Dear Dr. Dawkins,
I became "born-again" when I was around 15 years old (around 1997). The gentleman that brought me to Christ was professional football player in the NFL. In fact the church was started by a group of players as a bible study in the home of a well known quarterback. The reason I say all this is because as a young man these famous individuals had a great amount of influence over me.. I looked up to them. Because of who they were I believed they had to be correct. I needed Jesus.
Let’s just say that I got extremely wrapped up into the American Christian fundamentalism that everyone talks about. The particular church that I belonged to was into making disciples. What that meant was you had someone discipling you (someone telling you how to live), and you had to disciple someone else (tell someone else how to live). It got to where I couldn’t make decisions by myself. I gave my tithe. I volunteered my time. I believed all of the creeds, and I was a Calvinist. I believed in a young earth. We were taught that everyone knows that evolution is false; the debate is over. It takes more faith to believe in evolution than God.
I read every kind of Christian book that I could lay my hands on that further explained Christian creationism, apologetics and theology (More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, The F.A.C.E. That Demonstrates The Farce of Evolution by Hank Hanegraaff, etc) If I had any books that disagreed with those books I threw them away. I was taught not to read secular material because it would corrupt my mind. Rather, I needed to cleanse my mind with the Word of God. I was told that I needed to read the Bible for at least an hour a day and pray or I truly didn’t love God.
Over the years I went back and forth between belonging to a church and not. All the while I struggled with an enormous amount of guilt. My beliefs didn’t change I just hadn’t committed myself wholeheartedly.
I remember reading about how the eye could not evolve due to irreversible complexity. I took that and ran with it. It wasn’t until around the first of the year of 2008 that I stumbled upon a youtube video that completely contradicted my belief. It dealt with the eye argument. I learned that the eye not only evolves but as humans our eyes aren’t even that great (Why do so many need eyeglasses? Birds have better eyesight than us.). This created a ripple effect in my core beliefs. I began reading those forbidden arguments that contradicted my weak Christian beliefs. I searched "atheism" in youtube, and I found more videos, many which had you as the featured speaker. Your arguments were so convincing that I read your book, The God Delusion. Evolution made so much more sense with reality. The idea that life only needed to happen one time out of a billion billion seemed more likely to me than a god speaking everything into being. Also, one website that really impacted me was whywontgodhealamputees.com.
I remember sitting at work the first day that I tried to believe that there was no God. At first it was very difficult because He had always been my best friend; I was never alone with Him. He knew my thoughts, the good and the bad. I was utterly dependant upon Him. So I took a step outside to breathe some fresh air, and I made a conscious effort to not believe in God. What I felt scared the hell out of me. I wasn’t created for a purpose, and I wasn’t chosen. I was alone in this infinite universe.
As I became used to this feeling over time, I had a new awareness. My thoughts were mine alone. I wasn’t sinning for what I thought. As Christopher Hitchens always talks about, there was no longer any thought crime; no more Dictator. If I wanted to do something charitable for someone it was me doing because I wanted to do it, I wasn’t doing it for a god. The guilt of being a useless sinner started to wear off. The idea of sin seems foreign to me now.
A few of my close friends are still Christians, and recently I tried real hard to believe again. I tried very hard! I went back to listening to my old Christian CDs, reading the Bible, and I even bought a Lee Strobel book. This I did to no avail. I just can’t believe anymore. I would have to deceive myself into belief.
I think what put the nail in the coffin was when I went to hear Dan Barker speak back in February of this year. I remembered that you mentioned him in your book. In fact, I stumbled upon his book, Godless, at Barnes and Noble and I spent a few days reading it. When I heard he was coming to town I just had to see him. Well, I reread his arguments and haven’t had a desire to go back to belief since, nor do I regret my decision. The funny thing is that sometimes I still catch myself speaking in tongues, especially when I’m in the shower.
Looking back I feel cheated. I realize how insane my thinking became. I lost friends due to my radicalism, and I wasted my time and money. I could have paid off my student loans with all the tithing that I did. At least I’ve gained reason. The world makes much more sense to me now. I guess one could say that I am now truly "born-again."
I just want to thank you, Dr. Dawkins, for all of your hard work. You have won my genuine admiration! I hope get the opportunity to meet you sometime. Best wishes.
Jesse from Charleston, SC, U.S.A.