Dear Professor Dawkins,
Firstly, I would like to thank you and others like you, for bringing Atheism to the public forum, through the publication of your books and media programs.
I was raised by devout Roman Catholic parents. We went to mass every weekend without fail and were educated in Catholic schools.
Since the youngest age, I have not been able to relate to a 'god'. I always felt extremely uncomfortable trying to pray – to me it felt silly, as though I was talking to nothing. When obstacles in life would arise or tragedy occur, I would be instructed by my mother to 'pray about it'. This always seemed pointless, useless. For me, when difficulties arise we must stand up to the challenge and come up with a practical solution, to the best of our ability. There are those aspects of life that may be beyond solution. This is when one must acknowledge that they have tried their best, and work towards acceptance of the situation. Explanation in the superanatural is not warranted.
I have always been made feel inferior – somehow defective, for not having 'faith'. I was told throughout my childhood and into adulthood that “you have no faith”. I always took this as a negative slur. I felt somehow defective for not being a person of faith. I shed many tears, especially during my twenties and thirties, trying to understand why I couldn't just believe in 'god' like others around me did.
Then seven years ago, I almost died from contracting an atypical pnuemonia. This experience was liberating, for I realised that at my lowest moment and close to death, I had no inclination to pray or call out to a 'god'. I had no fear and was not afraid to die.
After recovering, I viewed my life through different eyes. Life was more precious than ever, wonderous and full of things I wanted to learn. I have always been a passionately curious person. During my childhood, I would have to know how and why things worked. I have never just accepted things because I was told to. I have always been a thinker.
I began persuing subjects I was passionate about – Archaeology & Ancient history (egyptian, indus valley, sumerian, roman), genetics, evolution, medical science – reading as much information on these topics as I could. As well I began to further develop my skills and love of art – sculpture and painting.
In 2006, my husband wanted me to go and see a movie. He had already read the book and said that it was a 'must see'. The movie was the Davinci Code. This started me on a journey of discovery and truth, that has to be travelled once commenced. While it is a work of 'fiction', I began to research the origins of many of the Christian traditions and doctrines that most Catholics have no real knowledge of except for that which they are told.
As you are well aware, christianity at best, is a work of fiction if not a deep deception. Every part of the Catholic tradition is a bastardisation of a previous religion (jewish, ancient egyptian/greek mythology, pagan romanism).
By this time I had two sons, 10 and 7 years of age. My husband and I have not raised them with religion or praying in our home. We have taught them to question beliefs and enquire about evidence. We have instilled in them an awareness of their responsibilities towards others, and have taught them to value and respect all life and the future of our planet. We value empathy, kindness, generosity, justice, truth and love. They do however attend catholic school. This decision was made because the government schools in our area did not offer the quality of academic education we wanted for them. We do not worry about the influence catholicism may have on them. Being raised by two reasoning, free thinking parents has allowed them to develop as every child should have the right to. Their minds have not been stunted by the limiting influence so often inflicted by parents & doctrines. They attend religion classes at school, but from the earliest age have reported to us that what they have learnt 'makes no sense' & 'is silly'. Any human being allowed to develop without early indoctrination naturally comes to this logical conclusion when told far fetched stories and myths.
Even though we didn't pray or teach them to believe in a 'god', we did occassionally attend church to appease my mother.
Then 3 years ago, I decided enough was enough. It was easter and none of us wanted to go to church. However, I said to my husband I couldn't bare the aftermath that would occur if we didn't take our boys to church for easter, so we went. After two hours, communion hadn't happened yet and my husband and I decided to go home. After leaving the church we made the decision to tell my family that we would no longer attend church and if they had a problem with it that that was too bad!
Then 2 years ago, my husband and I joined the Atheist Foundation of Australia. I then 'came out' and told my family that my husband and I were atheists and member of the AFA. This did not go over well and I distanced myself from my parents, mostly my mother for 6 months or so. She has always worked on the premise that if you badger someone long enough, you will wear them down and into submission and around to her way of thinking. This, she had tried with me all of my life. It took her almost two years to realise that if she couldn't respect me as I was, then we would have no relationship at all.
She has finally stopped (or almost stopped) her constant comments and attempts at conversion.
Our sons will be free to choose whatever beliefs or lack thereof they want to. I will support them and accept them for who they are, and not for what they do or do not believe.
Shaking off the shackels of religion is a freeing experience. It is though a weight has been lifted of your shoulders, a dark veil removed from your eyes. At times while on my journey I felt isolated and alone. Your books and those of people like Sam Harris helped me incredibly. I had spent my whole life up to the age of forty feeling I was inadequate. Your books confirmed what I had always known. They helped me to feel justified as the person I was, just how I was. Thank you