Dear Professor Dawkins,
I would like to give you full credit for my de-conversion, but in truth your "The Blind Watchmaker" was only one of a number of books on the syllabus of my metaphysics class at Marquette University, a Jesuit school. I was raised Catholic, eventually entering the seminary to train to become a priest, immediately after leaving high school (U.S. Secondary education). These were intense years of searching for "truth" and "right" and I longed for nothing more than to know I was being the best person I could be; to have the most positive impact on those around me.
My first year in the seminary in Dublin, Ireland (Catholic hotbed) made it clear to me that clinging to the Catholic Church would certainly not lead me where I wanted to go, and this was long before any priestly scandals were made public. There was just such a complete denial of thought and intellect, along with a pervasive misogyny, that I knew the institution was bankrupt long before I would even begin to consider questioning my belief in God. So, after leaving the seminary I continued to seek God and truth and meaning. While I knew I was no longer a fully "loyal" Catholic, Marquette is a Catholic school. My continuing search remained steeped in the Church, if only as a member and not as a pretender to positions of power within it. Marquette’s required 12 credits of theology and 9 credits of philosophy guaranteed me plenty of opportunity to ask questions, and further solidify my break from the Church.
Imagine my surprise, sophomore year, to find out my metaphysics course was being taught by an atheist. A tenured atheist, so he could not be fired. All I knew of Atheists is what the Irish nuns taught me in grade school. They were evil and to be avoided, especially that awful Madelyn Murray O'Hair. 🙂 Many of the books I had been reading were leading me closer and closer to admitting I, like LaPlace, had no need of the God hypothesis. Along with "The Blind Watchmaker" we also read a brief philosophical paper that said basically, "If a Christian views an atheist's position about how the universe exists, he will scoff. "You mean to tell me that the universe either sprang into being out of nothingness, or it was always there. How absurd." Turn the argument on the believer and the same problem presents itself, "You either believe God sprang into being out of nothingness, or was always there." So here we sit, the believer and the atheist with exactly the same level of unknowability at the root of our quest. What is different? What is different is the hypotheses presented to explain what we DO know. Scientific, Humanistic, Secular Materialism, while incomplete, at least provides a consistent platform. Proposing a God to explain it all made no sense any longer.
I left class that day and vividly recall the moment I had to admit to myself, "I don’t believe in God." It was a shock, to say the least, and thus began my long quest of trying to re-stack all of the knowledge of my life under these new terms. The foundation on which I had been set, or landed by birth, were gone, and it was up to me to refashion a stable worldview. Along the way, your writings including "The Selfish Gene," "The God Delusion," and most recently "The Greatest Show on Earth" have contributed to my foundation, and confirmed that I came to the right conclusion 22 years ago, walking home from metaphysics class. I, my wife of 18 years, and our two children say heartily, “Thank you!”
Brookfield, Wisconsin, USA