Freedom From the Bondage of Faith , Converts, Tue, Jan 29 2013 #(1395)

Jan 29, 2013

Dear Professor Dawkins –
I am the son of a fundamentalist father. I attended private Christian schools up until the 6th grade, and was always in trouble for asking questions. When the teachers told the class that we were to do things a certain way because “God told us so..” I would raise my hand and demand a better explanation, even at such a young age. Rather than provide that explanation, they sent me to the Principal’s office, where I was greeted by the almighty paddle. Something about that entire way of life seemed fishy to me from the start, but I knew no other way.

Upon my parents’ divorce, I moved to public schools. Biology class in the 7th grade was the first I’d ever heard of evolution other than being told it was wrong without explanation by my parents and peers from church. My upbringing to that point made me resistant to the idea, but the evidence seemed quite solid. I began to doubt that the Earth had been created in 6 days, thought I still thought I believed in “God”, and considered myself a Christian even though I rarely attended Church. As I grew on, I parted ways with Christianity altogether in my early twenties when I could no longer hide from the fact that most of the Christians I had ever known were not good people at all – they obstructed their children from truth, abused their children in the name of their “God” (I too suffered this fate the first ten years of my life), and scarcely any of them lived by any of the principles they seemed to love to condemn others for not abiding by. On top of that many of the “literal truths” of the Bible seemed like complete nonsense to me – at very best highly implausible. I could see little benefit in organized religion, it seemed evident to me that it controlled people by means of fear and created schisms in nations, societies and even within families.

Still, gaps in my own knowledge allowed me to believe there was potentially still a “God” of some sort. I went on thinking that something else was likely writing the script, and I continued the rest of my twenties denigrating my own achievements by saying that “God” had made it all possible. I tried many different versions of “God”, I even attempted to make my own conception if only by simplifying it to “God is”. That simple approach seemed to be effective for awhile. I made it through some difficult problems in my life and the relief that I got by making it through to the other side made me believe for a time that faith was an asset to my life, but when that euphoria faded, I found myself feeling once again frustrated and in a dark place in my life.

My road to freedom began when I read “The Selfish Gene” and “The Blind Watchmaker” as well as Micheal Shermer’s “Why Darwin Matters”. Suddenly all the gaps in my knowledge of the origins of life that allowed me to believe the Universe might need a “God” to explain it began to fill. The more I read and learned, the more my need for faith and spirituality evaporated. I started referring to principles of my daily life as “moral” rather than “spiritual” because they weren’t in fact spiritual in origin at all, even if many religious and spiritual beliefs attempted to lay claim to them. For most of my life I had questioned the existence of “God”, even if only little at times, and for the first time I began to think the existence of “God” at all was doubtful. At that point, it made me a bit uncomfortable. I would attempt to have discussions with friends and acquaintances about things “spiritual”, and attempted to sit on the Agnostic fence for several years. I heard someone say once that “Faith is great until you know too much” and that haunted me during this time. I would talk about a “Higher Power” of sorts, and feel as if I’d been punched in the stomach. I felt like I was fooling myself.

Within the past year, I was having a discussion with a friend about spiritual matters, and the words came out of my mouth: “I really don’t believe in “God”. The concept just doesn’t make any sense to me in light of what science can already explain. I feel kind of guilty about that but it’s the truth for me”. “So you’re an Atheist then?” my friend responded, and I answered emphatically “Yes!”. The instant I said that, I felt thousand ton lead weight lifted off of my shoulders. 30 plus years of guilt and shame by the standards of my parents’ religion disappeared. I felt like a free man for the first time in my entire life.

Reading “The God Delusion” soon after that merely solidified this for me.

I live today free from the bondage of faith. No longer is my life built around belief without evidence, but upon decisions made based on reason. I realize that the things that happen in my life are a direct result of the action that I take. I have a level of accountability that I have never had before, and I don’t have to denigrate my own achievements by attributing them to the supernatural. I feel a sense of wonder about the world around me that, like Douglas Adams alluded to, comes from “the awe of understanding” rather than “the awe of ignorance”.

I thank men like yourself and Micheal Shermer for making available the knowledge that set me free of the bondage of faith!

Jeremy Smith
San Diego, CA
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