Dear Professor Dawkins,
I’m certain that you must experience this quite often, sir, but I have an exceptional amount of gratitude and adoration for you and your work. I realize and accept that you are most likely at the moment meticulously immersed in warding off the enemies of reason, and are consequently more than likely not the one reading this post as of now.
My family was religious, but I didn’t seem to contemplate too long or hard on the matter, and academics were only one aspect of my high school career. I prayed most nights, but my relationship to God only seemed to matter when a crisis or the urgent need to bargain presented itself. Once in college, when reading and thinking became a primary focus, I quickly found myself most influenced by freshman-level Biology and Psychology courses. Expanding my knowledge on the evolutionary process, including the brain functions and the development of speech in early humans granted me the powerful liberating ability to incrementally realize something: supernatural shenanigans didn’t seem to play much of, if any, a role in how our planet truly appears to operate.
I distinctly recall attempting to break down the Berlin Wall in my head while ambling along to class. My emotional, fearful, social side seemed afraid of the consequences of where my logic was leading me; I was frightened of the possibility of not believing in god because of the potentially damning eternal consequences of rotting and scorching and searing in hell and what my family and society might think of me. However, the rational side soon piped up and asked if there was any significant reason to believe in such an undetectable place. In other words, I was very much in doubt. I additionally recall watching the film ‘Year One’ (with Jack Black and Michael Cera) and laughing in simply how barbaric and illiterate the times were in which the Bible was written. Why should we listen to and take lessons from anything that came out of such a pathetically stupid period? This was just another part in which I can remember of an incremental transition to the fence.
Enter your arrival, sir. I would at this time wish to formally offer you my gratitude for being courageous enough in opposing the exceptionally sensitive status quo and for offering a helpful hand to those on the fence (and those on the other side that wish to change teams) at the risk of criticism, hate mail, reputation, etc. After viewing your eviscerating indictment of god on the O’Reilly Factor (first appearance remains my favorite of your visits) and most importantly your sober, rational, reasonable interview with Jeremy Paxman, I recognized that I had, all along, been an atheist.
Now that I view life through this beautiful lens, I cannot seem to grasp how my family and friends can possibly accept this great illusion. Can they truly not see it? Is it due to a lack of cognitive capacity, do they simply not wish to have it brought to their attention and be ignorant in the dark (rather comparable to not wanting to view the nutritional fact on a candy bar), or is it through some other combination of factors? Nevertheless, occasionally I experience a feeling similar to Keanu Reeves in the Matrix after having just been liberated.
I distinctly remember figuring out by myself around the third grade that Santa Clause most likely didn’t exist and, after questioning my parents, I followed the same logic of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and, of course, God. My parents conceded on every issue except for, of course, the deity. I even remember the exact place in the house where I was while postulating the question. Their strenuous reinforcement of the dogma sadly remained with me until college, and continues to ensnare the minds of my sisters today. To be fair, however, the generation of my parents probably saw the world much differently than my own; there was less tolerance for atheism (which is bizarre, considering its innocuousness).
All that being said, I still hesitate to talk about atheism around my family members and friends, due to the awkwardness generated. It feels like social suicide, especially in this region. Moreover, I belong to an atheist club at my university, but our membership is very low and very poorly organized as of now, and as you would presume, there are multiple Christian clubs actively and furiously pursuing and gobbling up the minds of impressionable young freshman students.
Thank you, Professor Dawkins, for fighting the good fight and for allowing calm, sober reasoning to take precedence over wishful thinking and fear of death/the unknown.
Jay Wright, 20, Brookings, South Dakota