Dear Professor Dawkins,
I have always been an atheist (even at 9 it never occurred to me I was supposed to take religion seriously), but I can still say with significant clarity that you helped me convert, it just wasn’t a conversion from any religion we commonly accept as existing. I spent a long time being seriously depressed, and seemed to have little available by way of a path back to any kind of life worth living, but given time and support (not by ‘the establishment’ I would add, the NHS has been worse than useless) I managed to start clawing away the problems that held me back and was starting to build up some real impetus and make good progress. During this time I picked up a copy of the God Delusion that a friend had lent me to read over a year before.
I suppose in many ways I very much shared your surprise and confusion that religion was still alive and kicking in a world so full of advancement and discovery. What it *really* did for me however, was to slap me round the face and wake me up to the fact that I wasn’t the only one staring at the world and thinking ‘you people are ridiculous’, only it wasn’t the religious I was looking at. For as long as I can remember I had a natural instinct for taking culture apart and seeing the lunacy of it’s traditions, I hated birthdays, christmas, new year etc. as I could see that they were just days, and that people just accepted them without thinking. With crystal clarity I see the societal conditioning every bit as prevalent here as it was in religious indoctrination. Even the languages we speak indoctrinate us into certain ways of thinking, when we have words for things that don’t really exist like good and evil, when we speak of things we HAVE to do when really we mean we want to do, and hide behind words like anger, hate and jealousy when the reality is that they are all simply ways of experiencing fear, the most basic evolutionary behavioural tool. Indeed, I find the fight against organised religion is very similar to the fight against homophobia, sexism, intolerance…even ‘big government’ is much the same, just with different facts, and different indoctrinations.
I don’t doubt that I would have gotten to where I am without the God Delusion, but it definitely spurred me on, and I am pleased to have you in the world to make it that fraction more worthwhile to fight for. Within it’s pages I found a voice that had been long buried, and the idea that maybe *I* might be right and millions of people wrong. So you did convert me, but away from the foetid quagmire of mindless acceptance and into the warm and joyful light of critical thinking, passionate debate and the self esteem that comes with knowing that my informed opinion is just as worthwhile as yours or anyone else’s. I salute you sir, for standing up for your beliefs and your principals against all comers, even when it was against your fellow sceptics, *especially* against your fellow sceptics!
For that, I raise my very English mug of brown joy in your honour, Sir Dawkins, the knight of reason.
Scott ‘Inquisitor’ Mence