Good, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(1152)

Jan 30, 2013

Mr. Dawkins,

I just finished The God Delusion, and must admit it did not convert me. It didn't need to! I think myself extraordinarily lucky to have been raised by a family wholly devoid of the devout. Although my immediate and extended family is admittedly small, no more than a few dozen perhaps, I can say 99% of us are atheists (I'll leave the 1% for the customary statistical anomaly, or for the ones too young to choose). As a young child I would sometimes ask my mother why we didn't go to Church while most, if not all of my schoolmates did? She would explain that it just wasn't part of our family's tradition or lifestyle, and that was about all of the explanation I needed at the time. But she didn't forbid me from experiencing Church or Synagogue with any of my friends (whose parents were Christian or Jewish respectively) if that's what wanted to do. I later learned that she worried I might want to keep going, or heaven forbid, start believing. Luckily I was seemingly immune from “temptation”!

When I was a little older and more able to think critically about the world, I put together that the other families had labels like Baptist and Catholic and Jewish to describe their strange customs, and naturally I wanted us to have a label too. She explained that she called herself an Atheist, which I think was the first time I'd heard the word. She then went on to describe some of the things my friends' parents believed (my best friend's family was Jewish), but that our family had, starting with her father, left the world of religion behind, in favor of science and reason (though not in those words I'm sure). However, the one phrase I do remember exactly was, “But if people ask just tell them we're agnostic…” in hindsight, as we lived in Texas, I can see where the impulse came from but it did hint that Atheism might not be something to be proud of. By the time I got to high school, my conclusion that there was in fact no evidence or need for a god, rid me of that small twinge Atheistic shame. From that point on I saw that many, if not all of my friends, had reached the same conclusions as I, but that their families did not embrace and celebrate their ideas but abhorred them! I then realized how lucky I really was to be born into an environment filled with loving, intelligent, scientific, moral, and interesting people.

I started then, and continue now to wear the badge of Atheism proudly, and applaud you and others for giving people a battle cry to rally around. I hope that books like yours will help destroy the taboo around discussing (and refuting) religion with family and friends, and I hope that any Atheist parents, new or otherwise, reading my tale will be encouraged to raise their kids with honesty, and with out shame of who they are and what they do or do not believe.


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