Dear Mr. Dawkins,
I have been questioning for quite a while whether or not to write this letter, but as I continue my studies of not only your work, but the work of your peers and scientific idols, I feel I not only should write it, but that I owe it to you to do so. I am a nineteen year old American living in the southern United States, I grew up in a baptist church, raised to believe that god is the basis for all creation and morality. I was also the family’s “golden egg”, the smart one, the well behaved one, destined to be a doctor, or based on my knowledge of biblical writings, perhaps even a pastor. Though, to my family’s disdain, it was this understanding of the bible and thirst for knowledge that ultimately led me away from religion. From about age twelve I began to look critically at my beliefs and the conflict they had with what I knew to be true. How could there be no rain before Noah when science not only tells me there is a water cycle, but the side of my soda can and the lid of my cooking pot can show me? How could man have been the first creature when I can hold the bones of dinosaurs in my hands which predate man by massive lengths of time? If religion is responsible for kindness, why do animals show affection?
I spent years questioning the world around me, hunting for the scientific answers, posing these question to my religious guides only to receive the same answers time after time, “God is mysterious”, “You just have to have faith”, “You must trust the Lord”, none of which ever satisfied my appetite for the tangible truth. This continued until I turned sixteen, I was already attending college early, studying advanced biology and applying what I could touch to gaps in my understanding which, in hindsight, I did with surprising success considering my resources. Finally, it came to me during this period that the reality was that we are truly the product of evolution. That based on what I know and can actually test, to continue trying to believe in a god was not only pointless, but no longer even an option. This bred within me a terrible fear for my well being, I immediately realize that no one could possibly know about this, to reveal that I’m a scientifically minded, Atheist, young adult, in the middle of one of the most backwards areas in the industrialized world, the southern US, would not only make me an outcast, but could potentially be physically dangerous. Ultimately I mustered the courage to tell my family, which they still like to occasionally act as if never happened, or during a religious conversation add a snide “O that’s right, you don’t believe in God”.
Again, this continued for a brief time until one day an Atheist classmate recommended an interview in which, as he put it, you “wrecked a Christian’s beliefs right in front of everybody”. I watched this video and became ill at seeing someone be so blatantly unapologetic about their Atheism, later while discussing that feeling with my the aforementioned classmate he looked at me and simply asked “but stop and ask yourself why you feel that way”. I wish I could remember what the video was, or more importantly the name of that classmate, because that may have been one of the single most important questions anyone has asked me throughout the course of my rather short life. Suddenly it hit me, I have no reason to be ashamed, if anything I should be proud, my process of thinking sits among some of the greatest minds of our world, with science I can change things, I can control the world around me while others place their hands together and kneel by an altar.
All the wear that years of closet Atheism (or early on, near Atheism) had left on me was immediately eliminated, my love for science, my lust for knowledge, the confidence in reason I had as a child was instantly renewed. But I knew that as a member of such a special group it was my responsibility to be informed not only in my areas of interest, but specifically in the arguments of the opposition and how to counter them appropriately. This led me back to your work, specifically, “The God Delusion”, never have I laughed so much at myself while reading a book as I have while reading “The God Delusion”, it was if someone took all the arguments I had come up with over the years, all the ideas, the concepts, the defenses, the rationalizations that I had previously passed off as my own naive childish grasp on science, compiled it, handed it to me and said “YES! It’s ok! You were right all along!”, Russell’s teapot and Pascal’s wager, both ideas I struggled with as a child thinking they were things which only I had ever thought of. I even wrote a psychology paper in high school about what you call “Reciprocal Altruism” thinking the idea was uniquely my own. (A paper I wish I had now, to see how close I really was) I laughed myself to tears reading your work and seeing just how close I was to the truth all along and never having the confidence that I should have had in the ability of science to lead me to reality. This has only been compounded as I read more of your work, watch more of your documentaries, and study more about the people you say inspired you.
So I want to thank you from the very deepest depth of my being. Thank you for making it possible for me to trust in the science which has always been in me. Thank you for confirming and supporting all the beliefs I’ve been scared to follow for so much of my life. Thank you for giving me the confidence to seek truth while so many reject it for the easier answer. And most importantly, thank you for showing me the poetry of reality.
Thank you once more,
PS- In case you were wondering what I decided to do with myself, I’m currently a practicing Emergency Medical Technician, presently working toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, with the ultimate goal being a Doctorate.