Hi Prof. Dawkins,
I am a 23 year old atheist-convert from India. My family has a history of anti-orthodoxy. My grandfather was one of the founders of a Communist party in India!
Before I start, it would be better if I gave a short introduction to the kind of “cross” that religious Hindus have to bear. It does not consist of holding on to mind-numbing beliefs like Christianity or Islam, but mostly consists of mind-numbing rituals and customs. The caste system is largely based on such rituals and customs.
But, it was with a background of relatively free-thought that I was raised and my father greatly encouraged my intellectual development by buying me a lot of books from an early age. My father by the way is an atheist. However, by some miracle or coincidence ( ? ) I was suddenly drawn to Hinduism. Of course, my family was still nominally Hindu and did not follow any rituals or customs.
At around the age of eighteen when I had started to attend engineering college, I discovered at my home a copy of the “sacred” Bhagvad Gita that we had bought at a local Hare Krishna temple. I began reading it and became kind of intoxicated by the sheer irrationality and “purity” of its doctrine (or at least the interpretation as presented by that translation). A life dedicated to Krishna seemed the only way forward. Soon I started worshipping the idols that had stayed in my family. Then I started visiting temples. My relationship with my family also began to suffer since I started to view them as “impure heretics”.
Then I discovered Hindutva, the political doctrine that proclaimed the superiority of Hindus over all other Indian peoples. Later I discovered more orthodox Hindu sects and soon had my father perform my “scared thread” ceremony. I then joined a neighborhood “Guru” who taught students of my caste the Vedas and started performing all the Hindu rituals three times a day. This went for a year or so. By then I had finished college and was working in a multinational software company. At that time, I was beginning to lose my faith in the rituals as well as the Vedantic philosophy as well as Hindutva.
I was beginning to become much more liberal in my politics and my beliefs. I soon discovered “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. This was like a reawakening for me. The radical rational ideas presented in the novel went to my soul and I slowly started moving firmly away from Hinduism. Once I discovered you on the net, I saw all your videos. I remember meeting a son of my former Guru in an internet parlor while I was watching one of your videos online! Finally, I ordered “God Delusion” from Amazon with my salary money and officially “converted” to atheism. However, over the past one year, I have been trying to explore other religions like Catholicism, Islam and others. Though these seemed far superior to Hinduism by many counts, I still felt something lacking in their teachings (perhaps, truth?). I slowly drifted away from Ayn Rand and her dogmatic cult as well. Now I am in the US for my masters degree and I feel alienated from my fellow Indian students here who are all devout Hindus, except for a few. I really want to get to know a few American atheists and libertarians to try and cure my loneliness. I welcome anyone of such leanings to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.