Dear Professor Dawkins
I found Atheism through a lot of different literature "yours included" but I never felt the need to stand up and be counted until you.
I have always lived my life as an Agnostic. Religion was never forced on me, I have always had the freedom to choose, but there has always been a niggling thought in the back of my mind of what happens when I die. At the age of 10, I watched my Grandfather "a truly great, kind, loving and free thinking man” die a slow and painful death. I was always concerned about, where he was? Was he happy? Was he proud of the way I have lived my life so far? I wanted to know what to do with these niggling thoughts, because they did have an effect on most of the choices I made. Unanswered, these questions are more like emotional baggage. The moment I began to look into it, it became very apparent lots of people where doing the same; of course I am not naive I have always known this was the case. But what I never realised was just how heavily one sided this great argument is. There is one side who tell you “we know because it's written, it's wrong to question it and your soul will suffer if you do” then there’s the other side who say "well here's all this evidence, we don’t have all the answers but were working on it" that is just my personal summary. Even though Science answered a lot of my questions it still didn’t answer the niggling ones.
I love Science and new ideas. One of my favourite web sites is 'ted.com’ where different people come together to share ideas and one of the Ted talks is a lady called Dr Jill Bolte Taylor. She is a Neuroanatomist “Brain Doctor” and she tells a compelling story of the stroke she suffered in 1996. During her talk she describes what is happening medically and emotionally. She describes how the different sides of her brain go "off line" and then come back on again, all the different emotions and then, as she puts it, a feeling of complete calm, "a nirvana". This is where I found my answer. The complete peace and nirvana Dr Bolte Taylor describes, 'which I am not doing justice describing’, is how I like to think we get to spend an eternity. Dr Bolte Taylor’s talk is not about offering salvation to Atheists and I really don’t do it justice, you should see it for yourself to understand where I am coming from. I found comfort in letting a loved one go and truly setting them free knowing they were eternally at rest. The time I have spent with them I am eternally grateful for but it is wrong of me to think that I have exclusive rights to there soul.
We are not part of a divine species, but we have won a lottery of unimaginable odds where we get to experience the most amazing joys and wows, borrowing the energy of our planet to help us along our journey and I now believe in the end we get to experience nirvana. This left me with one more question. What do we do with religion? Along this journey it has been extremely obvious that there is a problem with religion globally, it is suffocating and killing us.
Religious benefits, as far as I can see, are very limited. Religion gives society ethics and morals, it does great charitable work and it offers people support in times of bereavement??? I ran out of legitimate reasons after that. Well like I said I don’t have a religion but I do have ethics and morals as do my children. I am a charitable man and I would argue that it is not religion doing the charity, it is a person doing charity in the name of religion and there is a difference. That person would still be charitable without religion. Religion does offer hope to the bereaved but it is a conditional hope. The condition is you never question and you live exactly as it tells you 'even if it condemns those you love’. We gain strength from one and another in times of need. The night we lost my grandfather, we were all there as a family, giving our love when he needed it the most and I am positive he wasn’t craving the love or approval of anything else 'divine or human’. There will never be a universal religion although each religion will naturally strive to achieve this through its very core "blind faith". Does religion offer enough to justify all the pain and suffering it has caused mankind throughout its existence?
I have not written this to try and convert anybody, this is merely my explanation of how I have found Atheism and salvation from those niggling thoughts that I have now laid to rest. I remain open minded but until a much stronger argument comes to point me in a different direction, this is how I am living. Even though the path to get here was dark, I am now living an enlightened free thinking life. I cherish every second with those I love and have no fears of what’s ahead.
Thank you for reading my story I hope it finds you well.