Dear Professor Dawkins,
I want to share with you my life experience with what people call “God”, and the suffering the belief in him can cause to people.
I was born to a muslim family in Tripoli, Lebanon, some 20 years ago. You might not know a lot about the country, so I’ll describe it briefly in the following way: it is where religiousness is not merely a set of beliefs, but a true community defining metric, passed on to children assiduously, and the source of much sectarian tension and strife.
As most children in my city, and country for that matter, I fell victim to the usual “muslim child” pernicious bigotry you so ardently – and convincingly – attack in your book.
My father is a pious, devout and practicing muslim, he doesn’t skip a prayer time (there are 5), fasts, and observes all aspects of the faith. That “faith” never waned, quite the contrary, in fact it gradually increased with the passing of time, to reach complete surrender to God’s will. He never worked much, hadn’t been present for me and my brother in our infancy, precisely because he held such a “fatalist” view of the world. My mother is also a fully practicing muslim, however less hung up on the fatality aspect. Both my parents tried duly and repeatedly to instill faith in me, my dad once sat with me to teach me the opening chapter of the Koran, curbing my disinclination with petty rewards that appealed to my child’s mind. My mother also kept asking me to go to Friday’s noon prayer at the mosque, repeatedly reminding me of it and changing attitudes depending on my acceptance or reluctance to cede and attend it. There came a period which I can shamefully say they both got what they sought.
This could have continued on to produce – I would have so regretted – a sheepish mind just like the others being churned out of our massive faith factory. But then at the onset of my teen years came the agonizing and worrisome discovery of my homosexuality. I kept ruminating through all my adolescence at why “God” had “created” me this way, and if I will ever be accepted by him and by society were I to “act on” my orientation. This was a period where on one hand my parents and some of my friends were pursuing their goal to supposedly “enlighten” me to Islam’s righteousness while on the other my own hidden self knew increasingly my natural incompatibility with religion. You can imagine what sort of torment the situation can cause, for someone to not be able even to turn to his own parents for help, because of some superstition they believed in.
On the bright side, being in my own eyes a striking epitome of religion’s disregard for the most basic of human traits and desires – the one to love – was a deterrent force that kept me away from it, and fortunately so, for I can only think I would have been driven to suicide had I kept my “faith”.
I’ve emigrated a couple of years ago, and live now in a place where I have the opportunity to think on my own. I read your book with great pleasure recently, and it provided me with the last brick in building the wall separating me and religion.
I am now, thanks to you, a freed ex-muslim atheist. I hope you realize the change your book has made in my view of the world. I know now that I can be a very moral and humane person without the help of a 1500 year old book written by who knows who, and made me realize I am already indeed.
Thank you for having a profound impact in my life, sincerely.
A freed mind