Dear Mr. Dawkins,
Well, itâs finally happened. My not-really-practicing Catholic family and several friends have turned their backs on me.
Itâs been a long time coming. Though brought to church every Sunday as a young child, religion never really took with me. I didnât believe what the priests said, and I thought the rituals were silly. Even as a 7-year-old I thought it odd that my first communion dress looked a lot like a bridal gown. I remember being pressured to make up something for confession at the age of 10. By 11, with my Confirmation âprepâ looming, I announced that I didnât believe in God and stopped attending church with my family. Despite a brief stint at a religious summer camp, I held fast (but quietly) to my convictions. By the time I was a teenager, my mother was worried enough to ask a family friend to join her in ambushing me at the kitchen table one night, attacking me with questions and attempting to shame me back into the fold.
Iâve kept fairly quiet throughout the years, even enduring friendsâ beliefs in astrology, tarot, the afterlife, karma, and whatnot with diplomacy. Your books, as well as those of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, have made me felt safer in voicing my opinions–at least in front of close friends and family. This past weekend, though, a group of girlfriends which included my sisters and me went to see âSex and the Cityâ (I know, I know), a movie about forgiveness, tolerance, and accepting your friends as they are. Following an admittedly somewhat boozy dinner, in the midst of a discussion on religion and science I accused my elder sister of intellectual cowardice for taking a Pascalâs wager stance in having a non-denominational âblessingâ at home for her newborn son (by the way, my other sister is a self-described Buddhist of the yoga-class sort, yet cannot control her temper and carries grudges). The result was spectacular. Rather than arguing content, they claimed it was my delivery that offended them. Both sisters took their toys and went home; another friend cried at my lack of respect for her beliefs; all accused me of gracelessness, disrespect, ugly aggressiveness, etc., etc. The inevitable tearful call from Mom came two days later. I have to say the worst of all is the condescending, âWeâre just worried about youâ line. It makes my teeth grind.
I love my sisters, but donât always like them. If we met socially we would not be friends. Yet I accept our family dynamic and donât see why we canât continue to be in each otherâs lives. Iâm finding it difficult to contend with the fact that the truer I am to myself, the less appealing I am to others. I realize this is partly human nature and mostly agree with Sartre that âhell is other people.â Still, Iâd like to think I could be accepted for who I am and what I think. What Iâm finding, though, is that pointing out bullshit makes one a lonely gal.
I admire your intellect and courage and hope to draw some courage of my own from it. Iâll need it.