I managed to see your documentary, “Enemies of Reason”, on Channel 4 tonight. It inspired me to get up and see if I could connect with you. This “Converts’ Corner” is a nice and simple way of doing so.
I was brought up on a reasonably strict Islamic background. The problem was that I either knew or felt, even as a child that the teachings were not correct, nor represented the extent of Mankind’s expectations and knowledge.
As a child, I used to watch some great Science documentaries, such as Horizon – and I loved listening into your lectures at Christmas. It was extremely fascinating stuff – Science gave me an elevation much more than any religion. The sheer size of the potential knowledge to be gained was simply awe inspiring. I used to look at pictures of the Cosmos and be utterly blown away by the magnificence and beauty of it all – to this day, Nebulae, as an example, still completely overwhelm me.
At the age of 10 I challenged, what you call, a Mullah ( Islamic Priest ) on his views of the purpose of the dinosaurs : “to eat away vegetation to make space for Man”. With a healthy child’s interest in dinosaurs, I had enough facts to throw doubt on all that was said. Not one other person in the room challenged the Mullah’s statements – I am pretty sure ( and sincerely hoped that ) most disagreed with him. My challenge earned me a pulled ear and the start of, what I believe, a healthy desire to debunk religion and God.
It took me a very long time to reach a point of comfort. This was because of social stigma, stepping outside personal comfort zones, researching factual evidence, etc.
The research was the fun part. For example, when I actually read the major religious texts and compared various versions ( by age or by translation ), I saw a litany of errors, modifications and contradictions – this alone told me that they were NOT the word of God.
The theory of Evolution I had read about and learnt long before the ‘God Delusion’ – from my school teachers, watching science documentaries and so on. The simplicity in which it explains the diversity in nature for me was like a magnetic pull ; more importantly, the factual evidence was overwhelming.
Astronomy was another aspect that ( personally ) told me ‘there is no way that a God could have done this’. When Hubble finally got its mirror fixed, the pictures that came back made me shed any final threads of belief in God.
One aspect that I always ask everyone to explore is Archaeology – there are texts before the age of the Egyptians that are clearly the foundation for some of the Old Testament’s earliest stories. The obvious one is: ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’. I would love to have everyone read this in the original ( as far as we know ) Sumerian text. Admittedly the translation can never be proven to be 100% correct but it really would be difficult to get it horribly wrong with the various independent translations of other ancient texts already in existence.
If anyone reads the text ( towards the end ) and does not see the immediate parallels to the biblical story of Noah I will be amazed – it demonstrates that the foundation of this particular Old Testament story was simply copied from a much older text involving multiple Gods, including a ‘Storm God’ Enlil ( the Akkadian Ellil which is surprisingly similar to El of the Old Testament ? ) and Enki ( the Akkadian Ea – pronounced Eya and again surprisingly similar to Yah ). The Old Testament and Koran, both of which have the same story, were simply man made. Other Biblical stories can be determined to have a similar historic basis.
We are all, unfortunately, the product of the world around us – our parents and our society shapes us. We are not told or recommended to seek out different ideas and concepts, to question facts or evidence. Religion is the greatest of these evils that prevent the opening of the mind and to listen and to look for evidence of anything new that you have recently discovered, or been told.
I often think what would have happened if we had no Religion – would we have found ourselves in a world where Science could have continued to improve all the lives in the world unabated ? Would it stop weapons of mass destruction or the build up of military might squandering trillions that could have been spent on improving humanity ? Hopefully I’ll get a chance to find out in my remaining years….
I’d like to thank you for standing up for Reason and challenging an overbearing bugbear and obstacle to Mankind’s continued progression to greater elevation.