Allow me to start off by telling you how much I admire the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made not only for the advancements of Science, but for the Atheist community. You have inspired me to do my best to help our community as well. My name is Scarlett Shapiro. I go to a small school in a small town in Wisconsin. Omro High only has about four hundred students and I’m positive that almost all of them are aware that I’m an atheist. I’m also almost positive that more than 90% of them, aren’t very happy about that. It is as if I have disturbed the peace that is their small union of “firm and fair” Christians. Now, I didn’t try to do this, but it seems as though when they asked me what I believed in, they really wanted me to lie and drop to my knees and praise the Lord Almighty. The number one response that I recieve after I tell fellow classmates about my lack of faith was “Oh, that’s weird. You don’t look like an Atheist!” I, of course, was very curious as to what they thought an atheist looked like and every time I asked, the creature they described to me was dark and evil and unclean. The words gross, rude, Gothic, ugly, Satan worshiper, hating, bitter, and one who practices witchcraft were the most common. Now, maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t seem very nice to say. Personally, I don’t feel I fit into any of those categories! I would then ask, “So what do Christian people look like?” The response I got was always “clean, sophisticated, and nice.” Not to brag, but I consider myself a very clean person. I shower everyday, brush my hair and teeth, and I never ever leave the house in sweatpants. I’d like to think I carry myself in a sophisticated way and I’d really like to think I’m a nice person. At least I try to be. Early in the school year, (I am in my third year of high school) we were assigned a report in my English class. The assignment was to choose a group or community that has been persecuted against in history. In the report you had to explain why it mattered to you and why you found it interesting. Many of my classmates chose to write about the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Others chose African Americans during the time of slavery, homosexuals through out history, and of course Christianity. The title of one of the students papers really stood out to me. It was called, “Christians. The most Persecuted Group In History.”
Now in my humble opinion, isn’t that taking things a bit far? I mean, let us not forget WWII, or the war in the Middle East, or the fact that you can be killed for being an Atheist in thirteen countries in this world to this very day. I asked my teacher how she felt about the title and what she told me was that the title was true. She said to me, “If you actually did your research and looked online you would see that they are the most harshly judged group in history.” This wasn’t even the most interesting of all… The title that received the most eye rolls and shocked gasps was mine. I gave my essay the catchy title, “Do not grieve because we do not believe.” Most of the class made claims calling it inappropriate and whispers were spread about how I just wanted to get attention. This was not completely untrue. I did want attention. Not for myself, but for the unequal treatment of the Atheist community. The last line in my essay was, “Do not grieve because we do not believe, but raise awareness for the unfairness.” As I said, I am in my third year of my high school career. Through out middle school, I participated in Forensics and was always in the speech category. I went to a Private Lutheran school for my middle school years and so naturally all of our speeches had to make some reference to God. My speeches were about issues like the harmful effects of soda. Now that I have a bit more freedom in my public school, though maybe no less religious persecution, I have decided to write my speech on what I see as a bigger issue in our world. You have inspired me to speak out against not only the problematic debate of mixing religion with public education, but also about equality. I have watched every YouTube video I can find of your speeches and debates and I can appreciate how you carry yourself. You present facts and leave emotion and your personal preferences and opinions out of it, while still respecting the “points” made by your adversaries. I particularly love your discussion with Wendy Wright. It’s very entertaining although I can only watch it a few minutes at a time or I become EXTREMELY frustrated. As I said before, I have been told numerous times in my short life at Omro High School that I don’t “look” like an Atheist. With the speech I am writing and going to be performing this year, I intend on calling out how wrong and unacceptable these types of comments are. My goal is not to bash the Christian community or the Catholic community. My goal is not to shove Atheism in anyone’s face, (If they want to lead a boring, God fearing life that’s their choice. Even if it’s a silly choice.) My intention is to spread the Word that Atheism is not to be heard as a negative term. I want people to see our community as kind and accepting even though we don’t have a Holy Book to tell us to do so. I am already very aware of the criticism I will face for such a bold act of Secularism, but I am not worried and I will not back down. After watching you read your “Love Letters”, I was even more inspired to pursue my goals.
My reason for writing this is not only to tell you how much I adore and appreciate your work and let you know how much you have positively influenced my life, but to let you know that I am here to help. I know it may not mean much, but I do intend on making a difference and I hope to go far with maybe a speaking career to spread my message. “Do not grieve because we do not believe, but raise awareness for the unfairness.” Again, I thank you Mr. Dawkins.