The 11-year-old who gives Richard Dawkins hope

Nov 29, 2016

Richard Dawkins and Sidney Johnson, age 11, together recently in Indianapolis. Sidney has read The Greatest Show on Earth and is halfway through The Ancestor’s Tale (2nd Edition).

Richard says, “This young American reader, who also asked one of the most intelligent questions after my talk, gives me hope for the future.

A Letter from Sidney to Richard Dawkins

Dear Richard Dawkins,

December 5, 2016

You probably remember me from Indianapolis. Because of the limited time and the amount of people (and mostly my nervousness) I didn’t get to have a full conversation with you. I am around a lot of evolution-deniers, at school, in the neighborhood, even some of my relatives. I also don’t hide that I am an atheist. I wear a darwin pin and one that reads Atheist on my shirt constantly.
I have had kids who have tried to fight me because of my beliefs.I also get a lot of people attempting to persuade me to be religious, telling me why god Is happy and nice and not the horrible, aggressive, evil person he is in the bible.Every single time that this Happens I prove them wrong using your’s or my own reasons.

One time in particular a girl said I was going to hell because I was an atheist. The girl was very religious, she carried around a bible in her backpack. We were on a bus so we had a lot of time to converse, I said a lot of the evil things the bible says thatthe church lies from her, slavery, hell, ext. She denied it and went on believing her fantasy of a god. The next week all of 5th grade went to a pre-civil war reenactment, me and the girl were in 5th grade at the time. We went through many of the actors, One of them was enthusiastic about slavery . She stated a lot of reasons but one of them she quoted the bible, She quoted from ephesians 6:5, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ”. The girl was crushed, she cried and cried. Now she’s an agnostic or at least less religious than before. She couldn’t believe how mean the god she worshiped was, her view as distorted, grabbed and pulled by the church and her parents who only show the good side of the bible and changes or uses “god’s” words differently.
Very few believers that I know actually know what the bible said or what evolution is. There was another girl who was also very religious. This girl like millions of people are just into religion because they like the idea of it. They somehow are finding comfort in parts of it. My argument is what about all the other parts? The bad, mean, horrible parts. It simply doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t add up.

Youmay also be happy to know that I have converted some people, not to atheism directly, but to science. I have lended them my copy of River out of Eden, and a few other books, By them reading books and me explaining real science to them they believe less and less in god and more and more in science as their questions about how life began, how creatures get their features, ext. Get answered. I think it is important to approach younger people or kids to spread science and atheism because their minds are easier to change and they haven’t been exposed to religion long enough for it to be as important to them as with adults.

Every single kid that I know who learns about evolution believes and loves it. I myself find your books, and science in general way more interesting than any novel, story, or bible.

Sidney Johnson

24 comments on “The 11-year-old who gives Richard Dawkins hope

  • What was the question?

    When I talk to younger people and exchange ideas with like-minded, decent people I too feel hopeful at times, and I am grateful for those moments. But I am more inclined now – now more than ever – to question “hope for the future” – as well as the notion that there must always be a future. We as a species, are adaptive and optimistic, tend to assume that tomorrow will always be in front of us.

    The past will always be behind us (as a species), but the future will not always be in front of us.

    That aside, The God Delusion should be mandatory in schools.

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  • Dan #4
    Dec 5, 2016 at 12:12 am

    That aside, The God Delusion should be mandatory in schools.

    I think you meant that the reading of The God Delusion should be mandatory in schools!

    Unfortunately there are politicians who want the actual mandatory inflicting of god-delusions on children in schools! (As in theocracies!)

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  • The God Delusion should be elective in schools. So should the koran, torah and/or the bible. No problems if a child wants to read a book, any book. What should be required is The Ancestor’s Tale. Without a doubt, there should be a class called evolution and the text should be TAT. No other book would help more.

    A few years back, I lobbied my school board to change the name of “Biology” classes to “evolution” classes, because, after all that IS what we are studying. I got shot down.

    But, if everyone would like to see kids and a community that would give professor Dawkins hope, hit my area up. Evolution is (for the most part) considered fact here (as it should be). People do not blink about evolution education and the “controversy” is virtually non-existent.

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  • I think people should read The God Delusion in schools. Just like David Copperfield and The Sun Also Rises or whatever. Don’t be so literal. Mandatory? A foreign language is mandatory in most high schools. Okay.—I’d like to see it assigned in more high schools, taught in classrooms. I am not suggesting anything other than that. You are given the assignment to read the book. You don’t read it and you get an F. Evolution should be taught starting at sixth grade. Dawkins said that. “Mandatory.” Electives are for college. But even in college there is a distribution requirement. Evolution, as a subject in itself, should be required, just like science and math are in general. Better word?

    (Now I’m confused. What’s wrong with saying “mandatory”?)

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  • That was witty, Laurie. (Kudos to Allan.) But I am too depressed to smile. Sick Ben Carson in charge of HUDD. He thinks the poor choose to be poor – and he is in charge of Housing and Urban Development! More madness.

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  • Laurie

    If he lets down the workers and the poor (who must vote) it’ll be a lame dick (duck) administration, right?

    Thanks for the good advice. My mother’s making my favorite dish: lamb chops and creamed spinach. (TMI?) After I eat I am going to watch Star Trek. There’s a Star Trek marathon on now.

    Have hope. Keep hope alive. It’s not easy at times.—I know. (Hope, as I said, is necessary for life, and never disappoints. The hoped-for often does.)


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  • Dear Sidney

    Thank you for your wonderful and inspiring letter. I’m interested that the girl you spoke to was so upset when she saw what is really in the Bible. You might like to show her, and others at your school, a book by my friend Dan Barker. It’s called God, the Most Unpleasant Character in all Fiction. What Mr Barker did was take the first sentence of Chapter 2 of The God Delusion, which lists 19 of the nastiest things about the God of the Bible. He then devotes a chapter to each of those 19 nasty things, demonstrating them one by one with quotations from the Bible (which he knows well, having once been a preacher). If you send your address privately to the Moderators of this website, I’ll send you two copies of Dan Barker’s book, one for you and one for the school library.

    All good wishes

    Richard Dawkins

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  • Thank you so much Richard Dawkins for your response! and Thank You for your generosity in sending books!!! I am now a member of the site, so I believe the moderators will have my address, but I will email just in case! I’m very excited to read Dan Barker’s book too!

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  • I also don’t hide that I am an atheist…

    Way to go Sid, you rock indeed!!!

    Even some very “learned” university professors don’t have the courage to do that…

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  • My question was wether bonobos and chimpanzees could mate. Since they have a common ancestor only 6-8 million years old and donkeys and horses have a common ancestor 4.5 to 6 million years ago, they can mate, but their children cannot have offspring.

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  • I was at the same lecture as you at the University of Indianapolis, and I want to point out that you were very eloquent and you conveyed your question very clearly. I also got to ask a question but all it was was about whether or not ‘evolutionist’ is a derogatory created by and for Creationists.

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  • Within the next two to three months I am going to write a “Practice” book just to see if science and atheism writing is what I’m going to do later on. Obviously, it’s not meant to be a real book or anything important, just practice. It’s going to be a quick summary of the first story of the Bible “Genesis” I’m just going to go over it and explain what all I can find wrong with it. I have already analyzed the first part, “the beginning”, and I found about 20 pages worth of notes on what the story was wrong about, for instance: “God made two great lights- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night”This is a lie, obviously the moon isn’t a light it just reflects light from the sun (only 3 to 12 percent actually). So why wouldn’t god know that? That’s the point of the whole book, to study and analyze everything “God” says, and to say why its false.
    I just want your feedback on what I would need to change, how to word things better, ext. I am hoping the book will be a minimum of 70 pages long but I am expecting between 100 and 150 pages Thank you for reading and please review the book when I decide to post it, you don’t have to read it all, for all I care you could read a page, all I want is advice.

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