Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(601)

Jan 30, 2013

Dear Richard Dawkins,

At your Lynchburg address you mentioned you would be interested in learning more about the feeling of anger accompanying the process of deprogramming oneself of religious fundamentalism. I was raised third generation fundamentalist Irish catholic; parochial school, nuns etc. (Notice the lower case c. Thats anger. It comes out.)

My 88 year old mother, now with Alzheimer's, but still beautiful and college educated (Immaculate Heart) once told me her fundamentalistic commitment was initiated as she stood at the kitchen sink, my infant sister stricken with a bowel obstruction in her arms. At that time I was five and hospitalized with polio, (quarantine sign on the house), and she saw out the window my older brother unable to rise from a fall and knew he too was stricken. It was then she bargained her life to Jesus. Years later, I was awakened by my older brothers screams. He was pleading with mother as she stood at the door: Could it possibly be true that hell was forever and ever and neverending? She, in her night gown, reassured him that it was true and said good night as the door closed.

My father, now buried in the catholic cemetery, physically dragged me at thirteen up the central isle of st. mary's church for refusing to participate in the candle blessing of the throats, the kissing of the cross, and ash Wednesday's. At 45 when I confessed to him my disbelief, he told me that his son was a catholic, and if I was not , than I was not his son. I can still see him, just months before his death, standing in the street in front of my home, yelling that I will surly go to hell.

I think of the pitifully long struggle to de-program myself in an environment of believers; of unlearning guilt, and the threat of the loss of a loving father in heaven. Of reaching out to others in a culture too rigid to reach back on issues of faith. Of the lack of support or alternatives to belief before the internet and your own helpful books.

I think of the audacity at the continued assumption of moral authority of catholic leaders despite the long history of corruption: the selling of indulgences, the crusades, the inquisition, and especially the recent history of the church's tolerance, cover up, self-protection, and lack of concern for the victims of its pedophiliac priests. These realities provide such profound evidence of the separation of image from reality that the entire facade of the catholic church, its fallacies of dogma and authority should disperse like smoke in the wind. Only the two millennia of perfected entrapment of victims, from baptism into the faith, the reward, punishment, guilt, and fear, the fallacy that belief trumps knowledge, and the too long unexamined protection of cultural tolerance keeps the mirage suspended before the eyes of the faithful.

For a long while I was angry for inheriting the crises from others who should have known better. It is similar to the ecological crises where future generations will criticize us for the problems they must deal with. During my spiritual crises I was outraged at the neglect of reason of the past generations that passed on this dilemma on for me to deal with the consequences.

These are the sources of my anger, but I have evolved. Now I can find pride in the accomplishment of my own transformation and comfort in the daily assurances of my own joy. I can look back at the enormous progression of time and space, matter and life, with understanding and reason, not myth and superstition, realizing I am truly and directly a part of the mystery beauty and wonder of this great passionate and universal story. I want to, with deep and sincere gratitude thank you for your part in this.

John Courtney

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