Anger as a reaction to truth
Dear Dr. Dawkins:
Last night my husband and I viewed with pleasure your reading of The God Delusion on BookTV at Lynchburg, Virginia. A young woman asked you if it is normal to be angry after one learns that the religious teachings of childhood are myths. You were surprised, after polling the audience, to learn that it is indeed a common emotion. But why should you have been surprised? Learning that what one has been taught as ultimate truth is pure myth is to learn that one has been betrayed by those in whom one has placed the highest trust.
I was raised in an American fundamentalist church. It was not until I was forty years old that I left that church and joined the Episcopal Church. It was there that I and a dozen others church members took a four-year seminary extension course under the direction of our parish priest. The stated purpose of this course is to demythologize the Bible and help one construct a “more viable” faith. After three years of this course I enrolled in college for the first time. As an English major studying World Literature I discovered in some of the earliest literature, the Inanna poems (courtesy of the Rosetta stone), the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Eurpides' the Bacchae that the gospel stories were barely disguised versions of much more ancient writings. Even with what I'd learned in the seminary course, this came as a shock. Having been a true believer, I felt duped and betrayed–two emotions almost guaranteed to lead to anger and bitterness.
My professors at Idaho State University were almost universally compassionate as they helped me come to grips with the implications of living in a pluralistic society. Paradoxically, my biology professor, a devout Baptist and a practicing veterinarian, told our class that the state of Idaho required that she teach the principles of evolution, which she would do, but she asked us if we didn't think it was “much nicer to believe in creation?” She even gave me a book about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus! Mercifully, as Lyme's disease worked its way into her brain, she was unable to continue her career in education, and Idaho State University now has a properly educated instructor in her place.
Some of your books have been helpful as my husband and I have come to understand about evolution, most particularly because of your explanation that natural selection is not at all a random occurrence, but the one that favors an improvement of the species. We also appreciate your explanation that what one believes is largely an accident of when and where one is born. You will appreciate the irony that we are giving our eldest daughter a copy of The God Delusion for Christmas.
Kathleen Kakacek (Idaho State University, Class of 2005!)