Dear Professor Dawkins
Allow me to introduce myself, I was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan in a Catholic household (it may come as a shock to some people but there are people of other faiths living in Pakistan). Religion is pretty big in Pakistan and it’s how we identify ourselves here. If you are an atheist in Pakistan, you are probably in the wrong place (which is one of the reasons I got out of there, not that you need many). As a Catholic boy, I did all the normal things that Catholic boys do; I attended Mass, prayed at home with my family, read the Bible, was an altar boy (was not molested) etc. During my youth and young adult life, I had faith. I spoke to 'God’ all the time asking him for signs and advice and favours. To me there was a God just as sure as there was the sun in the sky. I had even convinced myself that Jesus was the son of this god.
What started me on the road to atheism (and enlightenment) was the Danish cartoon controversy. The Muslims were making a big fuss about them in early and I was curious to know why. In my attempt to view the cartoons that had apparently upset 1.4 billion Muslims, I stumbled on to the Faith Freedom International web site (it was not banned at the time in Pakistan). Here I found much more than just the cartoons. The next few weeks I spent hours on their web site reading about Islam and its Prophet. Although the web site focused on tearing down Islam, I could see that some of its very convincing arguments could just as easily be used against Christianity. This made me skeptical yet I persisted in my belief in God.
And then I read "The God Delusion" (surprisingly it was available in a bookstore in Karachi). Evolution was not a problem for me; I could see that it made perfect sense when I was introduced to the idea in primary school I had simply thought that God had started evolution. (We were however not taught about evolution in school so I’m currently filling in that gap with your book "The Greatest Show on Earth"). What your book The God Delusion did was to force me to examine my beliefs and the reasons why I held on to them so desperately. It gave me the courage to finally let them go. It wasn’t easy; I remember lying in bed one night and contemplating the universe without God. I felt that by my unbelief, the laws of physics would go into abeyance and I would fall through my bed and the Earth itself. I guess that’s the sort of feeling you get when your illusions are shattered and when you come to the realization that what you believe has no bearing on the truth. It makes you feel insignificant. This may be the reason why so many people still cling to their illusions; I want to thank you for shattering mine.
I enjoy being a skeptic, a non-believer, an atheist, a freethinker (we really need to get a word we can all agree on). I find it liberating not feeling guilty about missing church on Sundays and not having some mind-police auditing my thoughts. It’s true what they say about Catholics carrying around a lot of guilt; it was a pleasure getting rid of mine. I hope for a world where religion is but a distant memory. Through your efforts and those of many like-minded individuals, that dream may come to fruition.
Keep up the good work.
A Pakistani Atheist