As a teenager who had “given my life to the Lord Jesus and accepted God as my personal Saviour” I read a lot of religious books by C.S.Lewis. One of these descibed his conversion to Christianity and bore the title “Surprised by Joy”. The title was a play on words, really, since it also described his love affair with, and subsequent marriage to, the American writer, Joy Gresham.
The problem for me was that “being saved” was a huge anti-climax. The emotional high of getting up at a public gospel meeting and “accepting Jesus” was followed by nothing more miraculous than life as usual. No joy there for me. But then, of course, the problem must be mine. My lack of commitment, my emotional deficiency. After all, you couldn't very well blame Jesus!
Strange, then, that 50 years later, upon reading The God Delusion, I was completely surprised by the feeling of liberation and exhilaration that it gave me. True believers know that atheists are a pessimistic negative bunch of people but I can attest to the very opposite. If there's no hereafter, then for goodness sake, make the very best of this life. As Robin Knox-Johnston said, “Paint your life in bright colours”.
The whole experience of moving from agnosticism to atheism has given me confidence to openly express my views about religion, and life in general. It may be regarded by some of my friends as “bad taste” or “ill-mannered” but I'm afraid they'll just have to get used to me.
Why do we always have to remain silent and listen to clerics pushing their views on moral issues such as abortion, contraception, sexual orientation and euthanasia? I guess this must be the origin of the word pontificating!
It's about time that ordinary people challenged these views of the world and called them to account. Richard Dawkins is often attacked for his “fundmentalism” and his strident tone. Rubbish! Ordinary people like us must be prepared to speak up for a more rational view of the world. We're not a political party but at least we're not afraid to face the reality of everyday life and death.
Thankyou, Richard, for helping to raise my consciousness.
In my own way, I, too, was Surprised by Joy.