I spent my entire childhood as a slave to fear; the fear that God didn’t love me. More than one night I woke up in tears because I dreamed of being condemned to Hell. Getting into Heaven was my one goal, because I had nothing to look forward to in life: I was raised in a culture where women devoted their life to raising children, and I never had any desire to get married or have a baby. So it was of the utmost importance that God forgave my sins.
When I reached my teenage years, it became apparent that I was different. The other girls my age would talk about how “cute” or “hot” this or that boy was, but I never saw it. I went ahead and verbally agreed with them, but deep down I knew something was very, very wrong with me. My vague belief that God didn’t love me evolved into the conviction that I was disgusting and abhorrent in His eyes. So many nights I cried myself to sleep, begging God to forgive me. When I realized that he wouldn’t, I begged him to change me. When I realized that wouldn’t happen either, I begged him to kill me so I wouldn’t have to do it myself.
It so happened one day that my brother and I went to a bookstore. Whenever we do this, we always go to the humor section. It just so happened that in this store, the humor section was next to the science section. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed The God Delusion and opened it out of curiosity. My brother was livid, and said, “You shouldn’t even look at that. Take it from someone wiser than you.” Insulted, I bought your book.
It was the best thing I ever did. When I finished it, I could feel the shackles of fear fall off of me and I cried in relief. I’m no longer afraid of the God in the same way I’m no longer afraid of the monsters in my closet: I know that they’re not real. When I was able to give up my belief in God, I was able to accept that I am gay. After that, the suicidal urges went away. For the first time, I can say that I’m happy.
Not only did your book help resolve my conflicts, but it inspired me to devote my life to science. I’ve decided to be a physicist, an astronomer, to work on unraveling the mysteries of reality. As Carl Sagan once said, “Life is but a momentary glimpse into the astonishing universe…” I want to discover everything I can about this universe.
Thank you, Professor Dawkins, for writing The God Delusion.
May you live long and prosper, Valerie