Dear Dr. Dawkins,
I know you have come to dread the opening line ” I’m an atheist but…” so I have decide to use the more subtle “however”. My name is Christian Velez (I enjoy the irony of this fact), when I read your books I felt a sense of relief knowing that I was not a freak, I am from the island of Puerto Rico and atheists there are as rare as, well, I can’t even fathom how rare we are there. And since my de-evangelization happened at the age of eight, when my mother said Zeus did not exist yet expected me to believe and fear Jesus and it just made no damn sense to me. For fourteen years I’ve had to either hide my lack of faith or suffer the barrage of good militant Christians ready to “evangelize me and rid me of my heathen ways”- direct quote. To make things more interesting my undergraduate studies were at a pontifical catholic university, I was one of three atheists in an institution of thousands. It really rattled me when taking a course in biology how accepting of evolution everyone was in the class room, yet when the period was over evolution was just a proposed theory, nothing to be taken seriously (among students, professors were quite the opposite). I could tell you stories of professors who when explaining in class scientific theories would go on to finish by saying “…and if you wish to know why it is this way your going to have to ask god when you meet him.” Men of science who when faced with a mystery throw the science away. Isn’t not knowing and trying to find out the fun part in science? Now to the however.
Ever since reading your books I have come to embrace and not be apologetic of my atheism. After all it really isn’t my fault I do not have the “brain capacity” to comprehend something as abstract as a deity. I must say I find quantum mechanics more intuitive than any religious concept, and as a physicist I must always quote Richard Feynman when it comes to understanding quantum mechanics. But I digress, the problem I would like some direction with is the following: I am a twenty two year old physics graduate student from Columbia University who is an atheist yet my girlfriend, the woman I love is a devout catholic and oddly enough a biologist. When we first met our views were discussed and our relationship flowed smoothly. I never tried pushing my views on her, I never even mentioned it again, but she tried to convert me constantly. I went to church to please her, but it’s not like it reached me. Now our relationship is almost completely over because of my lack of faith. This is the only problem. She would much rather be with some church going charlatan who deceives and mistreat her than a guy who just doesn’t believe in god. I must admit I am quite ashamed to reach out to you sir, a respected scientist and public figure, to blab on about my relationship as if this were the Help me Annie Advice Column on a neuron killing fashion magazine, but in my naïve judgment I did not think religious beliefs could damage my life this way. Everyone speaks of the horrors of the church, the crimes, the killing, but what about the kid whom his parents don’t treat the same because he doesn’t believe, the boy who looses the girl he loves because his lack of faith doesn’t sit well with her religion, her family and friends, even though she really loves the atheist physicist. I know the catholic church is guilty of things much worse than this, things I as a human being greatly oppose, but I wasn’t molested, I’ve never known someone personally who has suffered from the crimes of the church. This is one of those tiny insignificant nuances that stem from the greater intolerance, not big enough to demand action, but still it affected me. I’m sure this happens a lot more but always goes unnoticed.
I apologize again for the stupid subject of this letter, Thank you for all the things you have done, as a scientist and human being, that help make this world a better place.