Esteemed Professor Dawkins:
After reading some of your letters in Converts' Corner, I felt the need to share my story.
I am 32 and was raised in a very Catholic country (Dominican Republic) by my paternal grandparents. They did a fine job and they never tortured me (as far as I can remember) with eerie images of Hell. I was, however, compelled to attend many religious meetings. These meetings, at their peak volume, consisted of a Thursday night group prayer session for young adults, a Friday night group prayer session for seniors, Saturday Catechism, and, of course, Sunday Mass. I also had to sit through a daily recitation of the Holy Rosary heard on national radio (they still broadcast it nationally at 1830 hours).
I was baptized as a baby, and then confirmed, andby the age of sevencompleted my first Holy Communion. Despite these aggressive attempts at indoctrination, I had my doubts. I was being told such fantastical things about God at the time that I wondered why there was so much misery, murder and mayhem in the world? Why was I so poor and others so rich? Why where people born with diseases and imperfections? And, what the heck were all those prayers for anyway? If this God was omnipotent, why would He let that happen? I heard excuses from different people, and they boiled down to, “This is part of His plan.” Well, that seems like a very cynical and wicked “plan” from such a “benevolent” god.
At the age of eight, I emigrated from Dominican Republic to the United States of America, where I completed my elementary schooling and eventually attained a bachelor's degree in Management. Fortunately for me, I moved to New York City where the environment is more conducive to freethinking than in my native country. Living in Queens, the most diverse county in the world, I was able to learn about different cultures by simple observation.
Heretofore, I did not know about other religions. In the Fall of 1997, I took a college course in world religions which piqued my interest, and I have since been exploring the field of theology sporadically. I have read the following (in that order):
Why Atheism? (George Smith);
Atheism: The Case Against God (George Smith);
Freethinkers (Susan Jacoby);
The Age of Reason (Thomas Paine);
The Origin of Species (Charles Darwin);
The Portable Voltaire (Edited by Ben Ray Redman);
The End of Faith (Sam Harris);
The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins);
Letter to a Christian Nation (Sam Harris);
Breaking the Spell (Daniel C. Dennett);
Kingdom Coming (Michelle Goldberg)
and am looking forward to reading other great literary works, specifically about biology and evolution.
I wish to learn more about science since I have not read nearly enough to feel satisfied, but I have to balance my time with family responsibilities and my full-time job. It would be great if I could make a living out of enlightening people in evolutionary biology and ethics. I already engage in refuting my delusional family and friends. I strive to show them that religion is not the panacea they think it is, not by a long shot. In my family there are Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, but only one atheistme. Ever since reading your book (TGD) and Sam Harris' The End of Faith, I have become very vocal about my lack of belief.
Professor Dawkins, thank you for working as hard as you have to enlighten the world and for stirring up the inquisitive nature in people.
Francisco J. Rodríguez
A proud atheist in NYC