I appreciate your brutally honest style and your assertion that you don’t care what people personally think on evidentially demonstrable facts, you care about what’s true. This has struck a chord with me, as I too have been accused of being ignorant of the personal salvation people find in religious belief. This dismays me, as I feel life has enough to offer without religion, though it thrives in areas where people do not necessarily enjoy the advantages I have enjoyed. This does not mean, however, that religious extremists (a far more common problem than people admit, as I’m sure you’re aware!), or any religious faith system should be simply left to the comfort they have found, as they will always seek to invade society and politics with their teachings which endangers all of us, perhaps not always in immediate physical ways, but most definitely in others.
I believe that even those who adhere to moderate religion are hindering societal progress in some way, as their belief will prevent race assimilation, gay rights, women’s rights, liberal attitudes to childhood freedom, stem cell research, abortion or even just the possibility of one less divisive factor in society, as well as other scripture or proclamation based teachings. There are many divisions in the world admittedly, though religion is a gaping one and without it, I feel racial and national discrimination would be lessened. I don’t much care whether people say religion means to be ‘this’, or should be ‘that’. It is all interpretation, with every individual religion, religious sub division or individual, claiming they’ve translated it right. What I see today in the world, is what I take religion to be and that is what I criticise. I find it laughable to suggest I can’t criticise evangelicals, or the Pope, or Islamic Extremists (or all and more) because they aren’t what religion ‘means to be’ and so it isn’t applicable. There is no way that the ‘God theory’ is in any way benign, whether it intends to be or not, what we can see is a hindrance, either passively, intentionally, violently or malevolently.
By ‘God theory’, this is what I use to encapsulate all monotheistic, immanent God theories, from large Abrahamic religion, down to an individual who believes that God simply loves us all and will care for us when we die. All ideas of a personal God lead to the misunderstanding or misevaluation of something in the natural world, which in turn hinders you or society as a whole.
I believe that there is the chance for enlightenment for some of those of religious faith, but for many I fear that convincing the devout, particularly who are socially dependent on, surrounded by, or who are still encapsulated by religion in middle age, is a somewhat fanciful thing. I come from an Anglican upbringing and was baptised and confirmed (in both instances not with my consent!), but hated the attitude of those who believed themselves to be moral because they sat in a building on Sunday and sang hymns, meanwhile for the other 6 days and 23 hours, bitched, backstabbed and ignored those in need. The idea of a public display of Christianity in religious ritual making one considered moral, over actual humanitarian and community support, makes me sick to my stomach. My atheism (as you describe it, between a 6.5 and 6.9 on the scale) began from a young age, as I was fascinated by complex argument, exploring new theories and recognised the sheer ridiculousness of the doctrines and principles religion teaches, this goes for all religious thought. But it is because of yourself that I have been inspired to use my atheism to help subdue dangerous religious societal designs. I am now seeking post graduate education (I am just finishing an undergraduate degree) so that I may emulate scholars, among whom I consider you the most inspirational.
Yourself and your fellow professionals, particularly the late Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss and Sam Harris, have inspired me to attempt to emulate in some small way what you have achieved and continue to strive for. It is a complex issue as to how one best deals with the threat of religion and I remain pessimistic as to the possibility of enlightening a significant amount of those of faith, but I wish to be a part of shaping the response to this and aiding the progress of science and inquisitive thought. I feel I must make my voice heard and this is due to the inspiration yourself and your noble pursuit of natural and honest truth for the good of societal, scientific and human progression have given me.
Many thanks and I hope I am able to meet you some day.