Prof. Richard Dawkins,
I know you may not read this e-mail personally, but I wanted to thank you for writing such wonderful and insightful books. Thanks to you and “The God Delusion” specifically, I can say that I am no longer a 4 on the scale. I am now a comfortable 6. This is my story about my path to enlightenment.
I was born and raised in the deep south. We call it “cajun country” around here: complete with your stereotypical swamp scene and drunk church-going rednecks (a.k.a. coon-asses). My family is a mixture of Catholics, Methodists and Baptists. I grew up in a few small towns around this area and every one had at least 5 churches every 2 blocks. I didn't think at the time that there was anything wrong with religion. I had been raised in the midst of it.
There was never a day that went by that someone I knew didn't utter the phrase “praise Jesus” about something or other. There was never an ending to children's bible stories either. One incident that sticks out in my mind from Sunday school was the story of Daniel and the Lions, a picture book. The teacher would hold it up and read Daniel's story to us because it was a class favorite. I remember the end of the story all too vividly: There was no mercy for the 'bad guy' and he was fed to the lions while the King and Daniel became buddies again. I remember thinking “Wasn't there some other way to resolve the problem, rather than the Lord letting somebody be ripped apart by a gang of lions? Wasn't my god supposed to be a merciful, forgiving god?”
After a few of these 'isolated' events, I began to feel uncomfortable in church as I grew older. I quit speaking to a lot of the other kids and grownups because every time I said or asked something, the answer always seemed to be “Have faith” or “Jesus loves you”. I was not supposed to question what was being pounded into my brain. My aunt even warned me in a dire tone: “If they start teaching you about the Big Bang in school, you don't listen to them. It's a well known fact that God created the world, don't let those science teachers bully you into thinking otherwise.” Amazing, right?
Throughout middle school and high school, I was starving for knowledge. I had been deprived of truth all of my life. I started to find many faults and inaccuracies within Christianity. My inquisitive mind decided that the story just didn't make sense AT ALL. Christian doctrine didn't hold up under my intense scrutiny. Let me make this clear, I did not set out to reject Christianity. I set out to deepen my understanding of it- and let me tell you, that may have been the best decision I have made in my entire life. It is bogus and I'm glad I figured it out. But I still hadn't let go of the idea of “God”.
I started researching Judaism. I fell in love with it. It seemed to me to contain SO much less hocus pocus than Christianity. There wasn't a trinity, Jesus wasn't in the picture, and there was actually a set of laws written down that I could follow first hand out of the Torah. A clear cut path with a much less complicated way to reach “God”. I broke the news to my parents that I was interested in Judaism and they took it better than I had expected. But then something happened. I became a little too interested in Judaism and I started asking too many questions again. Why so many laws? What was the point? I began to wonder why God hadn't shown up in the picture before the Jews. If there was an almighty, all powerful god, why couldn't he just appear on CNN/Fox News and state “I am the Lord. Sit down, shut up and listen. I'm going to correct a few misconceptions…”?
Then I decided to test my faith and go to the nearest synagogue. It was a 40 mile drive and WELL WORTH the trip. When I saw the extravagance, the elaborate ceremony, the kissing of the Torah… I decided that I didn't have much use for rituals. Why would god care about rituals, laws, our own personal thoughts!? Shouldn't he be a bit more majestic than that? Shouldn't he have better things to do with his time? I mean, there's the WHOLE UNIVERSE to take care of!
Or my personal favorite: Is there even a god?
It was a few weeks of deep thought and reflection that I decided I was an “agnostic”. I thought- “Well, this isn't so bad. I'm sitting in the middle. I'm not a fanatic at least. There's no proof either way…”
Then I stumbled upon your book a few months later, Prof. Dawkins. I immediately bought it, curious about your argument. I was SURE that I would never change my mind about my agnosticism. But thanks to you, your wonderful way with words and the EVIDENCE you present I must say that I am now an atheist.
I am not ashamed be an atheist. It doesn't make me a bad person. I am not a Satanist (I had frequently been told atheists are in the league with the devil). I am not evil. I just “believe in one less god” than everyone else. : ) Thank you for the inspiration to be who I really am, Professor.
May you live a long, happy life-