Dear Prof Dawkins,
My name is Meryl and I was born and raised in an Anglican home in South Africa and moved to England 8 years ago. About 3.5 years ago I “came out” as my mum likes to refer to it, to my mum and youngest sister. My husband Sean has been an atheist his entire life.
Mum and sister thought Sean was influencing me not to believe. I can’t make people realise that it’s my own doing and my own thoughts without telling them exactly how strongly I feel about organised religion without upsetting the ones I love so I just put up with them thinking I’m not intelligent enough to think for myself. I’m not afflicted with false modesty when I say I know I’m not the most intelligent person around.
I believe what I believe because of myself and my own thinking.
When I was at Sunday school I would ask the teacher (Aunty Betsy) questions and she would say “because the bible says so” and if I pushed she would say “are you questioning the bible and Gods word? Well, God will just have to punish you”. That in itself scared me to no extend I didn’t understand why I couldn’t ask questions when my mum always told me asking questions is not stupid and it’s good. I started asking my mum questions and everything ended with “because the bible says so”. It was very frustrating! I didn’t understand how there was this man in the clouds who no one ever saw and if you didn’t do what you were told you would be punished. And when bad things happened to good people I would ask my mum why wouldn’t god do something about that and why did that person have to die etc and she said its god’s will.
I personally never enjoyed going to church, I didn’t like the fact that my parents held me to ransom when it came to church, they would say “if you want to go to the cinema, you had to go to church” which I didn’t like. I felt forced to go, i didn’t have a say in what I believed and it was shoved down my throat. I didn’t like the fact that when we did go to church we had to have money, not one collection but two. And the second one, a “soft collection” and they would put the box at the front of the church so everyone could see who was the one that put money in the box. I brought up the story of Jesus saying that you don’t need a building etc to worship him and you didn’t need money etc and how angry he was when he saw that people were gambling and trading and giving money to the church. I was told that there is a contradiction to that parable in the New Testament. I asked father Charles, our priest at the time where I could find that he said “I think it’s better if you find it” With that in mind, I decided to read the bible back to front. I can safely say I did read the bible cover to cover and in fact it is one of my most favourite books. I love the old English they use. Having read the bible back to front and marking my bible with pink and yellow high lighters of passages I liked and those I didn’t and making notes of weird things I read, rapes, child molestation, stoning of children and condoning of women in general, those are just a few of the things I never heard anyone priest preach about, despite the fact that it’s in the bible. The more I read the more questions I had. I wrote emails to two priests, well one bishop and an Anglican priest with my questions. and it all boiled down to “its blasphemous to question the bible and god’s word” even with my insistence that I found these passages in the bible and that the bible is god’s word” I was then told to take the meat and throw away the bones. Surely all the words in the bible are god’s words and doing. So I found a forum on line and started chatting to a man who had been a staunch Christian, if anyone understood how I felt he would. But he surprised me. I wrote him a long email and he told me he is not going to go bashing god and the bible and encouraged me to search for myself and do as much research and ask and many questions as I possibly can and I should not accept any answer someone gives me just because they are a so called expert. He said “it’s easy to think for yourself , trust your instincts” I will never forget that. He did say that when the bible was written it was written in a dead language and has since been translated over and over again from Latin to Hebrew to ancient Greek to English and words get mistranslated all the time. The word virgin for instance actually meant young women and not woman who has not had intercourse. With this new found boost, I did more and more research. I finally felt confident in what I was reading and what I chose to believe from the evidence I found. I decided I am a person on my own and alone and I don’t have the influences of family shoving their beliefs on me.
Despite all this, I never admitted to anyone else how I felt and in allot of ways I was in denial for a long time and felt a little ashamed, because I was so scared of people not liking me or accepting me because I did’nt believe in what they believed. I only “came out” to my mum a few years ago but told her about my journey as I was going through it.
This new outlook I had changed so many things for me and made me increasingly confident in myself. Before , If I wanted a specific job I would apply and then pray and if I didn’t get it I thought its god’s will. With the new outlook I thought why not try and work harder at what I want and if I achieved something I felt liberated because I did it myself. I put the hours in I did the hard labour and It’s because I had a certain mind set I achieved something and I made me feel good that it was my hard work and no one else’s. If I make mistakes I needed to take responsibilities for it and no one else and if I achieve something it’s my achievement. I started thinking about what god was and how he got there and death, heaven, hell etc and I realised that there is absolutely zero evidence of these things existing. Having evidence makes me confident in my beliefs. I won’t go as far as Sean my husband and his reasoning’s and the things that he says. Sean puts as much stock in the Easter bunny as he does in god. (I just don’t think its nice). He says he can’t understand how intelligent ,educated people can believe in an invisible entity. As far as Sean is concerned the bible is a fairy tale story like Cinderella etc. He is all about science. I feel I have a good mixture of both that satisfies me. I don’t believe that virgin births are possible because scientifically it has been proven time and time again that an egg meets sperm and a zygote is formed which develops into a foetus and so on. I believe that if someone is ill to seek medical care and not pray for healing, as most of my family members would do.
The one things that’s convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt in my beliefs, is the bible. Having read it, it’s pushed me further and further away from it. There are some pretty horrible things in there. No doubt that there are also loads of good moral stories, I believe you don’t have to be religious or believe in god to be an upstanding morally correct person. As long as you know the difference between right and wrong.
My mum will be visiting me in 5 weeks as I am due to give birth to my first baby in 7 weeks, and apparently an intervention has been orchestrated to convert me so that I can let Jesus into my heart. Mum didn’t take to kindly to my suggestion that I would rather she sacrificed a goat than pray for me.
My family feels that I could not have come up with this free thinking notion on my own. I’m quite insulted to be honest! My husband has never tried to convert me but has answered any questions I had.
I wish I could scream from the roof tops that I am a non believer and proud but I know It will hurt my family very much. Its a very difficult place to be, I wont and don’t try to convert any of my family members I respect their beliefs, I don’t know why its so hard for them to respect mine.
Do you have any solution as to get everyone off my back. I doubt my copy of the God delusion will go down well.