Dear Professor Dawkins,
Before I get into thanking you for opening my mind, I’d like to tell you about my background. My name is Syed Imran Hasan where ‘Syed’ is a title given to those who belong to the bloodline of Prophet Mohammad. And I happen to be the 40th generation after him. Born in 1984, I come from a small town in central India called Bhopal and I’ve been raised in a conservative and religious muslim family (with like minded relatives and family friends). A family where everyone offers prayers 5 times a day, fasts for a month every year, slaughters an animal on certain festivals, travels to Mecca and Madinah often for pilgrimage. All this done to make the god they believe in (Allah) happy.
I was also a similar person and performed all the above rituals until almost the age of 25 when certain questions struck my brains and actions of religious people stopped agreeing with my common sense. For example, I’d notice the Imam of a mosque addressing the people on Friday prayers before the actual prayer would begin (called the Qutbah), funnily done in Arabic language in a country where no one understood Arabic! When questioned I was told this is how Prophet Mohammad demanded the ritual to be performed. Whats more funny is that people would pretend to listen to the arabic speech with complete concentration as if they’re following every word of it.
I was hesitant to visit Mecca to perform a ritual called ‘Umrah’ but was forced by my family to join. During the ritual, I can easily say that not a single act done made any sense and how it would make me a better human or how an omnipotent and ever so powerful god would need that to be performed by its creation in order to be happy. Instead he could just look at their character and behavior on earth.
During this period of agnosticism, I was also exposed to people from different faith when I started working in a Multi National company. It struck me how all these people who are so much better humans compared to most muslims I knew, would actually be going to hell because of unfortunately being born in a wrong family. Funnily the feeling was mutual from their end also.
My deputation to the USA for last 3 years then gave me an opportunity to get exposed to alternate viewpoints and I got exposed to your name, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. (Country like India which is very religious needs more presence from you and like minded men to become more known). Being a student of science myself (an engineer) I was able to relate mostly to your lectures I used to spend sleepless nights watching on Youtube. Until came a point I picked up ‘The God Delusion’ from a library and spent a week completely drowned into not just the book, but the immense amount of thoughts it triggered in my head. I had the most productive intellectual and spiritual week of my life whereas my Boss in office had completely opposite view of my productivity.
Ever since I’ve tried to understand the concepts of evolution of life and origin of Universe and have had spiritual experiences because of it’s elegance and the beauty of reality that made me absolutely awestruck. I have become a bigger fan of ‘The Magic of Reality’ book written by you, and I plan to distribute it to young but religious people in my family who could benefit from it and start thinking critically much earlier in their lives then I did.
As you would have guessed, after deciding to step out of religion and the delusion of God and supernatural beings I’ve had a tough time with my family. I’m a person who cannot live a dual life and hence cannot fake to be religious in front of them. Hence my honesty in disagreeing with Islam and it’s teachings has led my family members to almost dis-own me to an extent where they do not associate themselves to things that involve me (like my marriage) because getting involved in any activity done by an infidel is a sin. Leave alone the punishment for apostasy that they learn from their scripture.
The difficult times with the family isn’t over and I continue to stay patient and reason with them and give my love unconditionally (whereas theirs is clearly conditional). I’d like to know your opinion on how I should conduct myself in such a situation. I clearly feel unfortunate at one end to be born in a Muslim family because it is such a radical and conservative religion, whereas on the other end they are my family and I care for them.
At the end I’d like to thank you for writing the great books, and most importantly for articulating the most difficult explanations in such a simple manner. I’m a big fan of your thought experiments and they seem to get better with every new book. You have been the primary trigger in my life which led me to enlightenment and freedom.
PS – I’ve removed the ‘Syed’ from my name in this transition. I’ve also started a page on Facebook to promote liberal thinking and its specifically targeted to the Muslim audience.