I cannot pinpoint an exact day or time when I came to disbelieve in the divine. I feel as though I've wandered through a religious swamp. Finally, I tired of the muck and decided to climb up to higher ground where I could think clearly. I think I underwent a process, of sorts. I was raised by a Christian fundamentalist mother. My father was the exact opposite of my mother. At that time, I did not know the term 'atheist.' Yet, looking back, my father certainly fit the term, though in an emotional and less intellectual way. Throughout my childhood, he remained convinced that preachers were after his hard-earned money. So, the economics of church attendance was a main concern for him. My mother, however, flitted from church to church with me (and sometimes my brothers) in tow. She, I think, ardently looked for the one true church of the divine. She finally settled on a Baptist church less than a block from our house in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here, I sat and listened to fire-and-brimstone sermons from an aging pastor. Forced to become a child usher (my mother threatened to embarrass me in front of the congregation unless I “submitted.”), I dressed in a white linen dress with white shoes and white gloves–ever ready to administer help to the 'saints' after they 'got happy' from a heavy dose of the holy ghost. Oh, I distributed church bulletins, too.
At fifteen, I decided to quit church. My brothers had already quit the charade. My mother became incensed and accused me of having a devil. Neighbors eyed me oddly as the demon-girl who quit church. At 18, I left my home, but I would live the next 20 years of my life trying to be a better Christian, still trying to prove to my mother that I could be a godly young woman. Like my mother, I flitted from church to church, getting baptized, prayed over, prostrating myself, studying scripture, and learning all manner of weird doctrines. I prayed and prayedon my kneesto become a better person, less sensual and more divine.
My crowning religious buffoonery was my involvement in a religious cult. This madness came after a long and arduous search for the 'one true church' of the divine. I settled for this sham religious experience for over five years–performing rituals of tithing, weird ablations, cross-country moves, becoming engaged, believing strange teachings centered on old testament holy days. Yet, I eventually left this organization, too, wondering if I were still sane. From here, I read a lot about spiritualityvarious pseudo-spiritual beliefs including Reiki, crystals, psychics, tarot, witchcraft, palm reading. I wondered if these things held any true power to convert me to the purely spiritual goddess that I aspired to become.
Dr. Dawkins, I would like to say that I read your book and as a result broke free from my religious pseudo-spiritual chains. Please do not take offense, but my break from organized religion came about from reading books like Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. I found something in that book that obliterated all my thoughts on continuing a useless and futile search for divinity. Yet, it was not only the ever-plodding search for what is not there, but the reasoning processes behind religiositythe desire (or fear) to foolishly and childishly grasp for some cosmic mother or father. One has to grow out of hyper-religiosity and a primitive state. I don't believe that there is solid proof that man (mankind) possesses a spirit. As well, I simply did not know how to think critically about religion and pseudo-spiritual claims. As a result, I believed a lot of pure bunk. Other books followed Sagan's, and I finally let go of religion. That is what I had wanted to do for many years, but lacked the intellectual wherewithal to simply stop my religious insanity. After this, I read more on rationality, humanism, logic, and critical thinking, which was a large part of my English curriculum for my degree (concentration in British/European literature)–something that I would not have completed as a fundamentalist. As a religious person, I was too rigid to indulge in literature espousing intellectual freedom. With echoes of my father's sentiments, I embrace agnosticism.