For the vast majority of my life, I was a non denominational Christian. I was indoctrinated early, went to a private Christian School which heavily incorporated Biblical verses and stories into the curriculum, and required two survey courses on the Old and New testaments. Once a week the entire school congregated for a chapel period, in which the Bible was studied more in depth. I received an award for the depth of the notes I had taken, which was given by the Church's pastor in front of the entire school and faculty. My faith was absolute. If I came across a stray animal while driving, I would immediately pray that the luckless creature would be guided back to it's home.
My father was the inspiration for my faith; he was a great man, my mentor, hero, and idol. When I was seventeen, the cancer he had acquired from exposure to agent orange in Vietnam began to surface. The doctors estimated he had a year to live. He lived four months. During the slow, humiliating process of his body shutting down and decaying, he was faced with the inevitable glimpse into the void that we all must take; he was forced to come to terms with his own mortality. His faith, great as it was, was no comfort at death's door. I noticed a slow regression back to a child like state during the final days, in which he would whisper childrens' hymns for comfort. This was, I believe, where my doubt began to form.
I have always in the back of my mind felt that the limitations of human understanding are so vast, and that humans – especially Christians – attribute to themselves far too much credit for being born human. The self serving nature of organized religion and the hypocrisy therein drove me to stop attending Church; but always I would cling desperately to the idea of a benevolent creator who watched over me, and cared for me. Yet, as time passed, and as I began to evaluate the nature of our world, and our place within from a scientific perspective, I found myself growing more and more dispassionate. I stopped praying, and nothing in my life changed.
Uncertainty is perhaps the most grim fate any of us can be condemned to. I began to research, with particular interest in the unfathomable vastness of the cosmos, and our insignificant, inconsequential place therein. Dawkins (in particular, his documentary The Genius of Charles Darwin), along with his colleagues, made me come to the most important revelation of my life. Our world is imperfect. The universe is chaotic. We have taken pictures of galaxies colliding; such destruction an event would bring about cannot even be quantified by us. Such reality could not possibly be the product of a perfect engineer.
Know that I have always had doubt; for if there was a god, they would not want blind faith. However, I am still young in my pursuit of truth. As such, it is extremely difficult for me to grasp the meaning of existence and our role in the universe. Life, it seems, is ridiculous. It has been a very trying and emotional journey, and truly this knowledge is a burden. I loved my father with all of my heart; I still do. The hardest thing for me to accept is this: I cannot carry out his dying wish- which was for me to hold true to my faith. I understand that, in choosing to reject religion, the folly of my father, I do so for the benefit of future generations. Is this not the very meaning of evolution? To surpass the weakness of your parents and pass on what you have gained to the next generation. It is little comfort to me at this point. But I have no doubt, in time, the burden of this knowledge will be lessened.
Thank you, Richard, for being a beacon of reason in an otherwise ignorant world.
Benjamin, age 23.