Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(618)

Jan 30, 2013

Dear Professor Dawkins,

I was born and raised in the Philippines, an incredibly Roman Catholic country to Roman Catholic parents. Every Sunday I would look forward to church. As a young child I would sit in the front pew, rapt with attention at the priest's homily, eager to discuss and share with the priest and my parents. I was entranced and desperately wanted to join the clergy and become a priest. Strangely it was not because of faith per se, but because of my utter respect and love of my priest's intelligence and understanding and kindness. Ironically it was also this kind and loving priest who started my de-conversion by having a heart attack in the middle of mass. How could a god do this to such a devout man? How could an omnipotent and omni-benevolent god allow evil? Thankfully my parents, despite being devout Catholics, wanted me to be intelligent, so they sent me to a private Catholic school that was light on the religious indoctrination. I devoured knowledge; I loved learning, and continually was in the top of my entire year. The mandatory religion class had little effect on me, as the teaching didn't "feel" right. I was 8.

Then I moved to the United States, still technically a Catholic, but skeptical of it's claims to truth and morality. Here is where I was first exposed to the warring denominations of Christianity, with competing claims by Judaism, Islam, Hindu, etc. They could not all be right, and perhaps none of them were. During Catholic Sunday school I had supreme difficulty accepting the claims and arguments of the church and in my naiveté spoke aloud my doubts. What a mistake. I was ostracized from the group, and the teacher called my parents in concern. I was angry and rebellious and a teenager and became an atheist mostly out of spite, a bad and illogical reason to do so. While I maintained my atheism throughout high school, it was a naïve sort that fell prey to the many (bad) arguments put forth by theists, especially the ontological argument and argument from design. Unfortunately my school wanted a "balanced" approach to biology and de-emphasized the importance of evolution, though I still accepted evolution as fact and thought I understood it enough.

How wrong I was. In college I was introduced to your works and it was like a revelation. Finally I had reason and logic and confirmation for my belief, an escape from the shame of ostracism. The God Delusion dealt with every nagging doubt and question I had about religion and moved me from an atheistic agnostic to a full out atheist, from a 5 to a high 6 on your scale. I thank you, Professor Dawkins, for not only allowing me to be comfortable and secure and knowledgeable about my atheism, but for exposing me to the elegance of evolution by natural selection and to science in general. You have converted me not only to an atheist who is proud to say I am an atheist, but also to a lover and seeker of science and truth. Thanks to your wonderful, easily understandable, and inspirational works I am now once again hungrily devouring knowledge, entranced by the workings of the cosmos and of life. Moreover you have convinced me that science needs both passionate advocation and defense. I am studying law and the increasing influence that illogical and immoral religious ideas have on the law at the expense of science concerns me. Science and the seeking of truth unfettered by dogma and religion is a worthy thing to advocate and defend, and I would gladly devote my life to the growth of human understanding of the cosmos.

Thank you,

Paolo Soria

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