Dear Dr. Dawkins,
First off, thank you so much for writing “The God Delusion”. I haven't finished it at the time I'm writing this note to you, but I'm already a convert. I took some time to write up my story in my blog but I figured that I'd pass it along to you. Thanks to you and an explanation from my Atheist husband, I can now yell proudly from the rooftops that I am free of the shackles of religion. I'm sure this is too long to get published in Convert's Corner, but I thought I'd share it with you.
That's right folks, here I am in Right-Wing Conservative America reading a book about Atheism. I have to tell you, it's an outright relief to know I'm not the only one who questions the nature of the universe and why it's necessary to have a “religion”.
Growing up, I was surrounded by what I like to call “Sunday Christians”. That's right, I grew up as a part of a family of Southern Baptists in the heart of Bible Belt Texas. The “Holier than thou” capital of the world, where billboards read “Jesus Saves” and little Christian fish adorn the back of a good majority of pick-up trucks and cars; Where it's ok to be a racist, but it's a sin to have sex, smoke cigarettes, dance, cuss or drink alcohol. That's right, it's hypocracy on-tap. Go ahead, pour yourself a cup of racism, sit back, relax, but don't dance, drink, smoke or cuss. Yep, that's why a lot of the kids I grew up with had at least 5 MIP's (minor in possession of alcohol) on their record as juveniles. It's amazing that I walked out of Texas with a shred of sanity left at all.
Let's get back to the “Sunday Christians” for a moment. That's right, they're the folks who will preach to you all the time what a sin it is to dance, drink, smoke or cuss, that you're going to be burned in a hell of fire and brimstone if you sleep with another man's wife or violate any of the other Ten Commandments. But, if they're so Christian, why is it that in the Baptist Church I grew up going to, the Music Minister had affairs with at least 10 different female members of the congregation? Ok, this guy is SUPPOSED to be a minister, a dyed in the wool “Man of God”, but he's violating every single one of the Ten Commandments every single day of the week except for Sunday. Now who in hell did he think he was fooling? Last time I checked, according to Southern Baptist rhetoric, he's supposed to burn in hell, but there he is, bright as day, preaching to folks to NOT do what he's doing. Isn't that a case of “Do as I say, not as I do?” I mean, how much horseshit is that? Seriously!!! If he can't follow the supposed “Good Book” every hour of every day, seven days a week, how can he have the audacity to preach it? I call that “Talking out of both sides of his mouth”. But it wasn't just that minister that made me start doubting religion, it was the rest of the Sunday Christians that would sin all week but then praise God when they were under “His” roof. Hypocrits the lot of them, and it wasn't just a handful. It was every single person who I met that just sinned their little hearts out all week, but at the same time were preaching to me what to do and what not to do OR worse threaten me that I was going to go to hell if I didn't do what they told me to. Come Sunday though, watch out, they acted like their shit didn't stink, but I was still going to hell, no matter how much I recanted and asked forgiveness for my sins.
It's no small wonder I'm reading “The God Delusion”.
When I started reading “The God Delusion”, I thought for sure I was going to go to hell. I figured, Ok, this whole thing about there being a God is just a sick joke, another system of control for the masses, but if I don't believe in God, then I'm going to hell, right?
WRONG! It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that HELLO!! If there is no God, then there is no devil and then the icing on the cake is, there is no hell! HELL IS A THREAT CREATED BY MAN intended to keep people under control of the church! There is no hell! HELL DOES NOT EXIST!!! The church and organized religion are just playing on the fears of the human psyche!!! So, if I don't believe in God, there is no threat of being burned in a hell of fire and brimstone…it's all rubbish I've been force-fed since birth by people who have the same type of view as if looking through a soda straw!! There is no hell and I won't be burning in hell for not believing in what some jackass thought would be a good how-to book about life.
This makes a lot of sense to me, because since I was a little girl, I always wondered what God would allow me to be molested, what God would allow me to get beaten, bullied or abused by people who preached all the time about God and swore up and down they lived by “His Word”.
Worse though is the question I posed to my mother when I was 10. I asked her, “Mom, do Buddhists go to hell?” She said, “Why yes dear, because they don't believe what we believe.” That sold me on the fact that the majority of Christianity was rubbish. Just flat out bullshit. Worse though is that I realized that my mother was as narrow minded as the jerks I went to school with, the family who thought racism was natural and that it was OK to belittle others for not sharing their beliefs.
You know, when I wanted to date a Jewish boy when I was 24, I thought the world was going to come to an end at my parent's house. See, my Mom comes from being raised in post-WWII Germany. That's right, I think you're getting the picture right about now and how she feels about individuals of Jewish descent. Yeah, I won't repeat what she said because it's not even worth repeating, but it wasn't a nice thing to say about anyone. Anyhow, I just thought he was a nice boy. I didn't care if he was blue, green or aquamarine, he was just really sweet and very nice looking, I didn't care what his religion was. But lo and behold, my parents swore up and down that I was going to go to hell for dating a Jewish boy. OK, nothing came up out of the floor and tried to eat me, I didn't have anything bad happen to me. He was just a nice boy. We broke up eventually, but that being said, he is still a nice guy.
Now, let's talk about my husband for a minute. I like to call him a “Recovered Catholic”. He's athiest now, but he used to be a HARD-CORE Catholic. Ok, why did he finally wash his hands of Theist Rubbish? He went to a Liberal Arts College at a major university. His Liberal Arts Education taught him to think for himself, outside of the Matrix of organized religion, but he was already having issues with all organized religion before that. He was an atheist when I met him. *Chuckles* You should have heard my parents when they asked me what religion he was, I said, “Guess”, they said, “Oh, noooo, Catholic?” I said chuckling, “Oh, no, from your point of view, far worse!”, and they said “Oh NO!! An Atheist!!!!” I said with a smile, “Yup!” I thought they were both going to pass out. I chuckled my way all the way to the Courthouse to marry him.
My favorite part about my husband is that he humored my family and went along with a religious wedding with my entire (very religious) family in Texas. My husband nearly punched out the minister when we went to our “Marriage Counselling Session” with the minister that was going to do the ceremony. The Minister said we were both going to go to hell because we didn't go to Church every Sunday and didn't read the bible every day. Oh, you know that went over with my husband like a rock. We made it through the whole thing, but we laughed all the way back to the car from our “Christian Counselling Session”. Much less to say, my 103 year old (die hard Baptist) Grandfather was very pleased we had a good old fashioned Christian wedding even though my husband was going to burn in hell anyways. (Go ahead, it's ok, you can laugh, we still do about it to this day and that was close to 7 years ago.)
I think my husband agrees with me that Organized Religion as a whole is an invented system of control for the uneducated and the masses and that it is INTELLECT, EDUCATION and SCIENCE that can handle the universal questions without bringing supernatural influence into it.
Now, let's get into me now. I've been for years a Fence-Pole-Up-The-Ass Agnostic. That's right, for years I've been sitting on the fence. I was a Chemistry/Biology Major in College. Which meant I understood what was going on with biology, I have been a die-hard Evolutionist ever since I read “Origin of the Species”. With all the kids I grew up with, it was VERY hard to deny that Human Beings were just evolved monkeys. Still though, I struggled with the “Spark in the Meat” arguement.
Spark in the Meat Hypothesis:
The Human Body is just meat. It's cells, tissues, muscle and bone, nothing extremely special about it, it's just meat. When you die, the meat decomposes and you become part of the Earth. What I always wondered about was nothing short of extraordinary. What put the Spark in the Meat, what makes me, ME? When you die, what happens to the spark? Let's set the way back clock to a young 8 year-old me. I asked my mother and father, “I know where my stomach is, I know where my heart is, I know where all of my internal organs are, but where is my soul?”
As you can guess, there was no easy answer for it. My parents hemmed and hawed and quickly changed the subject. For the end-all be-all of answers about the universe, they were coming up a little short on an explanation for that question.
Let's now fast forward the clock to just last week, when I talked to my husband about the “Spark in the Meat”, I asked him the same question as I asked my parents some 28 years previously, “What makes me, me? What put the Spark in the Meat?” He said I nailed it head on just with the name of my hypothesis. There is a Spark in the Meat! It's called Neurons. He said simply that there are 100 BILLION cells in the human brain. When a neuron is fired, it makes connections within the cells, now think about how many different permutations that particular neuron, by firing, could make connections to how many different cells in the brain! That's what makes you, YOU! It's like a fingerprint, no two people do it identically. That's how we have so many different individuals on the planet, DNA does a fair amount for the physical differences in humanity, but then you add on those 100 Billion Cells with their neurons firing in different ways, and you've got close to the scope of how beautiful humanity is. The spark in the meat are just neurons firing in their own individual way. So when you die, the spark dies too, it doesn't go anywhere. (I still like to think that the spark becomes part of the energy in the universe. Naive, yes, but still, I am a newly recovering Baptist).
Well, that put the final nail in God's coffin. I couldn't sit on the fence anymore. Having “The Spark in the Meat” explained to me plus reading “The God Delusion” finally did it, I am now an atheist.
Between Bible Belt upbringing, questions that couldn't be easily explained away and education, I can't seriously believe that there is an all-knowing, all-seeing, can-change-the-laws-of-physics-with-the-bat-of-an-eyelash God.
What sadistic God, would have allowed me to be abused as a child, allows wars over theology, allows men up on Capitol Hill to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body, allows arguements over the stem-cell research that could have been helping my Uncle with Parkinson's Disease long ago and encourages a pack of Middle Eastern people to keep trying to blow me and the rest of the Western World to bits because of a difference in opinion?
Without God, all I know is that I have no fear of burning in hell anymore. Finally my eyes are open to the truth. Those seven deadly sins that they talk about in the bible all have to do with Sociology. They are seven character flaws that we all must deal with because if we are not aware of them, they will have catastrophic effects on our lives. Hell is just a mental construct. It is the result of poor life choices and unawareness of our own character flaws which inevitably lead us to places that we don't want to be. The Ten Commandments are just a simple way of saying, “Hey, be a good person”. But then being a “Good Person” is entirely subjective. What is someone's “good” is another person's “rotten”. It's all interpretive, all based on audience. Who is experiencing who you are? You know whether something you do is right or wrong, right at the moment you do it. Being unaware will get you into a situation where your actions will get you into trouble.
The secrets of the universe do not lie in the hands of a God or Gods. They lie within ourselves. It's the human quest for knowledge that makes getting through life interesting. There is a verse in the bible that says “God only helps those who help themselves.” Well, wouldn't it work the same if you just say, “Things will work out if you don't lean on a religion crutch and just help yourself”?
I've had issues for so long with people who have pride. Yes, that same pride that's mentioned in the Bible as one of the seven deadly sins. Pride can be defined in several different ways, the first is what I call “Good Pride”. Good Pride is the pride you have in yourself as an individual, you can be proud of helping someone, you can be proud of how well a project turns out, it's those little moments of feeling “I did good”. Nothing more, nothing less. However it's the “Bad Pride” or “Malicious Pride” that I have a SEVERE problem with. Malicious pride rears its head when someone is prejudiced or bigoted, saying that your particular race is better than anothers. Malicious pride is when someone says “I'm better than you are”. NO, one can never say that they are better or worse than anyone else at anything, they are just DIFFERENT. Yes, you can win or lose a foot race, but that does not say that the winner is a better moral person than the rest of the field of individuals they are running the race against.
I have experienced malicious pride coming from so many people. I just don't dig on it. I don't believe in a God, but it doesn't make me an evil person. Actually, I think I'm better for it, because when I see malicious pride, I eschew it. I think that it's better to have humility and be humble about what I can do. No one can ever walk into a room and shout from the rooftops that they know everything. I know what I know and I also know what I DON'T know, which means I don't know a hell of a lot. I always know that there is someone out there that can teach me something, that there is always room to learn more.
Atheism isn't about being evil. Far from it. I think Atheism is about distinguishing the fact that there does not have to be a deity that pushed a button to create the Big Bang. That things happen naturally, that there is no purpose behind it, it's more or less Chaos Theory. It's the undiscovered country that Shakespeare wrote about so many centuries ago.
I always say I'm on a quest to be a good person. Being a good person has absolutely nothing to do with a Diety or a Religion. It's about the judgement calls that I make. It's the respect I show my fellow human beings, it's living without malicious pride and it's about being sweet to people and respecting their unique qualities that make them who they are. No religion taught me that, common sense did.
But then again, common sense isn't all that common, is it? I guess that's why there is religion, it's for the folks who aren't very aware and just can't quite figure out that the answers do not lie with a God, they lie within themselves. All they need do is to search out the answers for themselves in the physical world. It's about relying on yourself and your intellect, not some made up deity.
But then again, that's just me of course.
Thanks Dr. Dawkins! You ROCK!!!
Las Vegas, NV