I’ve been struggling with my faith for the past year. Ironically, I asked my father (my parents are hyper-religious Christians for what it’s worth) to buy me your book The God Delusion. Unfortunately for them, the book has changed my life. I have fully embraced my atheism (or perhaps some level of Einsteinian pantheism — which we both agree is not really a religion).
This ‘conversion’ has cost me a great deal. Again, I’m from a religious family, but I have only told my sister (a fairly devout Quaker) and her boyfriend (an atheist with views comparable to mine). My father told me before choosing a liberal university such as Temple University (Philadelphia) that he would not support me financially (or probably even as a family member) if I were to become an atheist… and even that he would force me to attend a conservative Christian private school (the horror!). He quite literally told me those words. While Philadelphia is a great haven for my fledgling atheism, I am quite terrified of what I will tell my parents and other family members who will almost certainly be extremely disappointed. I have considered receiving counseling to discuss how I should handle this conversation and when. It will be quite traumatic, to be sure.
In addition, my ex-girlfriend and I (we had been dating for a year and a half) split up when I confided in her that I was considering atheism (she is also an evangelistic Christian). When she told me that she couldn’t seriously date someone who didn’t believe in god, I told her that our relationship wouldn’t work, as devastating as that was to me. (As a pre-medicine student, I thought this parallel to the young man you mentioned in your book was fairly ironic.)
Regardless, all of this has been a little heavy… but I am truly thankful for your book, which has liberalized my outlook on life. Interestingly, upon ‘coming out’ with my atheism, my dreams to work with the organization Doctors Without Borders (in its original French — Médicins Sans Frontiéres) have not changed. I think it’s interesting that everyone assumes that, as a newly-converted atheist, I would for some reason jump off the edge and go crazy with ‘immoral’ behavior. On the contrary, I have found atheism to foster an inclusive, naturalistic, and altogether wholesome view of the world and the people/creatures it contains.
Well, anyways, sir… I somewhat doubt that this email will ever actually make it to your ‘personal’ email address… but if it should, thank you very much for the inspiration that you have given me. I wish you the very best & am grateful for your writing as well as your contribution to our scientific understanding of the universe.
Sincerely, Daniel (of Philadelphia)