Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(1110)

Jan 30, 2013

Dear Richard

I was brought up a Greek Orthodox Christian in a fairly average working family, in Australia. I always felt I was being raised to have two minds.

One was a mind receptive to the notions of obedience to authority. This was packaged with belief in of God, and the truth of the resurrection of Christ. All of this was sold to me as a requisite for Greek ethnic identity. My upbringing was strict and inward looking.

The other mind was in effect my inner Greek. You may be able to imagine the kind- the Greek in me that escaped to the west when the Ottomans invaded. The lover of democracy and freedom, science and philosophy, of free thought, scepticism and inquiry. The (probable) Greek who sat on a cliff probably on Kos and was the first westerner to wonder whether there was a cause for the world that had nothing to do with the supernatural.

My free- thinking made me the black sheep of the family as I grew up and led to real disagreements and conflicts with my family. I went to university, an experience more awe inspiring to my seventeen-year-old self, than any church service. I am now an internal medicine physician. I never definitively dealt with the question of the existence of God until I read your book, the God Delusion.

Your work made sense to me from the first word to the last. It did not convert me as such, but it validated my doubt, and in a sense gave me permission to let go of the tattered remanent of God still stuck to my brain- the God of the "unknowable". Just as in my everyday work as a physician, I am now totally comfortable in simply not knowing all the answers, sticking to the evidence, and in rejecting the ridiculous (for our time) explanations offered or inferred, in the Bible. Declaring this at the age of forty-two makes me feel sheepish and a little ashamed that I had not declared this view earlier. I was wrong. So there it is.

I would like to say that your book gave me a moment of peace, but only a moment. Firstly, Your writings and the works of others like Dennett, Hitchens and the like have removed my old world and given me something immensely more complicated and wondrous. I thank you for this, but as you have reopened my inquiring mind and kick-started my curiosity, I fear (hope) that my life will be busier than ever.

Secondly, I will need to come out to my extended family. That will alienate them further from me, and each increment of distance is painful. Interestingly, my wife, after listening to me rant about finally being freed by your book, calmly declared (for the first time) that she had always been an atheist and what was the big deal anyway. So the marriage is OK. I have to construct a new social network. Coming out as an atheist will be a bit like declaring ones rampant, proud homosexuality.
At a recent dinner party, the 5-year old son of one of the Evangelical Christian adults present asked me if I thought God was real, as my son had just told him that I had denied the existence of the deity. One could hear the crickets outside breaking the sudden deathly silence as all of the adults paused, fork in hand, mouths open, and listened for an answer…

Thank you Professor Dawkins.

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