Good, Tue, Jan 29 2013 #(235)

Jan 29, 2013

Dear Richard,

I’ve been procrastinating too long so I’m finally writing something
that I would like displayed (proudly!) on Convert’s Corner. That being
said, I have been a long time convert, but still only recently (after
reading your books) have I become more open about my atheism. Still,
it’s a pity that as I write the word ‘atheism’ it has this ring of
being a somewhat ‘naughty’ word. Thank you so much for your work to
change that! Together, we can do it! I’ve read The God Delusion
(twice), the Selfish Gene and recently The Greatest Show on Earth,
which I also loved. Although I’m a not a biologist (but, a
geophysicist), it gave me a new fascination for evolutionary biology
and an appreciation for (as Rachel Carson called) the World of Wonder
around us.

I would have to say that the real “coming out” moment for me, was not
with my parents, like many before. It was in fact, more recently. But
let me give you a short background first. I was raised as a “Catholic
child” in a long tradition of Irish Catholics in Newfoundland. My
father was a “Protestant”, though he only went to church for weddings
and funerals (and made the obligatory $20 donation every Christmas).
My parents always told us that the reason we were Catholic and not
Protestant like our Dad was because “Mom went to church and Dad
didn’t”, so they “decided to raise us Catholics”. I went to Catholic
schools (which, thankfully, no longer exist in the Newfoundland public
school system), was obliged to go to church from a young age, was an
“alter boy” for several years in my pre-teens and even went to what
they called “Alter Boy Camp”, a sort of summer, church camp for kids.
Although I was never physically abused by the clergy, amidst the
growing sexual abuse scandal among priests in Newfoundland (At the
Mount Cashel Orphanage) I began to question. However, the seminal
moment for me, in terms of rejection of faith, came with the reading
of Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time. It was at this
point that I consciously decided to declare my intention to “never go
to church again”. I remember distinctly the moment, while sitting in
my room waiting for my mother to coax me into the car to go to church.
I sat there, 15 years old, defiant and waited for her to come and get
me. “I’m not going”, I said. “I’m not going, ever!”. And, I meant it,
though my mother probably didn’t really believe me at the time. As the
years went by my tolerance for religion waxed and waned. But, your
books and those of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Anthony
Grayling (and, still to read, Daniel Dennett) have really inspired me
to the importance of reason and rationality, especially in this
globalized world. So, I thank you for that from the bottom of my
heart. But, my real coming out moment was when I confronted my devout
Christian friend about atheism and reason after he made some
off-the-cuff statements. Although I have known him as an adult for
many years, he “never imagined” that I had “lost my way”. I explained
how I never lost my way, but arrived at my conclusions through
thinking. The argument continued and ended with him “not wanting to
turn this into a debate”. I felt vindicated.

I now have a small child of my own, and I have yet to bow to the
(considerable) cultural pressure to baptize him. We have given our
reasons (primarily that the child is too young to make an informed
decision – why not sign him up to the Socialist Party or, for that
matter, Barça, while we’re at it?!) and our Catholic-raised parents
seem to have begrudgingly accepted it. I was too young too. But, as I
mentioned, I was indoctrinated from a young age and then, at the
tender age of eleven, I “confirmed” my belief in god that I seem to
have agreed to twice before (baptism and first communion).

However, although growing up with a non-conformist mindset and
challenging all dogma put before me, I still struggled for years with
the thought: “Ok fine, sure, I don’t believe in god, but for goodness
sake, how will I ever raise children?” Your books have answered that
question for me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Best regards,

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.