My name is Levi Herbert, and I am a 20 year old cryptologic linguist for the United States Air Force and the US National Security Agency. I was raised in a small sect of christian faith commonly referred to as the Church of Christ. If you remain unfamiliar with the Church of Christ, it can simply be described as Young Earth Creationist fundamentalism at its peak. My whole life i was raised to believe that even the smallest consumption of alcohol was a sin against Jesus himself, along with many other standard fundamentalist beliefs, some even more extreme than mainstream fundamentalism.
Upon reaching college age, I was accepted into, and enrolled in the Harding University student body as a physics and linguistics double major. Harding University is a private church of christ institution, where I was further taught to disregard true science, and to unquestioningly hold true to the principles and ideologies outlined in the “Holy Bible”. Yet, as a student of science, I began to experience a shift in my perception of Christian doctrine. In science, nothing is held above criticism, as is rightfully so. Yet, why was religion and Christianity held to a different standard? These questions permeated my mind as i began to delve into the historicity of the bible, which remains one of the most defining moments in my journey of faith.
After over a year of in depth study I was devastated over the lies I had been brought up to believe, yet something still held firm in my mind that there was a god, and perhaps even Jehovah God, only that the history of his existence had been tarnished by mans selfish desires. It is important to note that until this point, evolutionary biology was virtually nonexistent within my mind. To even study the concept was for all intents and purposes forbidden within my church. At this point, I was introduced to two of your books, “The God Delusion”, and “The Ancestors Tale”. It was after read, studied, annotated, researched, and verified the facts presented to me within your books, that I threw away my bible with a smile on my face and a joy in my heart I had never experienced.
Despite the hatred shown towards me by friends, family, and church members (I am from Houston, Texas, which explains much animosity), I have never felt more awe and wonder towards our universe, “queerer than we can imagine”, to dutifully quote your TED speech, than I do now. You are, and remain, and inspiration to me and millions of others, and can only thank you from the bottom of my heart for your research and contributions to the scientific community and the world at large.
Lastly, I thought you would smile after reading a statement I made to the leaders of my church before permanently leaving the hostile atmosphere I faced for over a year on a weekly basis.
“Which to you, is more awe inspiring; that you were created for the sole purpose of worshiping a dictator in the sky who forbids the joys of life? Or that you and I are the product of billions of years of evolution through natural selection, with each molecule making up the human body having once been a part of a distant star through the process of stellar fusion, having erupted from a supernova to once day allow each of us to sit and ponder our own existence. We are the universe becoming self aware. You can keep your gods, i belong to something greater.”
A1C Levi Herbert