[Note: This is a copy of an e-mail previously sent to email@example.com. I wanted to make sure that it appeared in the Converts’ Corner]
Dear Dr. Dawkins:
I am taking a break from my second reading of *The God Delusion* to write this letter. This is my first time writing to anyone of your eminence, and I have no idea if you have the time or interest to read these letters, but I feel it necessary to thank you for helping me in so monumental a way.
I was raised in a conservative Christian household and became a born-again Christian around the age of 14 or 15. I was madly in love with theology; I read and re-read the gospels, the epistles of Paul, and even slogged my way through Numbers just to be able to say that I had. I decided that I wanted to become a pastor, to stand in the pulpit every Sunday and preach God’s glory. I became an apologist for my religion and would — to the annoyance of my friends and classmates, I’m sure — spell out the flaws of a naturalistic worldview to anyone with ears to hear. Geisler and Turek’s *I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist* and Strobel’s *The Case for a Creator* took up spots on my bookshelf next to a leather-bound copy of Macarthur’s Study Bible.
It was about that same time that I enrolled in a second-year biology class at my high school. The better part of the curriculum was dedicated to the teaching of evolution, and I was immediately enamored with the subject as much as I was with my theology. I found the theory to be stunningly beautiful in its simplicity. I remember telling a friend that, were I not such a steadfast Christian, I would believe wholeheartedly in evolution. On another occasion, when I was discussing with another friend whether a particular dinosaur had evolved from this reptile or that, a third friend asked how I could be discussing evolution when I quite clearly didn’t believe in it. In a moment of sophomoric brilliance, I replied, “It’s like Star Wars — I know it’s not true, but it’s still fun to talk about.”
In time I grew rather apathetic toward the idea of being a pastor. The idea of preaching still interested me, but not so much the idea of living a Christ-like existence (especially since it was about that time that I began to become serious with my first girlfriend). I still, however, believed in the triune God, in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of Christ, a creation that happened no more than 10,000 years ago, the fiery torment of hell to which all non-believers were doomed, and all the other things any self-respecting fundamentalist Christian should believe in.
It comes as a bit of a surprise to me even now, then, that I even picked up your book in the first place. It was last November, shortly before my nineteenth birthday, that I flipped to the first page and was hit with a revelation that was as astonishing and unexpected as a slap to the face. I was tired of my faith. I wanted something more intellectually satisfying, less antiquated. It may have been on a purely subconscious level, but I wanted to abandon Christianity and throw in with Darwin. *I didn’t know I could.*
*I didn’t know I could.* The moment I read those words I became an atheist. It astounds me that all it took was the knowledge that I *could* be an atheist. And as I read on I learned that I could be an atheist who leads an intellectually, emotionally, spiritually fulfilled life. To steal a line from Neil deGrasse Tyson, “That makes me want to grab people in the street and say, ‘Have you heard this?!'”
I still haven’t told my family. I hope that someday I have the courage to “out” myself to them. But I’m happy with my current lot. I’m able to find inspiration in many places, including you, Dr. Dawkins. You and others like you (especially Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, as well as many great scientists) have inspired me to find wonder in the natural world rather than the supernatural. You’ve inspired me to take my love of teaching and exploration and research and apply it toward becoming a Professor of Philosophy. You’ve inspired me to let others know that the world in which we live is okay, and indeed probably better off, without God.
So thank you. Thank you for the enlightenment. Thank you for the inspiration. I sincerely hope someday I’m able to meet you and tell you this face-to-face, and maybe someday I’ll merit a bit of your time for some serious discussion — one can always dream.