Dear Richard Dawkins,
I am a young university student from Australia. I am 20 years old. For as long as I can remember, I have been raised under the constant presence of the Roman Catholic Faith. All four of my grandparents are devout catholics, as are my parents. The primary schools I attended were founded on Catholic doctrine and values. My secondary school was run by the Society of Jesus. I spent my childhood surrounded by Catholics, Catholic Priests, Catholic Churches and Catholic values. As you would expect from such an environment, being consistently told that there is a higher power or divine authority that governs your moral framework and expects your love and attention (it loves you after all) led my mind to absord Catholicism like a sponge.
For the large majority of my youth, I will admit I was very devout and indeed believed all the Catholic teachings. I would pray, I would go to church, and I would judge atheists as unfulfilled people that led miserable existences. I was very happy to don the simple, minimal effort, moral suit which the Catholics had tailored for me and had indeed been tailoring for centuries. However, even from the moment as a child when I gained the capacity to speak, I was always an inquisitive individual. I had so many questions about this ‘God’ character which everyone was telling me about. I would ask all sorts of complex questions about his existence, about whether he answered prayers and wishes directly, about how he created people, about who might have created God. The answers I were given temporarily silenced me but never left me fulfilled.
As my high school years progressed, I simultaneously found myself growing in intelligence and asking more questions whilst at the same time falling deeper into intense Catholicism. I never had the innate cynicism to admit to myself that an adult ever could be wrong. After all, they MUST be older and wiser than I am. What is my intelligence to that of a religious teacher or preacher? I would use church as a source of wisdom and confide trust in the ideals and stories of Catholicism. I believed it all. The thing was, religious people spoke so emphatically and well, I never really heard from atheists because they kept to themselves and ‘respected’ the insularity of Catholicism. I never discussed religion openly and so the only font of knowledge I had to go from was the Catholic Church which surrounded me. Then I stumbled across your work.
I remember so clearly the first time I saw you on the Australian Television Programme, Q and A. At first it stung to hear the very basis on which my whole life had been founded swept out from underneath me. I felt offended and as most religious people defensively do when they hear an atheist debate with them, I was angry and considered you insolent and rude. Then I began watching more of your videos, I read your books, I followed your website. After a while I became intrigued. Every spare hour I had I would look for more information about atheism and the fraudulence of religious belief. And then things began to suddenly become clearer. It was as if the fog began to clear. It took months to fully eradicate the trickery and false knowledge of religion which had cluttered my brain from a young age. It was difficult to finally to come to terms with the idea that I had been lied to from such a young age, by so many people. It felt like betrayal. Why had so many people in my life converged on the one big lie, and fed it to me for two decades? In any situation in life, you would demand a great deal of apology for a lie that long. People often regress into depression and illness if they find out they have been lied to for years by a loved one. How could people not see what was happening? More importantly, why had all these people in my life been lied to from a young age also?
Now that I am a complete atheist, I find myself extracting more joy from the wonders of the world and its people than ever before. I can go far enough to ask deeper, more enriching questions about science. I can constantly question the ethical and moral behaviour of others and myself without resorting to an originalist and unchanging desert book. In short, I can consistently ask the questions which had been suppressed for so many years. I am studying the two biggest joys in my life: Music and Science. The wonder I feel every day that I study, where I feel liberated enough in the mind to progress deeper and deeper into what I feel and what I know and what I don’t know is a gift which I could be more grateful for. I am filled with consistent fascination with the harmonies and curiosities of nature, mathematics and the universe. The power of human creation to make us feel intense emotion and the power of knowledge and truth in all fields have become priorities to the way I see the world. I am happier than I can ever recall being in my life. Needless to say, it’s all thanks to you.
I know that in standing up for atheism you no doubt always achieve strong cheers and supports, just as you might recieve misguided and uninformed hatred and ambivalence. I am very aware that this e-mail may fall in with the rest of the “Go Dawkins” fan e-mail you receive day to day. But if anything, I hope this e-mail stands as some evidence that what you do doesn’t just affect the public’s views on science, knowledge and truth, but also positively affects the personal lives of those who feel suppressed, restrained and exhausted by the ongoing chains of religious conviction that claim to have a monopoly over happiness and beauty. You stand as an idol for those who lack the confidence in a swarming religious environment to speak out for the truth. I know this has been a wordy e-mail. But Mr. Dawkins, thankyou so much. Thankyou for enriching the sense of perspective in my life, something which religion never even came close to in trying to outline the wonders of our existence. I hope you will continue the good work you do and continue to change the lives of many ordinary people like myself.