Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(1031)

Jan 30, 2013

Dear Professor Dawkins,

I'd like to add my deconversion story. Hopefully it may help someone else in some small way.

I was born into a devout Mormon family in Arizona. There was a very high standard among my siblings to get close to god and fulfill one's purpose as designed by “the father.” As much as I was an over-achiever in taking the “righteous” path, I struggled to obey all the rules, and this struggle eventually had the simple effect of bringing me in contact with other “sinners”–but, of course, we're all sinners–so it more so had the effect of allowing me to to build respectful friendships with “less-than-perfect” people without the façade of “righteousness.”

This led me to see cracks in the “us vs. them” mentality of all fundamentalist belief systems, at least in the context of a god that is loving, fair and just, but at the same time an enforcer of a permanent judgment. I broadened my horizons by simply speaking to and learning about people of different faiths. Not just other Christian groups, but religions that are mutually exclusive of Christianity. I was amazed and shocked to find that people of completely different faiths all came to their faith through the same psychological processes, and all clung to their faiths using the same psychological mechanisms. I took courses in psychology and learned about the actual scientific studies into mental disorders that are highly appropriate to understanding normal mechanisms, such as belief. In short, I simply allowed myself to test the stereotypes, judgments and paradigms that had been fed to me from before I could even speak.

I came to the conclusions that:

1. If there is a God worth following–that wants us to follow him in some way–he would provide for us a reasonable way to follow him. There would not be just one or two followers–there would be an “organized religion.”

2. The organized religion would have to be internally consistent and clearly persuasive if God was to fairly judge how well we followed him. The more a religion claims God's judgment to be fierce and permanent, the more that God is required to make his path clear and unambiguous, or he is no God. If good people can be convinced of such erroneous things (like Nazism), a real God must make “the true path” painfully clear, not subjectively vague.

3. There is no such religion in existence, and the reality we have finally come to knowledge of shows that if there is a God, it took enormous pains to “cover its tracks.” Therefore, there either is no God, or, much less likely, there is a God, but it doesn't care about us. Either way, all of the religions are foolish errands, and an awful waste of humanity…

Fortunately we now live in an age where this is all it really takes–just a mustard seed of doubt and the courage to apply the scientific method to our own selves, our own family traditions.

It was only a couple years later that I discovered you and Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. I spent far too much time “in the closet”, supposing that the deconversion process–with it's transition from doing-good-because-of-God to perceiving no reason to restrain one's actions–until that next realization that ethics and morality never actually came from one's belief in God in the first place–was an inherently dangerous transition that people ought to make on their own, not thrust into it prematurely.

Sam Harris's book, A Letter to a Christian Nation, woke me up as to the damage religion has done and continues to do, and how that outweighs by far the dangers that can come from “loosing faith.” Since then, it's become all too clear how important it is for atheists not to sit back, but to be “missionaries of change” where ever we are. Generations to come will be incalculably influenced by both our action or inaction.

So, I thank you for your efforts! Strive on. You are an inspiration, and I am grateful for all that you've done, personally, to facilitate a better future for the generations to come.

-Jared Hansen
Dallas, TX

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