Dear Prof Dawkins.
As a child, God to me was a big invisible man in the sky that made everything and kept me safe. (This is what my parents told me when I enquired where I came from or if I was scared)
As a teenager, God to me was someone I prayed to when I had been caught mis-behaving in school/home due to fear of the forthcoming punishments.
At around 17, I did become “born-again” and for a year, learnt as much as I could, which was mostly how to feel constantly guilty for lusting at attractive females and being prayed for, to rid me of my demons, that I was told had entered into me due to my impure thoughts and actions. I make light and joke of it now, but at the time this was very serious.
I backslid, with much guilt and anguish in my life for a number of years, but never stopped believing. I would feel guilty for not going back into the church and ensuring I would be saved, especially if I heard someone I knew had passed away.
During my “backsliding” years, I always had questions in my mind, such as “If you can only be saved by believing in Jesus and his resurrection, what If you don't get to hear this story? do you still go to everlasting hell?” I was told by a pastor friend, apparently everyone has heard of Jesus and that ignorance, like in law, is no excuse.
I started thinking about the Native Americans, Australians and others who had no idea about this Hebrew God-man until the Europeans arrived (with their guns, bibles and diseases !) and started thinking how sad it was all those millions of people would have to go to hell and it wasn't really their fault they weren't privy to this very important information for so long and when it did arrive, it came so brutally. God of Mercy – who knows every sparrow that passeth away? –
Still – my doubts were set but I couldn't rationalize properly what was going on, I had no alternatives to work from and without God things didn't make sense, yet deep down I knew with God they definately DID NOT make sense, until early 2007 I dared to read your book, “God Delusion”. What a relief – what true joy at last. I was free of needless guilt and my mind was open. I have read so much and been introduced to a whole new set of ideas and level of intellect I hadnot encountered previously.
I have re-discovered my childhood passion of space and the cosmos, marvelling at the works of Carl Sagan.
I have also re-discovered my passion of learning how things are the way they are – reading all your books, books on Einstein and many other scientific publications. Philosophy, ancient Greek, Roman, African and Chinese culture has become more interesting and makes more sense. Science is wonderful, I wish I took more care in this area at school.
I now feel genuine awe in my life. I have genuine astonishment and I believe I have become a far greater person as a result of finally acknowledging the truth….I don't believe in any kind of personal God ! Thank you Mr Dawkins.
UK – Nov 2009