Dear Mr. Dawkins,
I’m and 18 year old girl from Israel. I was born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family. Religion was forced upon me since I can remember myself. The first time I remember questioning religion was when I was about 5 years old. I was a curious child and I remember asking my mother, what makes the leaves of the trees move? My mother smiled and told me ‘the wind of course’. That seemed like a logical answer to me, so I continued. ‘Oh, and what makes the wind move?’ ,my mother, not knowing the answer, simply said ‘God of course’. I wasn’t satisfied with that answer and I remember thinking about it a lot. There must be a logical answer! But I didn’t get it. Being a child, I let it slip.
The years went by, and I was sent to religious schools. All my life surrounded religion because that’s just how I was raised. I would go to school, we would pray in the morning, then have bible class, where I was taught that God created everything in six days, that the earth was 5000 years old and that I was Jewish, which meant that I was part of the ‘chosen people’, God’s favorite people. I learned that God doesn’t look after non Jewish people as much. I remember learning about the sabbath, and all the rules that come with it. It was just how life was, I didn’t know any other life. When I was a bit older I had non religious friends too. I didn’t understand how come they can watch TV on Saturday and I can’t and how come they can eat meat and then have Ice Cream afterwards and I can’t. When I asked my parents about that, they told me that what they are doing is not OK and it’s against god’s will.
I was sent to a religious middle school, and then to a religious high school. The religious studies got more intense. I went to an all girls school, where I was forced to wear skirts and long sleeved shirts,and learned about how women should be ‘modest’. We studied the old testament, but this time, the uncensored version. We studied everything in it, all the cruel laws and punishments that the old testament is filled with. It didn’t seem right to me. I didn’t understand why God hated women, homosexuals and non Jews, and why he cared if I ate shrimp or a cheeseburger. I didn’t understand why my classmates didn’t say anything when my teacher calmly explained how the Israelites slaughtered men, women, children and animals because God ordered it. Nothing made sense to me anymore. My faith was slowly but surely disappearing, but I didn’t even know it yet.
I was interested in everything, in biology, science, history, but my school just didn’t give me the chance to learn those things properly. I started reading about all kinds of subjects, about evolution, history of the world, history of religion. It seemed odd that there were so many religions and yet everyone I knew was so sure this one was right.
Eventually, I stopped praying in class in the mornings. My teachers came up to me and asked me why I wasn’t praying, I told them I didn’t want to. I started using my computer in my room on Saturdays, had chicken and then drank milk, wore pants and tank tops, went out like a normal teenager. Life suddenly seemed better. I didn’t understand why these simple things are so bad but discriminating and hating different groups of people is OK because it’s written in some book that I was told was true. I hated the fact that Judaism separates the whole world into Jews and non-Jews, or ‘Goyim’. I hated that term. I was confused, I didn’t know what to believe anymore. I started reading about the subject and I came across the God Delusion, I read it in one day. Suddenly, everything fell into place, everything I questioned, everything I was too afraid to admit I was thinking was in that book. I was an atheist deep down, and I finally realized it.
I stopped being quiet about it, I challenged my parents, my friends, and not one of their answers were good enough.
Today I am proud to say I’m an outed atheist and have no more doubts. I am in my last year of high school. I still go to a religious school since I was not allowed to transfer to a non religious one. I sit through horrible classes like ‘family studies’ which i’m taught how women need to take care of their family and husband. Bible classes (or Torah classes ), Talmud classes, and so many other religious subjects. It’s painful to listen to these things since I left religion because it now sounds like such nonsense to me, but I see how ridicules and bad religion is thanks to these classes and the teachers who teach them, quite the opposite effect they are meant to have. It feels like a little victory and that’s what gets me through them these days.
I’ve read and enjoyed The Selfish Gene, the Greatest Show on Earth, and of course the God Delusion. I’m planning on studying biology in university, and leading a full, satisfying religious-free life, in a religious- free environment.
Thank you for opening my eyes, and for your time,