Dear Professor Dawkins,
It it only appropriate to introduce myself first. I am Bulgarian and I am currently a student in Hospitality Management in my home country. I used to think of myself as an Orthodox Christian, although neither of my parents have been religious. My father has only recently acquired his own mad version of Christianity, whereas my mother has never been anymore religiuos than having 7 meals on the table for Christmas. I guess my subtle and unengaging form of Christianity had come about by the cultural and historic traditions of my country and the influence by some other relatives.
Let me say right away that I have not read any of your books. Time is scarce for me at the moment, but I have plans to correct that in the near future. I do, however, know pretty much all there is to know of your arguments, positions and reasoning through the wonder that is the World Wide Web.
I have recently, as you can probably have already gathered, abolished what little belief for the God of religion there used to be inside of me. I must say I have never been a particularly vehement Christian, rarely went to church, and have never strictly adhered to the stringent rules, complex rituals and impractical daily actions of what most would call the lifestyle of “a practising Christian”. I had, however, up to the moment I met your arguments and made up my own mind, always believed in a God. I did not tell between Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, etc. simply assuming, as a lot of people do, that they are really one God, called in different names by the different religions. I have never hated other people for not sharing my faith, nor have I wished to kill “infidels” in the name of God. I add that I, like many others with limited knowledge, thought that atheists are immoral, because they do not have a moral code to follow.
I must here say that my faith was based strongly on personal conviction (and not only on lack of serious thought on my part), derived from many hours of musing over two main issues that bothered me at the time and still do for that matter. The issues of justice in an unjust world and the true wonder and majesty of many moments of pure human happiness that I have had.
It seemed to me, as I must confess to some extent it still does, that the ungraspable crimes and atrocities of this world cannot simply pass away in an indifferent oblivion, without a higher power who administers a form of eternal justice. That the likes of Stalin and Hitler(to name just the most prominent duo of many countless others) would not pay for their deeds, even after physical life, was unfathomable to me. I, therefore, believed in a fair and just God. I still like to think there may indeed exist such a force in our universe, as naive and romantic as I may sound, but even if that were so, it does not go by that name.
The other thing that made me certain there is God was the sheer bliss (I cannot think of a better word) that I had experienced many times in my life, as I hope everyone has. Those moments have always looked to me as if there were out of this world, a creation of a higher force, surreal, transient, evanescent and agonisingly evasive. Every such occurence strengthened my belief. I still think there is wonder and majesty in those moments, but now they are to me the product of entirely human essences (for lack of a better phrasing).
I still think that this is a very decent way to go about one's faith and I hope more people would have that rather than the zealous conviction we all witness today.
I no longer believe in the God of religions. I now find religious claims absurd and abominably outdated. I look down on people's religious beliefs and consider them dangerous and an impediment to critical thinking and the advancement of science.
I do like to think that there is still something out there that has shaped the universe as we see it, but I like to think of it as a force, rather than a bearded old man and for certain, I do not think it has anything to do with our daily lives. I believe you would refer to such form of belief as “Einsteinian religion”.
This is not, however, the reason for this letter, or at least not what spurred me to sit down and write to you. Something recently happened to me, a conversation I had that infuriated me against religious belief and binding indoctrination.
There is a friend of mine, a girl to be precise, who is probably the dearest person to me in this world outside my immediate family. She has been brought up since childhood in the religion of her parents. I cannot put my finger down on which one exactly it is as I must confess I do not know it myself, since I have always feared that bringing up that subject would allienate her from me. Suffice to say it is a form of Christianity that is popular, but not nearly as much as Catholicism or Orthodoxy. At any rate, the precise facts are not of great significance here.
We recently had a fairly long and pleasant conversation (as we always do) during which I semi-casually asked her :
” What if the man of your dreams doesn't share your religion? ”
” Then he automatically is not the man of my dreams! “, she replied.
” So are you telling me that just because ANY man, even if he is great as a person,say rich, handsome, intelligent, good father, etc., is not of your particular religion makes him inelligible to be your husband? ”
” Yes ”
Words can hardly express the sheer shock that stunned me for the better part of the next minute or so. My friend is an incredibly intelligent and ambitious person, a loving and loveable person and a wonderful friend. She is also pleasingly good-looking. I would say that one day that girl could have really almost any decent man that she lays her eyes on. And to think she throws it all away for the sake of the absurd, illogical, insane, preposterous, ludicrous, confining doctrine of her rare religiuos denomination was beyond me. I was stupified.
I felt anger, anger at the limiting power on free will that religion has on so many of good people. It is not fair. Unjustice is being done to my dear friend by the beliefs of her religion and that exasperates me whenever I think of it.
We promised each other to have a long talk about religion and the existence of God when we have the chance. I have little hope I would change her mind. For all her tolerance and brightness, she is firmly convinced in her beliefs. It does strike me that her talk is more cool-headed rather than zealous about them. But it still makes me a little angry and very, very sad.
I hope one day the world will wake up and will find itself without limits to the free spirit of humanity. I hope I live to see it.