Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(663)

Jan 30, 2013

Dear Richard,

I was baptised and raised in the Catholic faith, to Catholic parents. From what I have heard of other people's experiences within Catholicism, it seems that my upbringing was very benign and I consider myself fortunate. As a result, I never really questions religion or my own faith — it was just another part of the social framework of my life.

I first had my doubts when we did Religion Education at high school, and we learned about other faiths. My first and most profound thought was "If these religions exist, then what on earth makes Christianity correct? For that matter, what makes Catholicism correct? What if none of them are?".

I sort of lapsed into atheism rather unthinkingly after that, but it was challenged quite strongly when I met my first girlfriend, who was heavily involved in that rather offensive brand of happy-clappy, touchy-feely Protestantism, where "Onward Christian Soldiers" gets sung a lot and an outright, blatant intolerance for every faith which doesn't conform, including other branches of Christianity. It was disturbing — a real eye-opener.

And no, we didn't last long together.

Interestingly it actually sent me back to Catholicism for a while. Not because I felt strongly about it, but because I felt that "my" religion was under attack, and as a result, part of my childhood. Looking back, my reaction was an instinctive one of self-protection, but it did force me for the first time to think about what I believed and why I believed it. And that was the point where I realised that I simply did not believe and could not defend any aspect of my old faith.

However I didn't have the upbringing or the training to vocalise what I did think, or at least suspected to be true. Then I saw the interview you did with Johnathan Miller in "A History of Disbelief". I was absolutely fascinated, and you personally seemed to be articulating what I couldn't find the right arguments or words to express about my own thoughts. Since then I've become an enthusiastic followers of your works, and am working my way back through your earlier books. I've also been introduced to Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, and in the company of such intellectuals I feel that my eyes are opened afresh every day.

That, and knowing that there are so many other people out there who feel the same, means that the world feels that much better.

Thanks for everything, and keep up the stupendous work.

Best wishes,

James
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