Thanks , Converts, Tue, Jan 29 2013 #(1379)

Jan 29, 2013

Dear Richard,

I have recently discovered your work on the existence of God, religion and evolution and have found it truly absorbing to the extent that it has given me the confidence and, just as importantly, a sound framework within which to question my beliefs. How I wish I had discovered your work earlier in my life! The arguments you have presented on the existence of God are a model of clarity using scientific and logical reasoning which, in my view, are the only sensible way to explore matters of existence.

During my formative years of life I took some comfort from the idea that God may exist without necessarily questioning or truly believing in the existence of a god. Despite this, as a child, I did pray (as any child taught to believe in God might) but in retrospect I think this was more out of the fear of the unknown (eg what happens when I die? how can I stop bad things from happening in the world?) than my positively committing to the notion of a god that can actually do anything to answer my prayers. In hindsight, I feel somewhat cheated by our education system in that it did not (and presumably still no longer does) provide a more balanced approach to teaching on matters of such importance (ie God and religion) and in areas that can hugely influence one’s beliefs in life – as you astutely point out, children are so impressionable (ie moulded just like clay) that it seems wholly unfair to present only one view. What is there to fear in allowing children to make an informed choice? Moreover, why should a child be coerced (perhaps too strong a word) into making a decision anyway? Agnosticism is a perfectly acceptable place to be for someone who feels uncomfortable with committing themselves early in life, just as is Atheism or indeed Theism if one is so inclined. And changing one’s mind should always be possible without fear of retribution or discrimination and this is clearly not the case in many walks of life.

Fortunately enough for me, from an early age, I developed a keen interest in computing, mathematics and physics which has provided me with an alternate compass for basing my decisions upon ie a compass that uses facts, observations and reason to ascertain truths rather than merely beliefs. This, in conjunction with reading your work, has at least given me a second chance to reflect and reconsider my views on these matters of such importance. Note that I won’t indulge you with the point of whether or not your book has changed by beliefs or not. This is not the reason I am writing to you and I do not believe this is actually the point behind your work (at least this is my hope and what I have understood by your work).

In recent years I have become increasingly dismissive of religion which, on balance, seems to have a hand in both good and bad (at least from my perspective) in fairly equal measures. This is perhaps a somewhat separate matter from the mere existence of God ie although religion is founded on the basis of God’s existence one can not dispute that religion operates on many more levels than this alone. It would be a mistake to dismiss religion purely on the basis of the existence of God alone even though, ironically, religion is founded on this very simple notion. I might have even excused religion this one unfounded assumption if all that followed it made perfect sense but unfortunately, over time, religion has been layered with messages that are, at best, confusing and misleading and, at worst, dangerous. As you so saliently point out, the interpretation of the numerous writings of religion is not always something the layperson is equipped to do which invites problems.

Because the existence of God and religion are such emotive subjects and, equally problematic, matters that are heavily based on one’s own personal interpretation (ie religion isn’t like mathematics, there is no textbook that can truly unilaterally define what religion means to any given individual and the Bible is certainly not that textbook) it seems almost impossible for rationale debate to take place. This much is evident. And despite the obvious merits of your work in establishing a framework and the questions that ought to be asked it is easy to see how it can be viewed as threatening to those who have built their entire lives (from early childhood) around beliefs that are centred around the existence of God. In fact, I think many people struggle to even contemplate discussing the virtues of religion separately from the existence of God and vice-versa because they are essentially seen as one and the same thing.

In light of these problems, which I am sure make your task practically impossible, I find it admirable that you are fighting the case for those who dare to choose not to believe (on what is clearly not a level playing field). I truly believe that your approach of confronting the matter head-on, even if sometimes a little dismissive of the views of others, is the correct way of seeking the truth. But, much like the role of the diplomat who must seek to resolve an accord between two opposing entities, the road ahead is bumpy, there will be countless dead ends, and the final destination is not necessarily a place that is known until we actually arrive there.

My best wishes and heartfelt thanks,

Liam
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