Dear Professor Dawkins
At Ardnamurchan Lighthouse where my grandpa was Principal Keeper,
I encountered what I would call my first spiritual experience.
You cant help being moved by the wild Atlantic ocean living and breathing
by the rocks and watching the sunsets over the dreamy isles of Eigg and
Rhum, the glittering afterglows seemed to me to hold all secrets of what
was mystical, magical and beautiful. Surrounded by the culture of the
Highlands, I soaked up endless airs, dances, poems and legends that gave
me so much belonging to the west of Scotland.
At the age of 5, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy and in my teenage years
frequently visited Iona to work as staff at the Abbey community.
Iona is stunning to say the least but still it was the scenery, the sunsets and
Sunrises with occasional green, moonlit minches that held me deep in awe
At their beauty, it was this more than anything that moved me.
By this time I was beginning to stand out, I had a deep love of Mythology
And Geology, my family links with Orkney seemed to have pulled out the
Poet story teller in me and local lore was a great inspiration, but the more aware
I became of peoples prejudices the more uncomfortable I was becoming.
Eventualy at 30 years old I admitted to my dad I was Gay.
All those loving neighbours , all this bonding tightly to the culture came
crashing down round about me. Often people say more with their bodys and looks
than is required by vocal conversation, I had to leave this sacred place
as I felt there was no understanding let alone love for who I was or how I felt.
I was cured of Epilepsy at 30yrs and now at 43 live peacefully with my
Civil Partner in Lincoln. We have shared nine years together and also shared
How to open our minds and free them from fear and religion.
Your book was the greatest reassurance of all and I thank you very much indeed for giving us the confidence to follow our heart and listen to our gut more often.
My moments of peace and solace are with that wonderful music of my
boyhood home, sat around the fireside with my Harp, Flute or Mandolin
the mind boggles at what we’ve come through and what we may yet have to face
due to religious hatred.
I once wrote a poem ( due to homesickness) about Lochaber and a member of
My audience commented to me that she felt it contained the “peace of god”
Within it. Her kind words moved me and since I have strived to include that
Peace in all the arts I partake in. I’m glad to say however none of these things
Are religious in any way yet I have watched friends and others get that same sensation
That stirred the lady to comment.
Robert Burns is one of my hero’s, his works were the first stepping stone to
Dare to read your book. His works ,( written in a period when bigotry and
Profligacy were rife in Scotland) are a great source of pleasure, but your own
Book did what he daren’t, it made me an Atheist clean with no guilt complex as baggage.
I was in a company once, who announced the death of a young gay man in
Inverness (due to suicide) The leaders retreated to the hall kitchen and
Proceeded to laugh heartily at this mans misfortune, these people belive
When the devil dies you must laugh at his departure.
I only hope these poor gullible sheep take the time to view a stunning
Sunset over the western isles.
Many thanks for your reassurance Richard
Forgive the length of my story, but its good to get it
Of my chest
Alastair J, Mainland