Thank you for the enlightenment, right here, in this life itself.
I’m a 21 year old student of Physics from India. I’ve always been an atheist as far back as I can remember. But, coupled with my introverted nature, the lack of a lot of answers (which I was too intellectually immature to understand) meant that I had to quietly endure religion. So I participated in religious rituals, listened with interest the stories of numerous Hindu Gods and the purported miracles.
The problem my budding faith faced was two-fold.
One, I was reading a lot of science and was very interested in getting to the ultimate logic. It is the greatest game ever played and the definitely most beautiful one. Which is something I could never say about my faith.
Two, I could never put 2 and 2 to get 4 in whatever I knew about faith. Even with the little I knew, faith seemed to contradict. And I could never get the wonderful feeling understanding an 'explanation’ on grounds of faith as I got when I understood why the sky was blue or when I first read about radioactivity or that our world was once inhabited by dinosaurs, and we weren’t around.
When I was about 16, I started asking what would happen if I didn’t have a religion. What would I stand to lose? Except for one massive loss, I realized I would lose nearly nothing. The massive loss was that I had to conclude that people like many of my teachers, my grandparents, aunts and others who loved me so much and who formed my support system were wrong. In fact I had to positively blame them for teaching me something I didn’t need. One noticeable exception to this list was my mother. She was, as I realize now, way ahead of her times. Even though she participated in rituals, she never forgot to mention to me that these are just done, for reasons she herself didn’t understand. I should never lean onto these for my support even if I desperately need it. I could reason. I could choose. Faith was not going to be my choice. But I needed to know more
In Hindu society, the 'intellectual’ consist of people, who have supremely romanticized views of the world that just don’t seem to work. A carnivore was one of the Devil’s incarnate. The gentle deer was a beautiful example of God’s handiwork. The great cycle of Good and Bad keeps on going round. Our souls, the souls of the highest being, (how arrogant!) long a way out of this cycle. Do good and you shall be rewarded in your afterlife A pile of rubbish I could see finally.
How can anyone not be awed by the spectacle of a lion chasing a deer? How about the supple cheetah? Even if the end is bloody, how are they wrong to search for food? As I found out later, it was never a question of right/wrong. If the 'right’ for the deer didn’t contradict the 'right’ for the cheetah, the entire ecological system would collapse. Deer, and even us, flourished precisely because of the cheetah, otherwise the deer would outcompete each other. Darwin’s gem of an idea was beginning to make some sense finally. I was about 18 when I picked up 'The selfish Gene’.
I’ve always liked reading. Still, it was difficult going for an absolute evolution-virgin to understand 'The Selfish Gene’. But I was too engrossed by what the idea promised that I had to absolutely understand how it delivers on what it promises. However, unlike many, I turned more to physics for logic against faith than to evolution. (This would be natural to me, as I was never formally trained in biology. Evolution, I learned, but was never taught, simply because I never took biology classes.) And what physics taught me shattered my faith absolutely. Newtonian science could explain so much with so little. Quantum physics, though contradictory to common sense, gave so many answers, each with absolute precision. Yes, there are unsolved mysteries but that’s why we do science. The fact that we understand quantum mechanics only through abstract mathematics and never through 'revelation’ or 'inner feeling’ made sense only when I let go of the idea that the Universe existed for us. Physics, and evolution, have constantly taught us much more humility than religion. Where was God? Religion and faith were dispensable, science was not.
At about this time, age 20, I picked up your book, Prof. Dawkins. "The God Delusion" reaffirmed my doubt of faith, and also pointed out why faith is positively dangerous for society as a whole. (I had naively assumed that faith is passive and that most people didn’t take it very seriously.) Thanks for clearing that delusion for me. I was, however, always critical of superstition. Now, I understand that most superstition (especially the most dangerous ones) stem from religion itself. I became a staunch atheist.
Your latest book, 'The Greatest Show on Earth’ was simply brilliant. I have never come across such a great amount of evidence for any subject which was presented so lucidly. Darwin – Wallace shone brilliantly.
I’m halfway through both 'The Ancestor’s Tale’ and 'The Blind watchmaker’ (I’m reading them simultaneously J ), while also studying the theories of physics. All point to the same conclusion the world is just what it would be had there been no Creator.
I’m now an outspoken atheist and, for the first time, extremely proud of that.
Thanks, Prof. Dawkins for giving atheists a voice. You are needed. May you possess the gene to have a long life. Be as outspoken as you are.