my name is Mathew and I am born and raised in Canada. I had been a Christian my whole life and both my parents are Christians themselves, and naturally this included visiting church “religiously”. Up until the last year or so I would definitely have classified myself as a Christian and have always loved talking with people about different views and ideas surrounding the concept of God, be it theistic or atheistic in origin. Generally I would say that the very simplistic problems that some of the people I chatted with were relatively easy to solve and provide a competent reply to, however I recall my response to The God Delusion when I first read it and I must say I really did not like it. I did not like it because there were some very important questions that were being raised and I was not able to answer them with a response that was even remotely sufficient. At this juncture in my life I felt the best approach was to investigate by reading books by gentlemen whom I felt I could trust, individuals that were on my side of the discussion, some of these men being John Polkinghorne, Francis Collins, Russel Stanard, and a few others (one thing that might be found to be amusing was I stumbled across Polkinghorne and Stanard because of Dawkins). The absolute first step towards atheism can be, strangely enough, attributed to these individuals.
One prominent theme that was completely foreign to me was the reality of evolution. Francis Collins in his book The Language of God really opened up my mind to evolution, and this information about the validity of evolution was coming from a fellow Christian! Interestingly enough, when I realized that evolution wasn’t a lie, as I was told by my parents and other religious individuals, but rather a reality, I naturally wanted and attempted to enlighten these individuals to this fact only to receive ostracization. I admittedly was dumb-founded when I realized how quickly I could be thrust from the religious circle I was in just by asking the wrong questions or saying the wrong thing, and this went against everything I knew to be true about Christianity. This first step allowed me to see religion from the outside, which allowed me to observe it objectively and it was a safe first step because I was still able to believe in a God, just not the religion we had set up around this God. By far the biggest mistake I had made was I listened to and followed what I was told to do when I asked questions to religious leaders, which was to only focus on what the bible had to say and to not read those terrible and evil books like The God Delusion. When I corrected this mistake I went into it with the belief that if God is indeed real then surely even He can withstand Dawkins’ criticism, so I had nothing to fear and everything to gain.
So here I was a “agnostheist”, in territory that was a bit terrifying and truthfully I wanted to almost embrace ignorance, for religion was such a comfortable place for me most of my life. But I continued on and I clashed heavily against relatives and friends ideas about religion, and it didn’t take long for the questions about the existence of a God to cause enough internal turmoil and force me to seriously reconsider His existence. It was at this point in my life that I realized that this whole idea of God is based on such shaky ground that I was a bit embarrassed to have ever believed in such an idea in my adulthood.
I am currently rereading The God Delusion and to be perfectly honest I love the book, which is of course night and day compared to my first go. I have also read Unweaving the Rainbow and will be acquiring other Dawkins’ books.
Thank you very much.