Dear Professor Dawkins,
I had been meaning for a while to tell you about my conversion to atheism, but have just gotten around to it now. The odd thing with me was that both my parents were, if not pure atheists, then certainly non-believers. My father is a secular Jew from Egypt who never had much religion in the home, and became an atheist once he immigrated to Canada. My mother was Catholic from Trinidad, and came from a very religious home, and she was taught at convent school by nuns. But after immigrating to Canada, she shed the burden of her religion, though I’m not sure she ever completely renounced God.
So I grew up with nearly no religion. I had a vague idea that I was Jewish, because of my ethnicity, but I didn’t know anything about the bible, the Torah, etc. except for a very few unpleasant experiences. At Boy Scout camp I had to attend service, which I found deeply disturbing. When the Gideons came to our school in fifth grade to hand out bibles, I became scared shitless that I was hellbound because I had signed something on the front cover of the bible that said I committed my life to Jesus Christ, without having any idea what that meant. (Some of my Christian friends happily told me.) I was petrified of Hell. I thought if I didn’t brush my teeth every night I would go to Hell, if I didn’t eat my greens I would go to Hell, if I said anything wrong about my mother or father I would go to Hell, etc. I couldn’t speak about this to my parents because, to be honest, they would have just smacked me on the head and told me to wisen up.
In my teen years I volunteered at a Christian soup kitchen and decided that I would become a Protestant Christian, without really knowing what that meant. I told people I was Christian, I read the gospels, and I attended a service at the soup kitchen, without my parents’ knowledge. (They would have been furious.) For years as a young person I flip-flopped between what I called Christianity and agnosticism. (I even flirted with becoming Catholic, but a few meetings with the parish priest dispelled me of that idea.) I became very politically active on the left and saw Jesus Christ as a political figure to be emulated. I decided that I was an “unchurched” Christian, a term I got from reading Hakim Bey.
Finally though, as I turned thirty and started to think more seriously about the world, I asked myself: if you think critically about everything else (i.e. government, the economy, society), then why the hell do you allow yourself to believe in resurrections and virgin births, whether at church or not? This bothered me. I watched your documentary “The Root of All Evil” but that still didn’t convince me. It was only a few months later, when it hit me, almost like religious people claim to be hit by revelation: there is no God. It was so obvious and I didn’t know why I didn’t think it. Later when I told my father I didn’t believe in God, he answered something along the lines of: “Of course there’s no God. Didn’t we tell you that?” I read The God Delusion, but by the time I got around to it, I was in the choir, so to speak.
Anyway, sorry for the long message, but I noticed that most of your converts are from religious families, and I thought it might be different that I was not. All the best.
Ilsan, South Korea