Dear Professor Dawkins,
My first recollection of you talking about science was actually on Steve Reich’s video opera “Three Tales”. To be honest, at the moment, I was intrigued by one single phrase you said “…Darwinian natural selection” and the moment when you, via a very clever audio editing, became a human maraca.
I am a musician. Thankfully I had the good fortune to grow up in a home were science was once (and the reason for why I use the word “once” will become apparent very soon) respected, constantly studied and discussed. My father, a medical doctor, introduced me at quite a young age to the principles of gravity, how it affects us all, how we -through evolution- became aware of how we came to be, and many other wonders and beauties of our universe. This early introduction to science was the perfect antidote to the vast shroud of pseudo-science and mystical thought that, sadly enough, falls upon my line of work (I do believe that most of my colleagues confuse artistic sensibility with other stuff that is neither artistic, nor sensible.) During my childhood, and teenage years, the fact of being an atheist was exciting and rewarding. For some reason, as I grew up, the excitement faded out, and the pessimism kicked in. Science was relegated to a very occasional reading now and then, and all that was left was the fact that I was going to be dead soon, never to walk around the world. I try to find explanation to this change of attitude towards atheism in the fact that growing up is no picnic…
In short, I have been raised to be an Atheist. Those little remains of “supernatural” thinking (which I happen to believe, are really hard to shake off of your mind, even when you are raised an Atheist) were finally removed by a tragic moment in my family history: my mother and older brother were kidnapped by the ELN guerilla (this is probably the time when I should mention that I am from Colombia, South America) in 2004. I will not dwell on the subject; it was a terrible moment for all of us, but eventually both my mother and my brother came back home after six months of absence. I mention this because, curiously, this very event (the kidnapping) while it pushed me further from the reach of the imaginary god’s fingers, sadly (and paradoxically), drew my own, former atheist father to him, thus becoming a Christian. I understand perfectly how under situations of the utmost desperation and stress, our psyche can play tricks on us (as it did with my father, no doubt.) I must add that my brother and mother also came back to us “transformed by the grace of our lord” (by the way, typical of “our lord” to act on mysterious ways, revealing to my whole family, but depriving me of his sweet presence.)
For many years, since the reunion of my family, I have kept my distance, allowing them to go on and on with their readings of the bible, their biblical studies at church and whatnot. Since I moved from my family home quite a few years ago, I thought that I should not antagonize, I only see them a couple of weeks every year (and of course, Christian or not, I love them all to death). I thought, “well, I’ll just get leave my atheism out of the dinner table conversation and that’s that.”
Then I read your book “The God Delusion,” and my vision regarding this particular issue changed dramatically. This message is written to the Converts’ Corner, but you, Professor Dawkins (and I am assuming you actually read this), did not convert me. You did something far more valuable: you gave me the tools to defend the fact that I am an Atheist, you gave me the possibility to rejoice in the fact that the world leaves us constantly in a state of awe and that this is the only moment in time in which we can think, discuss and read about the wonders of being alive (before your book, as I said earlier, I was a rather pessimistic kind of atheist, the kind that don’t bother to think, discuss and read about the wonders of being alive because all is going to end up soon anyway so why bother.) You, Professor Dawkins rekindled my love for science and for the contemplation of our world, and also, made me realize, that I was not being a very good atheist after all, that I could do better. That I can stand up to my parents and defend my positions and invite them to think about them carefully; that I can show my friends and colleagues the beauty of understanding the world through the accurate lens of science, and that devoting some time of one’s busy scheduled to the reading of books on science will not compromise one’s “artistical sensibility”, but will actually help in realizing how wonderful is to have an “artistic sensibility” in the first place.
For this radical change in my life, I will be thankful all my life.