Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(847)

Jan 30, 2013

Dear Professor Dawkins,

I am about three quarters of the way through the God Delusion and I am enjoying it immensely. I love the memoriam to Douglas Adams, one of my all time favourite authors, and I really enjoy your dry humour appearing unexpectedly to confirm your points.

I've put 'more a confirmation than a conversion' as the subject of this email because I have always had great difficulty in the religious concept of 'belief', that I should somehow not ask questions or challenge statements made by religious people. Though there is an element of conversion as you'll see.

When I was quite young, my mother tried to send me to Sunday school, I tend to think she did this because it was the done thing in 1960's England. I went several times with a few pence to put in the donation box, at first taking myself to the church and then discovering that if I went to the corner shop instead I could use the donation to buy sweets and have an hour to play, before heading home. I did this a couple of times before I realised that I was probably not really doing the right thing by my Mum, and so told her. I seem to recall that she was not very cross and appeared to think I had made quite a good choice, though I should have told her where I was actually going.

It seems to me, that my Mum and I think my Dad, had some respect for the traditions of the church, in my case the C of E, and a need to appear to follow the crowd in the teaching of their children, but didn't really have a strong belief. This is basically how I thought as a young child, following the somewhat un-stated example of my parents (as you point out in your 'Religion as a by product..' section), until in my early teens, I thought up my own view for why religion existed (at least I think I made it up, but may have heard it from others), which also fits quite neatly into your ideas in the same section of your book.

If a prehistoric man was looking out of his cave, he would see many things that (following Douglas's puddle theory) fit neatly into his requirements for life. He may have seen trees with fruit he could eat, animals that can be hunted for food and clothing, plants with edible tubers, rivers with water to quench his thirst and many other things that would look like they had been 'provided' specifically for his use. This man would have known that he couldn't have made these things for himself but 'whoever' had made these things, must have had similar needs to him but must be hugely powerful in comparison. Therefore the idea of a god was created basically in the cave man's image. To add to this there were also things that could 'punish' the cave man (wolves, bears, storms, drought, disease, etc) if he didn't do the right thing, which may have led to gifts, sacrifices and pleadings to the all powerful god or gods, to preserve the life and health of the cave man and his family. I'm sure once this started, the cave man would have impressed on his children how important it was to continue.

In the forty or so years since I first articulated this view, I have been gradually moving away from my, at most limited belief, through to agnosticism, on the basis that I couldn't be bothered arguing with people about god, to a wholehearted understanding that I am an atheist, and it's about time I and others started to argue against blind faith and for the cause of reason. Your books, and those of Christopher Hitchens, have brought about my conversion to the idea of taking the arguement to the religious and to stop allowing religious views to go unchallenged. Part of this is my own understanding of my responsabilities as a parent. So once I have finished your book, I'll be putting it on my seventeen year old son's bookshelf for him to read.

Thank you.

Guy Metcalfe, Eltham, Victoria, Australia.
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