Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(1041)

Jan 30, 2013

Hello Richard,

I think I was what you would've referred to as a “fence sitter,” someone who had never given much thought to the topic of religion except to say he believes it “just because.” I was brought up in the heart of the Bible Belt (northern Georgia) in the United States, which is the sort of place where religious belief — usually the fanatical variety — is presumed of practically everyone. I didn't have particularly religious parents, but they at least claimed to be Christians, and so did we kids. But since everyone else seemed to take it so seriously, I tried my best to do the same, even though certain things about the Bible and Christianity always bugged me.

I was by no means a zealot, understand, but I was at least superficially religious. I even remember nagging myself as I lay down to sleep at night because I hadn't said my prayers, and that I had to get out of bed and get on my knees, because if it wasn't inconvenient it didn't count. I never stopped myself from being sinful (especially not where sex was concerned), but I always felt guilty about it afterward. All this and more, never having read the Bible or even really understanding what Christians believe.

I actually heard your name before I'd ever have admitted to myself that I was an atheist (and, looking back, I'd say I always was); I believe it was something negative — “evil atheist crusader” or something like that. But I remembered it for some reason, and one day I found myself Googling it. I read an article you had written (something about evolution, though I can't remember the exact premise now), and it made so much sense that I had a sudden surge of enthusiasm for atheist literature. I eventually came to read The God Delusion, as well as perhaps a dozen other books by atheists on the subject of atheism, over the course of the next year. The God Delusion was first (many other of your books have followed), and I can safely say that, somewhere in the first quarter of the book, I had already admitted to myself that I was an atheist and always had been. It was such an enormous relief! After that, one book kept leading to another, and I began taking an interest in biology, astronomy, physics — if I could understand it at all, I was reading it. It makes me a little ashamed to think that I might've been interested at a much earlier age, when I could've chosen to study biology or chemistry or something in college.

I am right there with you on consciousness raising. You raised mine just as Darwin raised yours, and I've been trying to do the same for others. My copy of The God Delusion has made the rounds among my siblings, my mom, and anyone else who'll dare to read it, and I've had some great discussions with them about it. I hope it's a chain reaction, for everyone who receives the book the way I did.

Thank you,

Ryan Cole,
New Haven, CT

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.