Up for the challenge? , Good, Tue, Jan 29 2013 #(1516)

Jan 29, 2013

Dear Dr Dawkins

I was baptised into the Anglican church, but, to state the blindingly obvious as you do several times in your book, I had no choice in the matter. Although my parents had no strong religious views, and my mother certainly did not subscribe to any particular religious doctrine, at that time (1947) baptism of the newborn was ‘the thing to do’ in middle class England. However I had the great good fortune to have parents who did not try to impose any particular views, religious or otherwise, on me, and allowed me to find my own way. As far as I can recall I have never voluntarily attended a religious service of any description. However I am ashamed to admit that I have never had the courage to remain seated when ‘grace’ has been said before a formal meal.

I attended a state ‘grammar’ school and received an excellent education with three notable exceptions. Firstly, in the 1950s and 60s the quasi-Christian ‘morning assembly’ was compulsory for every pupil with the exception of the children of Jewish parents (having read the book I am careful to use your terminology). As I have no children of my own I have no idea if this compulsion still exists in British schools, and, if so, if the exemptions have been widened to include the vast increase of religious groups that has occurred since those days, in particular children of atheist parents. Secondly, the curriculum of that era included ‘religious instruction’ but there was no attempt to teach comparative religion. All that was on offer was indoctrination in the truth of the Bible, and again the only exemptions allowed were the children of Jewish parents when the New Testament was being discussed. Thirdly, the biology syllabus completely omitted any mention of the theory of evolution.

Fortunately none of this attempted indoctrination had the slightest effect on me. At that young age I was sufficiently rational to be aware that religion is a divisive force that seemed completely irrelevant in the modern world, and I was determined not to base the rest of my life on fear and superstition. However, without any knowledge of evolution I was ill-equipped to dismiss creationist doctrine, and so it continued for the early part of my adult life. Today it may seem odd that an educated man (I hold a Masters degree) can remain ignorant of evolution well into adulthood, but that is the fact. I understand that evolution is now taught in all but the most reactionary schools, so children are at least better equipped to choose to reject religion.

I bought ‘The God Delusion’ in the hope that it would give me some arguments to use when challenged by believers. I have no doubt that it is an outstanding academic work but it is certainly not written in everyday language, and even if one could understand all of the arguments one would appear insufferably pompous to use them. I would welcome a book covering the same ground but using more accessible language. Is there anyone out there up for the challenge?

Ian Goddard

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