Dear Prof. Dawkins and Converts' Corner,
Even as a 2nd-grader, I became acutely aware of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in what was being preached from the pulpit: In striving to look up scripture as it was called upon during a sermon (with my mom's help, of course), I frequently found the preacher to be quoting out of context (i.e., the Genesis story of Lot as being AGAINST incest). I noticed no one was raising their hand to clarify this and thought this odd, so I doubted my own sense of what was meant. As I grew, I became more confident when I saw this happen and whispered to my mom, “Mom, that's not what this says! Should I raise my hand now or wait 'til after?” I was encouraged to not be a “boat-rocker”. That these observations were laudable at my school yet berated at my church confused and angered me as a child. However, with going to church 3x/week and the obligatory summertime Vacation Bible Schools and Bible Camps, I succumbed and was baptized at age 13.
I continued to find the logic of 'believers' to be confusing most of the time and began to distance myself from the Church, becoming more-or-less agnostic as a college student. What I've continued to see as most puzzling as an adult is that a belief in God, held by those I've respected as thoughtful, rigorous scientists (and fellow medical students), be held as “true” (or even “probable” or “likely”) by a completely different standard than a belief in other tenets of what we accept as reality. I am even more puzzled when discussion of this topic with colleagues is frequently met with emotional (and frequently angry) retort to my questions and often so in the employ of logical fallacies. If I further attempt to explore the logic of their argument, I've found this apparently invites (?) a stance of defensive indignation on the part of the 'believer'. I wonder if a conversation with a Debate Expert who happens to believe in God would be more enlightening.
A good friend gave me The God Delusion for Christmas and it was in reading this book and following up on many of its References (my initial impression of most Non-Fiction literature/scientific articles is by the quality of their respective Reference sections, as you might imagine from my background:) that I moved along the continuum from Agnostic to Non-Theist. I subsequently passed this book on to my mother in Texas, who has been increasingly open-minded about social issues over the years despite 1. Our similar backgrounds, 2. The continuing fundamentalist stance of our family members, her neighbors and co-workers and 3. Her husband. She now appears to be moving along a continuum from 'Believer' to 'Non-Believer' but this has been a much more emotional experience for her, as she cites feelings of anger, confusion and betrayal in reaction to “realizing [her] foundation is no longer there”. I think our hours-long phone conversations are a catharsis for her and she frequently cries while stating how much more sense the world makes to her without the glasses of religious faith.
I remember discussing my thoughts with my mom when I was reading The God Delusion when she said, “So, would you have us run this country without God, then!?” This was a confusing question to me, since I would have to suppose God existed before I could address the question of consulting him on 'running the country'. This two-part response was met with my mother's frustration that I couldn't 'Just Answer the Question'. (BTW-Mom says she's ok with my including these recollections here, just a disclaimer:)
After attending your talk at Kepler's yesterday, you encouraged me to write to Converts' Corner, which I thought to be a splendid idea (and quite a cathartic one as well!). I have no reason to think I'll see my 'Convert Story' posted, of course, I'm just so glad to have the forum to get this all down. Thank you Dr. Dawkins for your all of your hard work, for creating this space and for your encouragement. You continue to be an inspiration to so many of us.
Again, many thanks to you, sir. Take care.