Dear Professor Dawkins,
I hope you are well!
I had sent you an email a few days earlier about how it took me some years to really give up my dwindling faith.
However, to my surprise I forgot to mention the precise moment which stunned me. Perhaps I wanted to keep it short but I had so much to say that it was difficult to say it all. But I really want to share the moment which illuminated my mind, and it was at a time when I wasn’t even thinking about religion!
I am currently pursuing my doctorate in cancer biology and as we know genetics has a very big role to play in the disease. I was preparing for my genetics exam, reading about the TATA box. I have a bachelors in Biotechnology and a masters in cancer cell & molecular biology. So, I have studied about TATA boxes all my academic life. But this never came to my mind. Suddenly when I was reading, I remembered the words that our lecturer (Dr. Michelle Barton at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center) said in the class. Something like… the TATA box is evolutionarily conserved among organisms from yeast to humans. At that precise moment it hit me like a bolt of lightening. Genetic sequences, proteins, biochemical pathways… so much in common in such divergent species. I was dumbfounded. And I thought to myself… Oh my god, Dawkins is right. There is no better or more satisfying explanation for this.
Not that I didn’t believe in evolution (believe is a wrong word because it is a fact). I just thought and thought and read and read (like Douglas Adams) and couldn’t come to a conclusion. This was just like one of those moments where something is there under your nose all this while and you just didn’t see it. It has provided me with relief because it had been a long time since I was wondering if there is in fact a supernatural force or an intelligent being that designed us all. The world is more beautiful because I know that its not made by some old man sitting up in the sky. For some strange reason everything seems more elegant. I actually feel like a heavy stone called faith has been taken off me. Thank you.
Having said that… I have a question for Dr. Dawkins.
I am very fortunate to have been born into a family in which religion was not forced onto my brother and me. We have discussions on these topics very regularly and in one of our discussions, we discussed organized atheism.
I remember reading in the God Delusion that the so called facts of every religion change very fast. Most of the myths that are believed are fabricated by people along the way. Taking the example of the religion I was born into (Sikhism). Sikhism has 10 gurus. The first guru (Nanak) of the religion was a gentle man who refuted religion (Islam and Hinduism) that were present in their orthodox forms at that time in the Punjab region of Northern India. According to what I understand, he never said that he was god himself and wanted peace between the extremists of the two religions. However, after his death, by the time of the 10th guru, the whole thing turned into a warrior religion which resisted conversion to Islam. Now about 500 years down the line, I hear people saying that Guru Nanak was God himself. The details of the religion have changed and what started as something that refuted religion has become a full blown religion in itself.
So, my question is that as we all know that atheists are of considerable numbers in the world, is it beneficial to organize them? Do you think organized atheism will in a few centuries become just like any other religion? With its own sets of ‘beliefs’ and ways of life? That creates a divide between them and the rest of the society? Isn’t it more beneficial to leave atheism un-organized? Because the numbers are growing, and the zeitgeist might actually shift towards atheism with time anyway.
I hope this reaches you! Thank you!
Best Regards, Shubi