so i thought. i turned up to choir rehearsals pregnant, helped the kids with a huge bump (unmarried at this time) and they didn't say a word, then the youth leader made an offhand comment to my mother, but one that really stung "oh isn't it nice of bill (the choirmaster)to let Lyndsey come back in her state". i knew then what this model, pillar of the community thought of me. dirty little sinner. i was so hurt i couldn't go back for weeks. she made me feel so bad for the life inside me.
i read the blind watchmaker, i studied my books (though i had no degree to study for i was still interested) i went to college and studied human biology. i argued my faith from an intellectual point of view, more and more as an outsider, i stopped popping in to church. but still there was the fear. God can be seen as a pure, loving wonderful thing if you choose to read the bible selectively, and i have read it. i studied it for years and listened to thousands of sermons, i get it. in doing this i saw a hole, this huge opening where acceptance should be. the bible decried my own sexuality, i knew i was bisexual from the age of 14 (having rejected Ken for lesbian barbie and her beautiful black princess friend from the age of 8 or 9) now i was evil, the people i loved meant god hated me. NO NO NO. i also saw how brutal the teaching is that god can reject you forever if you don't acknowledge that he alone can forgive your sins, and that you are a sinner, just by being alive. and will be tormented forever for not believing, that was the cruelest thing i could think of, especially when i heard that god chooses who to give faith to, you have to ask for it, but according to the evangelicals, god picks who to call to faith, the rest of us can rot.
so after years of this dichotomy within myself i read 'the god delusion', and it fell into place, i was so joyful, that release. the woman you mentioned who said this...(I'm sorry, i haven't got the book with me to quote exactly) 'there is no god. there is no god, oh my god there is no god', sums up that moment so well for me. it is like years of turmoil and fear and doubt fell off and i could see the world as it is, beautiful, flawed, brilliant and waiting for me to discover.
I'm sure this will make you smile, the reason my partner and i sought out your book was because of the words of the Bishop of London at a Campaign for Climate Change rally outside the American embassy last year. he stood there and said,
'No-one should read this book. i sincerely hope none of you do' (or words to that effect)
it was that that brought our attention to it, and without the bishops words i should probably still be struggling. :) Sadly, this wont make you smile, it will not be unfamiliar to you either. there is a friend of mine who refuses to read your book, and i think if he did it might change his life. he had a terrifying night of drug induced visions of hell last year after pumping himself full of Ketamin and crack cocaine in India. when he came back the fear hadn't left him. i think that he damaged whatever area of the brain that deals with religion, because now he is a changed man. he was the last person on earth you ever would have thought it of, he activley ridiculed faith and god. while he has come off all drugs(one positive), he also calls everyone sinners every time he sees them, (very hurtful and insulting to me personally, untill i read your book. now i pity him) torments his long-suffering (almost atheist) girlfriend, refuses to hear anything said against God or Christianity, believes everything his preachers and his 'mentor' (an ex con who found Jesus in prison and now runs a gym/undercover indoctrination centre) tells him. (including that your book is the work of the devil sent to take him from god) and is unable to discuss his faith at all, if you try to talk to him....he wont even listen, you are a devil, his preacher says...read the scriptures, ignore everyone else. as someone who knows those scriptures, i am very well placed to point out the gaping holes now, and try to help him, but he doesn't want to be reached. faith had made him bulletproof.
my eyes are so much more open now, and it angers and saddens me when i see what religion is doing, what i once thought was the source of love and light is quite the opposite, dangerous and deadly, and i hope so fervently that more people can be enlightened and liberated.
Thank you so much, i was asked at college to describe briefly someone i admire. the first person that came into my head was you. you have helped me find something that no one else had been able to. freedom within my own mind. Thank you.