I recently listened to The God Delusion on audio and thoroughly enjoyed it. I normally don’t write authors whose books I’ve enjoyed but the subject was one of immense importance to me and I wanted to say thank you. Incidentally the last author I went out of my way to meet was Douglas Adams. I did not know you were friends. I met him back in college at UW Madison when he was on an authors tour for "Mostly Harmless". I had arrived at the bookstore early and was killing time hoping to meet thee Douglas Adams. I didn’t know what he looked like but I was sure I’d figure it out. It was a small bookstore and I remember thinking "what the hell is Douglas Adams doing here?" I passed through a narrow doorway into the science room and nearly bumped into this huge man. He nodded and smiled apologetically and let me through. I looked back as he walked on quietly and I remember saying to myself, "Wow! That is a really big guy! Now where the hell is Adams? They must keep him in the back or something until its time." After searching around for a bit and not seeing anyone who seemed remotely important I resigned to get a seat. In the meantime this huge man was still walking around this tiny bookstore as if he really didn’t have anything better to do. The only reason he continued to stand out was because he was huge and this store was small and packed with books and tiny passage ways and I remember thinking that if this guy makes any sudden moves he’s going to knock the whole place over like dominos. He walked on and nodded to patrons with a smile just killing time.
As the assembly of fans started to settle into seats I kept looking around for Douglas Adams. I mean Thee Douglas Adams was somewhere here in this store. Where was the band? The red carpet? Why weren’t there news trucks parked outside? Why were they keeping him hidden? Were they trying to build the suspense? The woman who ran the store was sitting upfront at a fold away card table that looked like it was purchased at a garage sale with this really big man. I thought, "Oh, okay. Now this makes sense, he works here."
As the woman said "Thank you all for coming. I would like to now introduce the other of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams!" As the applause started we stood up, the two in front stood up and I looked to see if Adams was coming from around a book case or something. This big man was blocking my view and I couldn’t see behind him.
My moment of understanding came during the applause when the woman speaking turned her gaze and hands toward the tall man. He wasn’t applauding but nodding thanks to the audience. My jaw went slack and my shoulders slumped and I just thought "You’re fucking kidding me?!"
I don’t know what I was expecting really. It just seemed from his writing that he would be short and possibly obnoxious in a Monty Python sort of way not this towering modestly polite and inoffensive individual whose only ability to stand out in a crowd was due to his size. I really thought given his brilliant wit and sarcastic humor in his writing he would be somewhat bigger than life and not in stature. I had actually had a full 30 minutes to annoy the shit out of him with my enthusiasm over his writing and I squandered it because of my preconceptions. I learned a lesson that day.
I still have the book he signed for me.
So moving on with the reason I’m writing you. I was not converted by your book but had already arrived to this conclusion at the age of 31. I loved your book and commend your brevity to stand up for the obvious. There is nothing more terrifying than the power of ignorance. I live in what could be called the church of the United States so it is such a relief to know there is sanity in the world. I was raised a Catholic and went to parochial school for the first 8 years of my education. The usual daily mass and religion classes etc. I have to say that even early on I smelled bullshit. I mean there were things that made sense, be a good person, treat others as you would treat yourself, etc. You know the rest. I somehow always knew that being a good person for me had nothing to do with god. This was who I was without supervision.
Anyway, I would actually like to move on because I’m sure this s all just familiar territory to you. Its pretty much the same for all of us who have gone through this. Bullshit in one hand goodness in the other, if you learn not to ask the obvious questions it works. The important thing was that after 8 years of being fed this blind faith philosophy I left with a distaste for self righteous hypocrisy. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in god because I was taught that god was goodness, and the all powerful and all knowing creator had turned over a new leaf since the old testament. After all god was the explanation for life. I just didn’t think anyone of these people were getting it themselves. It was more about forgiveness now and the smiting thing was the old god. Apparently, god had taken some anger management courses so I could still believe god was goodness and I after all was a good person so god and I were going to get along in our own way. Despite my parents being Latins of devout parents we never went to church on Sundays. I’m pretty sure even then the didn’t really buy it they just attended on holidays out of respect for their parents. I, on the other hand never referred to myself as Catholic again.
I never realized how through my whole life afterward there was this conversation in my head to sort through what was probably real from what was obviously ridiculous nonsense. I never accepted that any priest was closer to god than I was or even the pope for that matter. Why was everyone else treating them this way? This was crap? Holy? By whose standards? Did they not see the obvious answers that were coming straight from the clergy’s mouth? I mean even they said we are all equal in the eyes of god. So why do they act so superior? I met our local bishop once and I just remember thinking "what an ass". These were the people who were to interpret god for their followers? Who was interpreting it for them? God? I doubt it.
When I attended my first year of college I took an early western civilizations course. It was one of the best classes I have ever taken in my college career. My professor was an elderly gay man who could be seen frequently walking about campus with his partner holding hands. He had a gift for teaching and I found his class incredibly enlightening until we got to the birth of christianity. I mean this was a real test of faith in the simple presence of common knowledge in the history of the world chirstianity was no different than any other cult religion of the time. I don’t think anyone who is still catholic has the slightest bit of knowledge to the actual history of the church. They can’t or they would be insane to continue down this reasoning as "truth".
I had a conversation with a friend about all this and he said " I know, it’s a real test of faith in the light of documented history." Those were his words. To my horror in our manhood years his wife converted to Catholicism on her own accord. I said what? Was Jim Jones not available? Maybe you’d be happier waiting for the next comet and wearing some Nike’s in the mean time. I’ll come back to this.
My own awakening came through a time of personal crisis. I had just ended a 5 year relationship with a girl whom I had never doubted I would spend the rest of my life with and the list goes on. Bad year. I found myself in Tucson for a couple of weeks staying with friends. (I could go on just about the desert itself but I won’t). It was a very very down time for me and dark thoughts were in my head for the first time in my life. I had never felt this way ever. Its not me but there I was. I had a talk with a good friend who was now a yogi. This had been a close friend in spirit for over a decade. This friend had also once upon a time been nearly washed away by her mother’s religion until she snapped out of it. Now she practiced yoga with her husband and they had even lived in India for a time. She said something to me that was pretty much a needed slap in the face to quit my muling. I was shocked but in a way I needed. It wasn’t insulting just real. It was what I need to wake up and smell my own self inflicted misery.
To jump ahead this lead to a discovery by accident of Buddhism. It fascinated me with the simplicity and acceptance of truth as truth is without worshiping an invisible deity. It seemed this was just all common sense and felt as if this is something I had always known already. Reason not religion and yet there was that compassion and kindness thing again. I thought well this must have been what the Christians were trying to do and it got all gummed up. Buddhism and Taoism were much older than Christianity and yet Christians think they were the first to do everything. This isn’t top secret information. They were certainly not no matter what they said.
This lead to exploring more philosophies and religions and going back over all I had been led to believe and not question. I now understood my love of the Sex Pistols. Always question authority. I liked the questions but there was something wrong. I felt it deeply but what was it? The bible, god, jesus, Buddhism, hindu, islam, Mohamed, the Koran, Darwin, evolution, common sense, lack of common sense, dogma it was all swimming in my head and there was something wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it and my head was hurting for weeks. This must all fit somehow together shouldn’t it. There has to be a common thread that can link god, religion and reason right? It hurt, there was a square peg in a round hole somewhere and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. (A+B)=42 right?
I wake up one morning to have my coffee and I am watching an interview with William Buckley. Fascinating person that I was too young to remember with any importance. He was asked about atheism. He scoffed because it was as if he was being asked as if he had finally seen the light. He said "Of course I’m an atheist. The thought of an omnipotent omniscient being who just suddenly clears his throat to draw attention to itself to demand worship is just preposterous ". I felt the square peg being pulled out of my head. I hadn’t felt this stupid since I saw the big man in the bookstore. The answer was right in front of my face the whole time and because of how I had been taught to think I couldn’t see it. It was all so overwhelming clear to me that now I could hear the heavenly music. The one splinter of bullshit that had still been stuck in my mind from grade school was that you believe in god not matter what. God is god no matter what you believe you still believe in god. How had I not seen it for what it was. "A" and "B" = bullshit! 42 was just 42 no matter what.
As understanding swept over me it seemed to playback all my life’s events all the way back to when my mind first became misinformed. I saw it all and how one misconception about life, the universe and everything had led to a near lifetime of delusional thinking because even though I was not afraid of questions there was one point I would not go passed. Well now I was passed it and it hit me very hard and there was no going back. I stood up and exclaimed out loud "Oh, my god! There is no god! It was all bullshit!" It was indeed pure unadulterated bullshit and I had been swimming in it my whole life. Suddenly, another wave of emotion and understanding came over me anger. I was pissed (in America this is angry not drunk). I thought about all those lying bastards in Rome and what they had done to the world. No wonder when religion ruled the world they called it the dark ages! I was like Neo waking up to the Matrix only it was more beautiful on the other side. I had the exact same feeling as Douglas Adams had. The whole world was more beautiful and precious and delicate and unique than it had ever been to me with god in my head. There was no god pulling the strings. Each strand of grass, every mosquito and every human being all in this mix of existence trying to just make another generation of itself. God wasn’t helping the grass grow, god didn’t help the mosquito fly and god doesn’t build sky scrapers. I felt as though I saw a bridge for the first time. I saw in my mind’s eye how the bridge had gone from imagination to blue print to committee meeting to contractors to construction crew to the materials and vehicles and each and every piece of metal or cement up to the finished product had come into being. I saw the enormous complexity of tiny parts that made the whole and what cooperation it took to make it happen. God didn’t put the bridge there man did or rather many many me did brick by brick. It was an monumental collaboration of humans including generations of accumulated knowledge that brought this bridge into being. Everything was like that now. How delicate it all was and how beautiful each moment of witnessing it for what it is was. God and his magic finger had nothing on understanding. Also, with understanding came the realization of how careful we had to be. God wasn’t going to be around to fix things anymore. There was no fear in that statement. I could fly now without fear and I would never fall again.
The downside to all this revelation is the realization that all your other friends still cling to the mind wash life raft. I understand their feelings cause I was there and blaring truth makes your head hurt and it makes you afraid because that’s what you’ve been taught to feel. That’s why the religious or even the believers get so angry. Because if you force them to keep asking "why" long enough and not accept "faith" as an answer you can only come to one conclusion. The idea of letting go is much more painful than actually doing it, its much like jumping out of an airplane. Scary as hell! I mean no god? Whatever shall we do? Pretty much the same thing we’ve always done but with greater understanding, insight and consideration for one another and our other fellow beings we share this spaceship with.
The friend I mentioned earlier followed his wife into renewed "faith". The last person I thought ever would. I don’t get invited around much anymore because I can’t not snicker at them. I know it makes me a bad friend but I knew them both prior and refuse to not point out the elephant in the room at any given opportunity. Unfortunately, I avoid this topic with most other Christians because I can see their heads starting to throb with the obvious and they get angry. Now I can say here just read Dawkins. Get mad at him for pointing out the obvious.
You know as a Christian movies about Satan and his dark powers were suppose to scare you. Better side with god or else . Now movies like that bore me. What really frightens me now are christians. I mean holy shit have you ever watched the Christian network. These people are real and they command cultic loyalty the likes of which Damien never knew. I live in America am I am afraid of Christians more than any other group. If I want to scare myself I watch TNN for a while and I literally want to pull the covers up to my face and hide from the scary people cause they are out there.
Thank you for your book.
PS. I wrote this on the fly so if you ever publish or use any part of it could you correct my grammar first.