Dear professor Dawkins,
first I'd like to apologize for 1) my poor English 2) the quotes… Like many others I thought I would share my story. It's a very long one, but the inner struggle is.
I'm a 22 year old French level 6 agnostic :P. I've been born in a Muslim family quite classic. My father is somebody who goes to the mosque like someone goes to school in the morning, he does his five pillars but know very little about religion itself. When I was young he used to force my older brother and me to sit every week and to read the Qu'ran. It was terrifying because back then he used to be pretty severe, it had to be pronounced perfectly if not he would scold or rather thunder a lot about how he was ashamed of us. Don't see why. But let's continue with the story.
Needless to say, the reading sessions were pure torture for my older brother and me. Fortunately as years went by, my father grew softer due to my mother's guidance who was convinced you couldn't teach religion this way but with kindness since we had to embrace God and not fear him ( although she scared me from time to time with the classic Go-to-Hell threat).
So we moved from “compulsory lessons” to “voluntary lessons”. Obviously none of us would go voluntarily sit on a chair to read in a language we didn't care about, about something we didn't understand. Although, we did try several time since it seemed to disappoint them in the beginning and after a while, even to hurt them as they probably felt it as a personal failure, as they had failed not only God, since they had to teach us, but also us since in order to be saved it was necessary for us to practice and feel God before puberty.
And so it went on with us never practicing and my little brother being spared the “compulsory lessons” ( which back then I selfishly wished he would also endure. Not fair.) Life went on, with us not practicing except for the no pork, no alcohol and Ramadan, and my mother grew more devout and more dedicated to her faith. Now unlike what usually occurs, the more I saw religious books at home which she spent ( and still spends) all of her free time reading and analyzing, she actually grew softer, teaching me by setting an example and sometimes giving me more classic lectures, about how I should conduct myself in my daily life. For this I am truly grateful. She is the greatest influence I've ever had and although, she may not be part of the religious majority, I've never seen somebody as tolerant, as forgiving and as self-sacrificing as she.
When I was about 12 years old however, and had my first menstruation – the entry into the adult world in Islam, meaning now I was accountable for not practicing and every single action be it sin or good thing would be recorded on the notebooks of my left or right shoulder angels – I asked her 2 key questions which answers would haunt me for years to come:
– Mum, I always wondered who created God?
– He's always been there.
– How come?
– Well, to know that you'd have to be soufi and study the texts for years and years.
– Can't they tell us then?
– Soufi they often live in meditation in the deep mountains away from us. They know too much since they have direct contact with God.
– Well can't they then?
– You don't even pray once a week, you don't practice and you're asking yourself such a big question. Do you think you're worthy of being given an answer
I let it at that since I had nothing to answer. It was true I didn't practice for the simple reason that I didn't feel anything holly, any deep connection with God to which again I asked my mum, when she asked me to at least try to learn to pray.
– I just don't feel anything. I don't see why I should pray if I don't feel anything. If I fake it, it would be an insult to God.
– It's true, yet if you don't at least pray or read the texts, you won't ever feel anything. The more you read, the more you will feel the connection growing.
Again, an extremely puzzling response.
So I let it at that. It bothered me but I let it at that.
Anyway, both my brothers didn't practice except for the no alcohol, no pork and Ramadan. At 15, I came across an ecological essay my mother had bought. It was the first time I realized how little I knew about how much the people who lead us, lie to us for their self-interest. I grew curious, went from books to books. Learned about animal torture etc. By the age of 18, I decided to progressively reduce my consumption of meat for health reasons and because I disagreed with what what we inflicted to other species. I thought and thought about it, as I learned from BBC documentaries how emotions, society and deep intellect was also part of the animal life, I decided to move to become a vegan but also since I was convinced we were not superior to other species but equals it went at odds with the Islamic view of Humans having a soul and not animals. Plus, thinking of it, if my parents had been Catholic, I would have bee one too, which and which religion was right, It was not something I could say for sure, but I was convinced a superior being existed ( I also had read when I was 14/15 some creationist books which I didn't know were creationist. Needless to say, although I studied evolution I never truly listened to these classes. I actually never bothered to study it because I was sure I wouldn't have it for my graduation exam and if there would have, the hell with it).
My parents moved to La Réunion with my little brother and I stayed in France. My older brother stayed over there quite a while as well and after a few months I learned from my mother, extremely happy, that my little brother was going to the mosque and that my older brother did his 5 prayers a day. I'm no liar, I don't do what I don't believe, I was sick and tired to say that, but the fact was that now I was the black sheep of the family which, although my parents are not the harassing type, I really felt ( especially when everyone is going to the mosque and you're the only one staying at home). So I questioned myself. Surely, surely there must be a way to reconcile myself with religion. Look at your mother, she's such a good person, so soft, so nice, so tolerant, isn't she the face of humanity.
So I thought, let's learn at least the history of the Bible in details and let's see if I manage to reconcile myself. It is probably my fault I don't believe.
Once I did that however there was no going back. So here, it's a post which is a little bit wild, and I've quoted passages of your book which I'm currently still reading. But this is how I finally got rid of guiltiness. Your book changed my life, for this I'm at truly grateful ( I should mention that this the post is referring to around mid-january 2009 to Yesterday). Again, I ask you to forgive the poor english… and the somewhat “agressive” tone of the following passage which I actually put on my deviantartist page:
Five years ago I moved from being a Muslim to a Deist… although I still follow the Ramadan tradition and still, by principles and due to personal beliefs, don't drink alcohol, I've undergone a serious change these last few weeks.
Basically I watched a couple of documentaries about the real story behind the Bible, the story of the the Devil etc etc. All of this because I questioned my faith seeing how I was such an oddball in the family, not wanting to feign to pray when I didn't feel any holy connection with God… Religulous, a satiric movie I saw some months ago also raised my curiosity because it raised basic questions on the Jesus story which got me very intrigued . Well, after watching The God who wasn't there and listening to several audiobooks, one of which made by a former Evangelic now agnostic who studied the “sacred texts” as they are still called, I sort of really started to wonder how the hell I had never looked more into that stuff before. Yes Jesus Interrupted which I've yet to read but have already heard about a 5th, was the last straw. I mean since Islam confirms the Jesus story, how can I believe in Islam when it is based on such a twisted story ( won't go into details but if you're curious, I'll gladly give you the titles of the books concerned… at your own peril…) ? Anyway, I already considered myself a Deist before, but I still had some hope to go back being a proper Muslim but that hope lied on me believing the whole stuff. And… well… now It's just impossible.
So well, anyway, the world is so perfectly done, science is the ultimate proof of a supreme authority I used to think… Sure. Although I always had some very troubling questions I put at the back of my mind ( headache to think of them since it always rose other questions which rose other questions which rose other questions… ad nauseam) and for which my mother, the first time I asked them when I was about 10 years old, never gave me any satisfactory answers (certainly because there is NONE)…
Follows logic: Get rid of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Zeus and all the tattletales. Forget about these Prophets and Gods just take the morals and principles they taught and live by them if you want. But for sure THERE MUST BE A GOD.
Until I opened The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. All my logic ( that I knew was flawed in the first place, but obviously as he demonstrates in his book, it was BOUND TO BE flawed) proved to be completely stupid. Yep, I dare say it, I was wrong . I feel I've been knocked out by a hammer. It's a very very strange feeling.
Chapter 1, we had the same conception of life or religion if you will… The Einsteinian one :
“To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious.” Albert Einstein.
By chapter 2: I was half convinced there was none or like Dawkins put it, if there is one, he has to pass the scientific test and if so anyway he's certainly not the one talked in all these cults or religions, however you want to call them…
By chapter 3: When logic and reason is put in front of you, it would be idiotic and narrow minded to cling to blind beliefs. But still, I'm about to clap clap Dawkins for his wonderful reasoning and for proving me how wrong I was, except I still have some questions unanswered
Chapter 4: You know what? i should bring Dawkins home. I can only see one single reason why people who've read or listened to him didn't give up religion or as he would rather call it: superstition, self-delusion etc.: Stubborn pride or Pride in Self-Delusion.
I admit it must difficult to accept that what you've been brought up to believe in during let's say… your whole life, was wrong or even to learn that what you thought were Historical facts are just Legends, just as preposterous than Zeus and all his deity cronies. By the way why the Hell God needs or rather created Angels to serve him? Is he tired or simply lazy? How come can he tire when he's God? How come he can be lazy, he's no human, he's above these sort of feelings. Heck! How can he be angry against people who behave badly? Isn't anger a human feeling ( or rather feelings shared by species having a brain)? Ok forget that stuff. I shouldn't try to put human feelings on God. Well, Why must I pray to celebrate him then? I mean Yeah God please thank you for creating me, now that I'm created I have to pray to thank you for my lowly existence and use the short precious life you've given me to pray just so that you can feel content with your mighty self… God, ok I'm gonna pray I don't want to end up burnt in hell but I think you've got a bit too much vanity here. Plus, you want me to thank you for giving me a life in which I have to constantly prove to you that I'm worthy of going to heaven. In short if I don't do what you want me to, I'm gonna burn in hell and suffer for all eternity for an existence I didn't even choose? You should have made me brainless, at least I would have been sure to behave like an obedient robot and would never risk meeting Beelzebub under ground. Why did you create me in the first place? Did you feel lonely? Ah yeah sorry, you can't feel lonely you're God. Can't feel anything for me then. You created the Universe(s) set up the rules and let us deal with all the mess. Ok. Why? Did you do a “creative competition” with other gods? Yeah, sorry I was just wondering… If it is the case who created all of you? ah. Sorry. You've always been there. You're alone… Ok Yeah I already knew it. COURSE I KNOW. It's so logic goddamn it! You're super mighty mighty God, no male no female, no feelings whatsoever or thoughts that I can understand, I just have one last tiny little question… I was just wondering… You know.. I don't know if I can ask you this but, when Moïse parted the sea to let the Jewish slaves escape, you killed all the soldiers who were chasing them since they were serving Ramses right? You know I wondered, well these guys had families and people they cared for, I mean they just did what their leader told them to do, they didn't really have a choice in the matter. although they may have been cruel, you gotta put some bread on your table so… ahem. I just wondered how come you let so many civilians die during the Iraq war? Aren't you gonna kill all these nasty villain belligerent American soldiers who killed them? You already killed some I know,.. yet many of them did it for you, you know
Yeah I know you know you're omniscient, I was just saying, why do I explain myself anyway since you can read my thoughts? By the way, why should I bother praying since you know I love you and all the stuffs. Ah? I have to show it with actions? All right… It's for the omnipotent thing? The ”
Can omniscient God, who
Knows the future, find
The omnipotence to
Change His future mind?”
as Karen Owens had put it? Doubt?! NO, No, no no no no Yeah I know I'm doubting.. I should never have watched and read these stuffs, too much knowledge is bad for the brain. That's why the Church kept the Bible in Latin, a DEAD language for such a long time. Bad for business. But I don't know why I'm writing this stuff since you already what I'm writing before I write it and its starting to look like I'm laughing at you – yeah I know I am – no I mean no – anyway yeah, that's bad. I must be possessed by Satan. I don't know why you bothered to create Satan and let him rebel against you since he is giving you so much trouble. Yeah I know you're using him to test us and our faith, but I don't really see the point. The guy's useless, if I don't believe in you , you already know it, right? Do you want to let him have some fun with with me before cooking me for eternity, like a cat does with a mouse before eating it? That's not very nice. But I already knew you were not really nice ever since you let Jesus, your son, sorry prophet, son? – Ok never mind – Die on the cross for the sins of everybody? I mean why the hell did that poor guy had to take all humanity's sins? I say each individual should take responsibility for his.her own sh… Ah? Wrong version? The true version is the Muslim one? Which one? The one in which you switched Jesus 's body for Judah's and sent him to heaven letting Judah be crucified or the version in which everyone took a joint and saw a crucifixion were there was none? Neither? I'm gettin' a tiny little confused here.
[End of Parentheses]
, to spread democracy and freedom and all the stuffs you like. You know good stuffs. And by the way you killed young soldiers manipulated by nasty villain and dirty politicians who didn't give a damn about their lives either.In short you killed naive guys who went to do a war they understood nothing about, and now their families are crying their eyes out for nothing – not even counting the countless civilians killed – Shouldn't you get rid of the politicians who are responsible for this whole mess? – Ah yeah true…. now at least they're freed from this world and can go to heaven. Why didn't I think of this? You let Satan dictate the conduct of these self-interested politicians so that these people can die an awful deaths with their guts sprayed on the ground so that they can be better liberated from this dreadful world you created and put us into to get rid of the evil of our souls that you put in us to test our faith ( taking a breath). Ah I see now!!! THAT'S SO OBVIOUS!!! So that's why almost 1 billion people are suffering from hunger all around the globe!!! You told Satan to go to the West see politicians so that they support big enterprises which are pressuring these same politicians into passing laws and legislations through international organizations such as the IMF so that these people die in agony hence testing the faith of these politicians (see if they live by your principles of love etc.) and withone stroke liberating women, children and men from this world so they can have a better life in heavens… Doesn't it matter that some women prostitute themselves to feed their cubs? Yeah I know it's immoral and dirty, but they don't really have a choice and anyway the real dirties are the men who are paying for that. Yeah. You will send them to hell? Yeah I'm glad but you already know it. Still, if the guys don't come, these women and their children are gonna die. What to do? Yeah I agree the system is wrong. We should change the system. These politicians and these big companies are so powerful. huh? Yeah I voted for them? Well you know that I just voted for who was available… Yeah well you know already know that to get money for a political campaign you gotta dirty your hand with these companies anyway… Yeah Coca Cola, Monsanto, Nestlé, they're very powerful I know. They should burn in hell. Yeah well I like MnMs… yeah… Yeah Chocolate too… Yeah I guess by buying their stuffs I made them powerful… I should burn in hell? huh? No please spare me, you know that eating stuffs from Fair Trade is expensive. I can't afford it, with the crisis and all. Why is it expensive? Well you know it, it's all this IMF thing, they make their laws and as you said it yourself you let Satan guide them so that they could be tested when you didn't need to test them since you already knew they're the devils incarnate. Am I blaming you? OF COURSE NOT!!!!!! I blame myself, us humans for our own stupidity, selfishness etc. etc. Yeah you made me. It's your fault I ended up this way! You knew I had no chance from the very beginning! F… Y…!
Ok that was an extract of a personal inner struggle of about… 17/18 years which put me into deism ( and as you saw if you were patient enough to read that mind-blowing absurd reasoning doesn't answer anything but postpone basic questions which are bound to come back once every few weeks.)
If you already had doubts, at least you can free yourself, it's really not worth it. But if you've given your life to God ( I think of that girl I saw recently in a BBC 3 program entitled “Deborah 13”, which introduced us to a devout catholic of 13 years who had and still spends all her life at home studying the Bible, who thinks she is wicked and considers a robber, a liar just as “worthy” to go to to Hell as a murderer or a rapist and who knew nothing but GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD and who when she went to visit her brother – also a 21 year-old devout Catholic thoroughly brainwashed – had real real trouble to spend time with the rest of his friends since she knew nothing of life bu t you guessed it GOD. Yeah her conversations were sort of really dull like ” Do you think yourself a good person, you're gonna rot in hell, I feel sorry for you, yeah I'm wicked too, I'm gonna rot in hell, shit.). Anyway I should mention that the above “mind-blowing reasoning that you better not read if you've got a headache” double paragraphs intertwined is the fruit of my own personal thinking. I shouldn't attribute it to Dawkins who doesn't use absurd but logic on something absurd. ( you see how brainwashed we all are to have to reason on something as idiotic as that)
Chapter 5 and still reading: I'm just enjoying the ride. That guy is a gift to humanity and funny as well. Bit heavy in chapter 4 with all scientific stuffs but at least here's some respite for those of us who have quit our scientific classes for quite a certain number of years ( I should add that ever since I started to read his book, I've watched a number of scientific documentaries. The World is truly “magical” and it's even more incredible when you understand how it works. I had forgotten that. I mean I use to say “Oh God, you're so great.”)
I'm still adjusting to being a “new born atheist”… More easy than to struggle with a faith you don't have but still very uncomfortable ( I hesitated to put the “mind-blowing reasoning that you better not read if you've got a headache” double paragraphs intertwined for instance. I know my little bro read this page from time to time and since he prays. But since I've done my “coming out with my father today, I guess I have absolutely nothing to hide now.)
Dawkins' Agnostic Scale ( As any “atheist” is actually a “nothing” i.e “don't believe in anything until proven scientifically by FACTS and PROOFS)
1 Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of
C. G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'
2 Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto
theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe
in God and live my life on the assumption that he is
3 Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic
but leaning towards theism. 'I am very uncertain, but I am
inclined to believe in God.'
4 Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's
existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'
5 Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic
but leaning towards atheism. 'I don't know whether God exists
but I'm inclined to be skeptical.'
6 Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I
cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable,
and I live my life on the assumption that he is not
7 Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same
conviction as Jung “knows” there is one.'
Now I've moved from 3 to 6. Where do you consider yourself to stand?
and just for the fun of it:
Christianity in 110 Words from the Atheist Camel [link]
[Quote]The belief that a walking dead Jewish deity who was his own father although he always existed, commits suicide by cop, although he didn't really die, in order to give himself permission not to send you to an eternal place of torture that he created for you, but instead to make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh, drink his blood, and telepathically promise him you accept him as your master, so he can cleanse you of an evil force that is present in mankind because a rib-woman and a mud-man were convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
(Yeah, the whole thing would make Jesus die laughing, if he wasn't already dead, and assuming he ever existed) [End of Quote]
That stuff had me roared with laughter for about ten minutes. Yep yep. Well Islam is supposedly different but again although the role of Jesus is different, since nobody can tell for sure what was his real life ( or if he ever existed, something which has been challenged by quite a number of theologians including an Anglican Priest who for some unknown reasons managed to keep his faith – I assume he practices Christianity like people people do with Buddhism: Take the principles and morality and if there are some gods, know that they are just the products of your own mind. Now I like that too frankly. Except I don't want to waste my time inventing gods and praying for them, life's too short for that – In fact as I said at the very beginning of this post I like the principles I've been brought into, I really do, except that I've gotten rid of the faith. Useless and Pointless. As for all the tattletales, let's just say I take them for fiction stuffs, except that it doesn't mean that you have nothing to learn from fiction. Quite the contrary actually. I wish we could know for certain what is fiction and what is true in all these stories. There must be some truth but since we don't which are which – I'm talking about historical facts not the little fairies – let's just throw everything down the toilet) and they give another version just as improbable since it contains events just as improbable and common points which contradicts themselves just like in the Bible. I guess It's bye bye as well.
And that's it for the rambling. I wish I could talk more about what really threw me off, but well not the place, not the time but all this blabla explains why I still haven't drawn for about a month. I had some personal struggles to deal with, as you've read, and since they have been troubling me for a VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY long time, it was a little bit difficult.
I'm cured! So back to my exams -_- [End of Quote]
Bet It was the longuest post you've ever received. Anyway, again we need more people like you. Thanks for everything you've done and still do. It's time to get rid of “true evil”.
PS: I'm thinking of converting to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Spaghetti with tomoto sauce is one of my favorite dish. And I like the sound of “his noodliness”. What do you think?