I believe that the purpose of this email is cathartic more than anything; not for anyone else, but for me, as I’m sure most of these emails are.
I was born and raised in the Bible Belt of the Southeastern United States. I was greatly fortunate to be born into a loving family who had every intention of helping me to have the best life possible. That included, of course, a fulfilling church life. My parents weren’t crazies or overly devout or religious extremists. They were just typical Southern Baptists. We always went to church. (Not everybody in my region went to church, but those who didn’t go to church would never say it was because they didn’t believe in God.)
By the time I started school at age 5, church life had intertwined with other facets of life; personal life, school life…social life in general. At that early age, I already had it ingrained within me that I knew the keys to eternal salvation and Heaven itself. At the age of 10, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and publicly announced such acceptance in front of the whole church, as is the custom. 10 years old. And I was encouraged by adults that I already had the knowledge to go ahead and decide my eternal fate.
By the time I started college, I was a devout Christian, knowing full well that the religion I belonged to was the right religion, and that even had I been born in Iran or China, somehow, I would have found Jesus Christ.
But time wore on. All my life, I had heard that as Christians, we were each supposed to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And despite the prayers and the church trips and the meditation and the scripture study and the worshipping and the group study and the absolute begging, the relationship was continuously one sided. I have never seen God. I have never heard God. I have never seen a miracle of theistic proportions. I have never witnessed an angel. And I can no longer defend a religion that has, historically, made no attempt to defend itself or offer any empirical conclusion.
I’m about halfway through The God Delusion. I’m having to read it in bits and pieces because I can’t let anyone catch me reading it. Telling my friends and family that I don’t believe in God would be the equivalent here of saying that I’m considering committing a felony. (It’s caused a great strain in my relationship.) I love your historical arguments against religion; the inaccuracies of the Bible and the lack of reliable historical texts. For me, that is the crux of the argument. I understand the importance of Darwin’s theories insomuch as they contrast Biblical teachings and insomuch as they explain the world; but for me, all the marbles lie in the lack of proof that the Bible stands on (particularly the Resurrection of Christ; Christianity stands or falls on that one event as far as I’m concerned).
After reading your works and just rationally thinking things over, I would really like to live in a world where people aren’t afraid of this mythological veil that has so overtaken everything for so long. All the money that is wasted on churches that could go to charities. All the people who have taken advantage of others’ misplaced faiths. When I first read a while back that you said religion was dangerous, I was frustrated and angered and confused. But I thought about it. And I lifted the veil. A part of me wishes that I still thought the way that I used to, when I was a child, so that I didn’t have to disagree with friends and family over such a huge issue. And I’m mad that it still has to be a huge issue. But at the same time I’m glad to feel liberated.
I look forward to reading more of your works. I hope that I can hear you speak one day when you’re in America.