Dear Richard Dawkins,
It is coincidental that you have Douglas Adam’s quote at the start of your “Converts’ Corner’ in that I have just discovered this little gem ‘The Salmon of Doubt’ in the local library! The chapter ‘Interview, American Atheists’ perfectly describes my current state of mind!
I was raised in a Pentecostal Christian family who for generations taught the Bible is the literal ‘Word of God’. Any doubts or questions I had as a child about creation, Noah and the flood, Jonah and the whale and other questionable Bible stories that seemed illogical the argument ‘you just have to believe and have faith’ was the usual reply. When I was about eight our beloved dog was run over by a truck. I prayed and prayed that God would raise him from the dead. My prayers went unanswered and the seed of doubt was planted. However, fear of eternal damnation was the reason I kept following like a sheep and even submitted to being baptised because God may return any day soon and I will be left behind.
In my twenties having moved 1000’s kilometres away from this overtly religious environment I stopped going to church and reading the Bible, and low and behold, I was not struck by lightning. I still believed in God but the fall of apartheid in South Africa and the realisation that this so-called Christian nation had inflicted the most atrocious pain and suffering on the majority of the people living in South Africa for decades, just because they were not white, was another step away from religion.
For a while, I still had some belief in God and the human soul – it is hard to let go of years of brainwashing. About ten years ago I met a man who was openly an Atheist. We started a relationship and although he had not tried to ‘convert’ me, we had many discussions about religion and evolution. I started exploring New Age philosophies and Eastern Religion particularly Buddhism reasoning that I could replace religion with spirituality.
In 2006, I read The God Delusion and it was my epiphany about the non-existence of God and any form of supernatural beings! Reading such, a bold, radical book was liberating. Suddenly Science was the most interesting subject!
I read The Selfish Gene, Bill Bryson’s ‘A History of Nearly Everything,’ ‘Out of Africa’s Eden by Stephen Oppenheimer and ‘Faith, Superstition, and Wishful Thinking’ by George Claasen.
‘Why I became an Atheist’ by John W. Loftus, a former Christian apologist, and ‘Blind Faith’ by Morné du Toit illuminated the ridiculous belief that the Bible was written and or inspired by a deity.
After reading ‘Why Evolution is True’ by Biology professor Jerry Coyne everything fell into place. I still plan to read Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ and ‘The Decent of Man’ and all your other books.
We were avid readers and my parents encouraged my brothers and I to read books. They must be horrified that ‘subversive’ books paved the way to my conversion. I have not admitted outright that I have become a ‘radical atheist’ to quote Douglas Adams, but I have told them there is no god, heaven, hell, miracles, angels. They are in their 70’s and I respect that they will hang on to their crutch. I am trying to educate my brothers and had suggested they read your books; to no avail, thus far…You can be sure the entire family prays very hard that God will intervene and I will come to my senses.
I am eternally grateful that you wrote The God Delusion to enlighten people to the folly of religion and the absolute wonder of biology and evolutionary science. Your book has freed me of my fear and every day is a joy away from the bondage of irrational thought.
Life is just beautiful.