Dear Professor Dawkins,
For the last few years I have been doing what I call “dating religions.” I've been exploring as many of the world religions that I can in order to decide which one speaks most to my heart. After growing up in an “Easter and Christmas” Christian family, some I fell into the life of an Evangelical Christian. I went to church on Sundays with my friends, and prayed for the salvation of my non-believing family. September 11, 2001 proved a turning-point for me. Only hours after the towers fell, there were whispers of going to war. “Why are all these so-called Christians wanting to bomb Afganistan?” I thought, “Didn't Jesus say 'love your enemies' and 'pray for those who persecute you?” At that time I turned away from conventional Christianity. I decided that I would be what I called a “Liberal Christian.”
It wasn't long after that that I discovered the Quakers. Having grown up in a small Quaker settlement in Virginia, I'm was surprised that I knew so little about them. The idea that they could do without clergy because they believed that God can speak to any of us was a beautiful one to me. It meant that the members of the congregation were thinking for themselves rather than blindly following a Minister. I attended a few silent meetings.
In college, I started to take yoga classes and fell in love with the physical and mental/spiritual practice. Upon graduation, I decided to enroll in a yoga teachers' training course at an Ashram in Europe. During my month at the Ashram, I fell in love with Hinduism. I read the Bhagavad Gita and sang “Hare Krshna.” I found comfort in the idea that there is one God which manifests itself differently to different people. After returning home, I started attending puja at the nearby Ganesha Temple, but I found that I was treated differently as the only attendee Anglo-Saxon descent.
I continued my exploration of world religions, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, and Baha'i, and began to return to Christianity. I decided that if I wanted to give equal time to all the religions of the world, I should be open to the case for no religion at all as well, and I picked up “The God Delusion” at a local bookstore.
Well, Professor Dawkins, you're arguments are very persuasive. I feel myself being pulled toward atheism now, but I am scared of it. If I choose to become an atheist, (I realize the irony in this statement after reading the passage in your book about how silly it is to think that one can “choose” what to believe.) how am I to cope with life's most painful moments? I could not pray when I feel scared or sorrowful. I would be forced to look at photos of my beloved grandmother knowing that she is not waiting for me to join her in heaven. The idea of life without God is truely terrifying to me.
Assuming you are not above such human emotions as fear and sorrow, please allow me to ask, how does an atheist deal with the most difficult challenges in life?
Molly R Pinson