Dear Richard Dawkins,
I have noticed the very long list of letters on your website, and it is a source of both comfort and disappointment to me. The comfort comes from the feeling I get that I am not alone as an atheist and a freethinker. The disappointment comes from the fact that you probably do not have the time to read every single one of your letters, so it is not likely that you will know just how grateful and comforted I am.
I first read your book, The God Delusion, about two years ago when I was 19. The best word I can think of to describe how I felt about it is “refreshing.” I felt like I had already thought about so many of the things you had written and said; but I was too reserved to say anything about them. When I put the book down I did indeed find myself not just very much in doubt of my Christian upbringing, but relieved, and happy, and inspired that I was not the only one.
I was too timid, as well as afraid that people would scoff at my doubt as just a rebellious phase of adolescence, to come out right away. It took me two years to work up the nerve to finally say something.
It is funny. My parents were very liberal about our family’s religion. We came from a Southern Baptist family, but we almost never went to church, or seriously discussed our faith. I thought that because of this, talking about my doubts with them would be easy. It wasn’t. They responded very strongly and very angrily when I finally did tell them. But I managed to hold my ground with them, and I managed to stay calm and clear-headed the entire time.
They soon calmed down, but I know now that my relationship with my family has changed significantly. My mother in particular now seems more emotionally distant from me. I was saddened by her reaction, but still resolute.
About a week ago I decided to strengthen my resolve and join the Out Campaign, to come out more publicly and visibly than I had before. I have made my position to my friends and family very clear, and I made a very small contribution to RDF in purchasing a necklace bearing the scarlet “A.”
What made me feel even better about my coming out was that when the necklace was shipped to my house, there was with it a little handwritten message: “Thank you!” It was a little gesture, but I was grateful and happy to say the least. In all of the mayhem that my decision has made—in all of the arguments, the anger, the clear disapproval from my family—somebody in your foundation cared enough to thank me.
You, your website, your foundation, and your campaign have all managed to inspire and reassure a person who would otherwise feel quite alone and unaccepted. I now wear the scarlet “A” proudly and publicly.
I am in college working towards what I hope will be a PhD in astrophysics. It is my hope that I may be able to contribute more answers, and more questions, to our journey to understand the universe. I want to one day help educate both myself and others about the universe, and perhaps—as a nearly penniless college student might hope—to become well off enough that I might give something back to your foundation for the help and comfort that it has given me.
Thank you so much, sir.