"And I thought and thought and thought. But I just didn't have enough to go on, so I didn't really come to any resolution. I was extremely doubtful about the idea of god, but I just didn't know enough about anything to have a good working model of any other explanation for, well, life, the universe, and everything to put in its place. But I kept at it, and I kept reading and I kept thinking. Sometime around my early thirties I stumbled upon evolutionary biology, particularly in the form of Richard Dawkins's books The Selfish Gene and then The Blind Watchmaker, and suddenly (on, I think the second reading of The Selfish Gene) it all fell into place. It was a concept of such stunning simplicity, but it gave rise, naturally, to all of the infinite and baffling complexity of life. The awe it inspired in me made the awe that people talk about in respect of religious experience seem, frankly, silly beside it. I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day."
Douglas Adams The Salmon of Doubt, p 99.
"Douglas, I miss you. You are my cleverest, funniest, most open-minded, wittiest, tallest, and possibly only convert. I hope this book might have made you laugh — though not as much as you made me
Douglas's conversion by my earlier books — which did not set out to convert anyone — inspired me to dedicate to his memory this book — which does!"
Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, p 117
Is Douglas Adams Richard's only convert? Or is he just the first of many? Please write in to Converts' Corner if you have lost your religion (or have been encouraged to come out of the closet) as a result of reading The God Delusion or other Dawkins books.
Dear Professor Dawkins,
I have just finished reading The God Delusion. It was an incredible book filled with such great and well thought out arguments. As well as pre-empting questions that would be raised from the opposing side. I am not telling you anything you do not know or have not read in the many reviews you have received over the years, but after reading your book and getting to the point I am at today I felt the need to write to you and your online community. I have written this letter many times trying to keep it short and sweet, all the while explaining my own journey and my “conversion.” My story I am sure is somewhat familiar to you from the many letters you have received, but I would like to share it anyway. I am 24 years old, and was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. I am part of a very big family, the typical Irish Catholic family. My great grandparents had 16 children and each of them at least had four of their own. Many of them remain strong Catholics, and some have converted to other denominations of Christianity. My family would be considered very conservative Catholics. For instance my mother divorced my father and remarried without an annulment, which is kind of a big deal or so it seemed. My grandmother basically was so upset they did not speak for many years. My step father, whom she married, converted to Catholicism and my step brothers were also baptized later. I reference all this only to display your ideas of how much trouble religion can cause and why the hesitation for myself to declare to members of my family that I am not an atheist. My view of religion has always been skeptical. Not necessarily if God existed or not, but things such as prayer, the Bible, the Ten Commandments and how they actually covered much more than just ten laws. I would always resort to “just having faith,” but I was always curious. In the third grade I asked my teacher: “If God knows everything and knows the sins we will commit and whether we will go to heaven or hell. Then why bother at all?” Of course I received the free will answer, which was not an answer at all. In the end I was told to just have “faith.” Faith is the final answer to everything in religious discussion or arguments, and is the most frustrating because it is impossible to proceed past that. Religious fanatics were the beginning of my questioning. How they could “know” they were right and everyone else was wrong. I would watch them kneel with their eyes closed and their hands clasped together so tight you could see the veins throb. They were showing how devout they were. I did not buy it. I began asking myself all sorts of questions, but I never gave up my faith. Unfortunately I went down the road you referred to in your book. Theology. Psychology has always been the subject I was most fascinated by. Somehow I thought theology was a closely related topic.
I went to a Catholic school for 12 out of 13 years. I cannot recall what we were taught as far as our origins were concerned. I do not think that was a real issue. I knew I did not believe the Bible as literal, I more thought of it as mere simple story telling for something that was much more complex, in my elementary years, and I think that was how my school taught it. Evolution I heard of outside of school and I kind of just accepted that because it was a logical explanation. However my final year we did discuss evolution as being accepted by the church and explaining life, yet it was of course used as evidence for God.
I will skip ahead a bit. A few years after high school religion was not a big part of my life. I was working a lot and trying to take classes at the same time. Although great scientists and writers, like you, have been around for a long time, it was a comedian that I have to give the credit for “raising my consciousness.” Bill Maher’s documentary Religilous was the first time I was exposed to the faults of religion I was blind to before. The faults in the Bible, the story of Jesus being told many times before, these facts were new to me. From then on my questions became more frequent.
A few years into my college life (I was taking classes here and there due to time and money) I took a course in Philosophy of Bioethics. By far the only class I actually felt advanced any learning or thinking ability in my years of school. We read a book called Remaking Eden, which exposed much more about the origins of life. We also debated in class, I have always been pro-life but my arguments had to be rethought in that class. I began to take a different approach to ideas like that. It was a very important class for me. I was getting ready to cross that line. Then I relapsed.
Something in my life shook me. A very pathetic circumstance I am embarrassed to say sent me into what felt and most likely was a depression. A break up. I laugh at it now, but at the time and I am sure many can understand, not so funny. After a few months I felt helpless and I thought about a way out. God. I always believed that a pure faith was unshakable. As the story goes, if faith is strong enough man can walk on water. I applied the same principle and threw myself entirely into faith. I prayed everyday at a chapel for months. Asking God for guidance, wisdom, patience, and here’s the kicker, faith. I was praying to God to have more faith. An idea that is so absurd now. After that I watched Religilous for a second time and began watching more of Bill Maher, and was led to one of my favorite comedians now, George Carlin. Although they were men who were telling jokes, there was a lot of truth and logic to it. So with that information I began discussing, and reviewing everything I was taught. I was at the edge of the trying to pull myself out of the quicksand of religion. Then a friend recommended reading The God Delusion. I remembered hearing about that quack scientist many years ago, at least that was what I thought when I saw the book’s original release. I used to think of atheism as people who were just angry with life and upset at something that happened and blamed god. Needless to say a month ago I read your book. Three chapters in I picked up Darwin’s Origin of Species, which I have started after finishing your book. I intend to read more of your work and other’s such as Dennet, Hitchens, Harris, and so the many other authors you recommended. I have watched your interviews and debates as well as your colleagues. I know that is the company of ideas and people I want to associate myself with. My pursuit to further my education has been renewed. Although psychology is my main passion, I have a new found passion for all other sciences as well. I wanted to say a lot more of certain of my life when religion came into play. Reliving it now was very amusing and I am sure you would also think so. I hope you still enjoy reading these letters (if you do). I most certainly enjoyed writing it. I have to thank you Professor Dawkins. Thank you and people like Bill Maher, George Carlin, Christopher Hitchens and many more for standing up for by far, humanities most unpopular of all ideas, atheism. I still carry the idea of God with me in the same sort of way Jill Mytton did when you interviewed her. Not so much the fear of hell, but as Catholic’s call it, Fear of the Lord (a virtue in Catholicism). It will always be there irrationally, but I can deal with it. Your first chapter on Einstein and God was my favorite. I think I can leave that thought at that. This letter was my first time actually saying I am an atheist. Some of my brothers and sisters know, and one cousin. The rest of the family does not know, and would probably be shocked. I find it humorous that something like that could be so significant and possibly troublesome to them. Yet that is what the concept of religion causes. I again would like to thank you and your online community for a chance to express these opinions, views, and stories like mine. This is the first letter I have written like this, and I enjoyed it.
Permalink - Posted Thursday, 24 May 2012 at 10:23 PM
We are all programmed to believe that human beings and everything else has been created by a supreme entity which apart from looking after our destiny, also rewards or punishes us. However, I never got an answer to my query about who created this supreme entity. Most persons thought that I was hurting their faith by even asking something like this. My own confusion however just melted away when I read “The Greatest show on earth” and “The GOD delusion” by Richard Dawkins -the famous biologist and an admirer of Charles Darwin.
Though I have been a student of Biology and Genetics, it never occurred to me that Darwin’s theory of evolution together with knowledge gained from the field of molecular genetics can easily explain how humans and myriad other forms of life evolved and prospered. Genes are passed from one generation to the next in 64 coded triplets in digital form. These genes (chemically called DNA) have the power to replicate in a cellular environment. Magically, they also ensure that the fittest ones survive so that the subsequent generation improves. This transformation is however so slow that someone observing them in his lifetime does not notice this forward march. This is how we humans evolved from less sophisticated creatures –in fact from that first DNA template which got created some 3 billion years ago- the biological evidence is so overwhelming that I was convinced that this idea of GOD being our creator is just a myth.
Richard Dawkins books enabled me to look at both utility as well as futility of life objectively. I thus find it absurd to associate my misfortune or happiness to a pre written destiny or a divine command. Even more absurd are the theories propounded by religion about there being an after-life or the existence of a soul that takes birth again in another body. It amazes me how otherwise rational and intelligent people accept such ridiculous propositions in the name of faith. I consider this new found realisation as the enlightenment that I was looking for & feel great at having come out of my delusion. Any idea or a book that presupposes the presence of an ALMIGHTY is surely unscientific and a HOAX against which we must guard ourselves.
Permalink - Posted Thursday, 24 May 2012 at 10:20 PM
Dear Professor Dawkins;
I attended Catholic school in my youth, but my family was never particularly devout; religion had become more of a habit than anything. Nevertheless, I was initially hesitant to read "The God Delusion," not wanting to ruffle any feathers. But I just couldn't help myself, and reading your book was like a breath of fresh air. It was my introduction to a world of science and inquiry I hadn't even known was available to me. Now, I simply can't stop reading! Your work has opened a door to a communioty of writers and thinkers with whom I share a true affinity, and whose work has enriched my life like no religion ever could.
I have read some of the hateful letters you receive, and it must be disconcerting if not downright frightening to read some of these responses. (It is pleasing, however, to reflect on their grammar; sometimes grammar speaks louder than words) I think it is admirable that you continue to champion reason over delusion, despite such hostility, for the sake of individuals such as myself, and all the converts you have inspired. Thank you.
Permalink - Posted Thursday, 24 May 2012 at 10:19 PM
I have always been a skeptic, and I was raised Roman Catholic. I was forced to go to lengthy religious education classes every week for over a decade, and I was supposed to accept the brainwash they were trying to impose upon me. However, me being a skeptic, I was not OK with this. I raised many questions, and many of them were met with hostility. Being disciplined because I had the nerve to ask a question did not re-affirm my faith, however, it simply made me wonder more why they were so defensive.
Eventually I had to come out and tell my family that I was not a believer, and I was seemingly exiled. I was met with anger, contempt and in general It had left me feeling as if I was wrong, as evident from the sheer amount of conviction they displayed. I can't say that a conversation goes by with a family member, even to this day, where they do not heckle me and offer ethereal threats for my disbelief. Their "guilt tripping" then seemed effective, but I now can only see it as childish and immature.
But I have read your books, along with Hitchens and Harris, and this has kindled a passion for me. Your books have enabled me to fully defend myself, give me confidence in my decision, and understanding of the situation. I thank you. Your books have also inspired me to take an interest in biology. I am not one who is financially fortunate enough to afford expensive education, and indeed I have an upcoming deployment in the Army to survive before I may pursue that interest, but I am motivated. So again, I thank you for all you have done. Do not let the public bring you down, as I'm sure you won't, because you are a man who has enlightened so many people, inspired so many, and I believe has set the path for Agnostics and Atheists to rise and not let religion hinder science and progress. I can see a very bright World in the future because of the thinking you provoke and encourage, and I am inspired to be apart of making it that way.
I'm now glad to say that I am happy to be an Athiest in a foxhole.
Permalink - Posted Thursday, 24 May 2012 at 10:18 PM
Dear Richard Dawkins, before I knew you through internet and books...I wasn't sure about what I want to believe. I always doubt about religion/god but I was alone and I don't have anyone to talk with about it. It changed when I knew about you through videos on the internet and I read your books. I started to participates with atheist groups on facebooks and other forum and it really change my life. Because of you, now I am free. FREEDOM.
thank you Richard Dawkins. Millions of thank you.
Permalink - Posted Monday, 21 May 2012 at 10:18 PM
A converted thinker, scientist, lover of nature
I would like to start out by saying thank you to Mr. Dawkins. Without your exquisite writings on the wonderful nuances of nature, who knows where I'd be at this point in my life?
When I was 17, I went to my last annual Stuebenville Conference in Tuscon, AZ. Stuebenville was a massive gathering of teenagers growing up in the Roman Catholic faith. It turned out to be extremely effective in not only getting me actually interested in my faith and God in general, but also solidifying my personal philosophy and making my beliefs much more concrete, real. It's something that I looked forward to every summer since I first went 4 years prior. I Considered it to be one of the most important aspects of my life at that point, a 'spiritual recharging' if you will. All of the chaos, stress, and problems of life were washed away every summer, and replaced with a renewed positive outlook on this world. I was proud of my faith. I wore a crucifix everyday for 4 years, and thought about how much love I felt for Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. Sadly, the effect or spiritual 'high' I felt after every conference faded away after 2 months or so, and I began caring less and less until I went to the next conference. After the last time I went to the conference, I became somewhat disillusioned after hearing one of the speakers give the same exact speech she gave four years before. Two of my good friends who also went every year and allowed me to witness what I thought was truly the Holy Spirit working through them eventually turned to agnosticism and atheism. This also had an effect of eroding my faith even further, even though I was still literally fearful for their 'souls' after they passed into the next life.
The following winter, I started reading online about how similar the stories of Jesus' birth, life, teachings, and death were to a multitude of other stories pertaining to different religions, including that of the extinct Egyptian civilization. There were other small seeds of doubt that started growing quickly after that initial catalyst. Watching countless documentaries of how the world is almost always in a state of suffering, along with starting to watch documentaries pertaining to the majesty and awe that can be found in the natural universe also contributed to a final scrubbing away of my faith. The seeds fully germinated and broke through the barriers created by my religious upbringing. It's hard to explain the exact feeling of when I finally realized that my belief was only a mere illusion, and I started to perceive the world in a new light. One of rational thought and renewed appreciation for science. I would equate it to someone with very poor eyesight, but not aware that their eyesight was impaired in any way. And then, after putting on glasses for the first time, everything is so much more focused, sharp, real, and beautiful.
I picked up a copy of The God Delusion, and I can honestly say now that literature can indeed change someone's whole way of thinking, as it has mine. Everything seemed so much less complex than before, and this led me to pick up the Origin of Species, the Selfish Gene, and the Greatest Show on Earth. These books have truly turned my view of the universe on its head, and I now feel so grateful that I discovered them when I did. The beauty and elegance of Darwin's theory very nearly made me gasp out loud when it all finally clicked, and since then, my mind has been churning, constantly thinking about chemistry and biology, math and physics, and the natural world and universe (or universi). I am now a pre-med student and always find myself basking in the awe and majesty that is the universe. I see the world in such a colorful light now, and find total appreciation and beauty in subjects that I would have originally thought were boring and dry. So thank you once again, Mr. Dawkins. You are truly my hero, and I hope that one day everyone will be able to appreciate your insights into this world, as much as I have.
Permalink - Posted Monday, 21 May 2012 at 10:18 PM
Dear Professor Dawkins
I had a fairly relaxed Catholic upbringing; attended Catholic school and Church on Sundays. Of course everything I did seemed perfectly normal to me as everyone around me was doing the same. It was only when I met my non-believing husband that I started to look at things a little differently. He would ask,"did you really sit in front of a priest and confess your sins?" or awkward questions like, "do you think I will go to Hell for not believing?" but I would still say I had my own little beliefs and faith that were important to me and didn't need to be closely examined or questioned by anyone.
When I was heavily pregnant with our first child, I was relaxing in the bath reading Derren Brown's 'Tricks of the mind'. His opening line simply states the non-existence of God. This is a flashbulb memory for me as I sat straight up and thought how dare he make such a statement. I honesty felt like a child who had been told there may not be a Santa.
On Derren's recommendation I bought the God Delusion but didn't feel I could read it straight away. I think I knew that there would be no turning back from that point.
Strangely enough, it was the 'miracle of birth' that provided the next big turning point. It was a fairly difficult delivery and I just remember thinking clearly through the fear and agony, "I don't feel like I want to thank God at all, surely if it was down to him he could snap his fingers or wave his wand or do whatever it is he does to stop the pain and deliver a healthy baby". Instead, I just felt so grateful to all the people in the room that had taken the time to study and grateful for the drugs and machines that were keeping me and my son safe.
Once out of hospital I read the God delusion and that indeed was that. It allowed me to answer all the questions I had and allowed me to give up my religion. The Catholic faith (I'm sure along with many others) does a good job of making you believe that there is no point to existence without God or that a death without the idea of some kind of afterlife is terrifying. You helped me to understand that eternal oblivion is actually more comforting than the idea of sitting on a cloud up there watching my children grow up without me. More recently I have read the magic of reality using the iPad app which further reinforces the extreme beauty of our world without any God.
The only remaining problem I had was that I felt prayer had been taken away from me so I felt powerless when things went wrong. A short time after reading the God Delusion a couple I knew of lost a baby at 27 weeks of pregnancy and in the same week received a diagnosis of breast cancer. My immediate reaction was to say a little prayer and then actually panicked a little when I realised I couldn't do this anymore. I didn't know the couple well enough to even send a card let alone turn up with any offers of help. I sat back and thought about it and realised there were lots of things I could do, all of them more productive than prayer; donate money or time to a cancer charity for example. Ironically, the couple in question were a lesbian couple who had conceived through IVF and so my prayers as a Catholic would presumably have fallen on deaf ears anyway?
They say there's nothing stronger than the faith of the converted and I am certainly a more outspoken atheist than I was a catholic. I am a teacher of maths in a secondary school now and during national book day I shared some of your magic of reality with some of my students (I hope this was ok especially since it resulted in at least one extra sale that I know of!). The bit I chose to share was on evolution, mainly because you did such a great job of helping us to understand the incredibly large numbers involved. Most of the students were totally fascinated but I did have two that expressed their opinion that there isn't enough evidence for evolution. This was clearly the message they were getting from home and although I would love to engage them in the debate, I realise I won't be very popular if students return from Maths class questioning the whole faith of the family. Hopefully, in time, these students will discover your work for themselves just like I did.
Let me close with heartfelt thanks for the positive impact your work has had on my life (I extend the same thanks to Derren for pointing me in your direction). I can honestly say that I never saw as much beauty in the world as I do now.
Permalink - Posted Monday, 21 May 2012 at 10:15 PM
I spent my entire childhood as a slave to fear; the fear that God didn't love me. More than one night I woke up in tears because I dreamed of being condemned to Hell. Getting into Heaven was my one goal, because I had nothing to look forward to in life: I was raised in a culture where women devoted their life to raising children, and I never had any desire to get married or have a baby. So it was of the utmost importance that God forgave my sins. When I reached my teenage years, it became apparent that I was different. The other girls my age would talk about how "cute" or "hot" this or that boy was, but I never saw it. I went ahead and verbally agreed with them, but deep down I knew something was very, very wrong with me. My vague belief that God didn't love me evolved into the conviction that I was disgusting and abhorrent in His eyes. So many nights I cried myself to sleep, begging God to forgive me. When I realized that he wouldn't, I begged him to change me. When I realized that wouldn't happen either, I begged him to kill me so I wouldn't have to do it myself. It so happened one day that my brother and I went to a bookstore. Whenever we do this, we always go to the humor section. It just so happened that in this store, the humor section was next to the science section. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed The God Delusion and opened it out of curiosity. My brother was livid, and said, "You shouldn't even look at that. Take it from someone wiser than you." Insulted, I bought your book.
It was the best thing I ever did. When I finished it, I could feel the shackles of fear fall off of me and I cried in relief. I'm no longer afraid of the God in the same way I'm no longer afraid of the monsters in my closet: I know that they're not real. When I was able to give up my belief in God, I was able to accept that I am gay. After that, the suicidal urges went away. For the first time, I can say that I'm happy.
Not only did your book help resolve my conflicts, but it inspired me to devote my life to science. I've decided to be a physicist, an astronomer, to work on unraveling the mysteries of reality. As Carl Sagan once said, "Life is but a momentary glimpse into the astonishing universe..." I want to discover everything I can about this universe.
Thank you, Professor Dawkins, for writing The God Delusion.
May you live long and prosper,
Permalink - Posted Monday, 21 May 2012 at 10:14 PM
First, I want to say thank you for all that you are doing to help progress the secular movement. My conversion story started when I went to college two years ago. I am currently a sophomore at the United States Military Academy, who is originally from Maryland. I grew up in a Catholic family. I went to church most Sundays and went to religious education classes once a week. I was a believer but by no means a fundamentalist. When I got to West Point I met a bunch of very conservative, religious people who did hold fundamentalist views. I couldn’t believe that my classmates at one of America’s top colleges didn’t believe in evolution. Anyways, these extreme views led me to seriously question my own views. I went awhile where I was in a kind of agnostic state. I didn’t go to church and I was just really confused about what I believed. Then, just before Christmas 2011, I watched Bill Maher’s movie Religulous and decided that religion was, well, pretty ridiculous. I was still confused because Maher’s film is great but it doesn’t offer any knockout arguments against believing in god. That’s why I decided to read your book, along with Christopher Hitchens’, and Sam Harris’ (I am currently reading Daniel Dennet’s). All of your books totally convinced me of the atheist point of view and made me embarrassed to look back at my old beliefs. Just a few weeks ago I “came out” to my family which was a very nerve-wracking experience. It turns out my dad may be an atheist as well. He has been questioning his beliefs in the past couple of years but keeps going to church because of my mom. I quickly gave him my copy of your book, along with the others I mentioned. My mom was a little bit of a different story. She cried at first but after talking to me a little bit about it she accepted my decision. She won’t listen to any of my reasoning for atheism though. She even admits that there is no proof for god but that she just simply has faith that he and Jesus exist. This was extremely frustrating to me, which I am sure it is to you whenever you encounter someone who uses this explanation for their religion. Anyways, I was just happy that my relationship with my parents wasn’t affected at all by my coming out. My mom did ask me to not tell my little brother and sister, which I didn’t like but agreed to because I didn’t want to upset my mom anymore. I think the next time I go home I will probably end up breaking that agreement because I don’t want to hide what I am, and the question will probably come up when I refuse to go to church. I would just like to sincerely thank you for helping me in my journey to atheism. I have found that I am much happier since giving up my religion. I am much more optimistic and appreciative of the world around me. You have helped solidify my views and given me a solid foundation based on logic and reason to defend my atheism. Thank you again.
Permalink - Posted Monday, 21 May 2012 at 10:13 PM
Dear Prof Dawkins!
First of all I wish to express my special appreciation for your work. It has definitely changed my life and the way I think about people and nature.
I read your book „The God Delusion“ along with Christopher Hitchens book „God is not geat“ when I was a member of the LDS church. My initial intention was to come to an understanding of the atheist‘s mindset, in order to develop strategies for difficult debates. At that time my church callings comprised teaching gospel classes and assisting full time-missionaries on tough assignments.
However your book really opened my eyes and challenged me to look up the evidence. I also read your book „The Greatest Show on Earth“ - which I highly recommend - and several of Prof. Hawking‘s books. Subsequently I developed a particular interest in natural science.
One day I decided to leave aside the usual church curriculum and presented a „science vs. religion“ class to my usual audience of other young adults instead. That class included evolution, relativity and quantum theory. Needless to say it got me into huge trouble with my local church leaders. After that experience I decided to do some research on church history. I virtually dismantled the gospel and had to admit that the foundation of my faith was actually huge fraud fabricated by a conman.
After a very short time I resigned my church-membership. As most of my friends at this time where steadfast LDS and the church virtually controls most most their social lifes the aftermath of my decision was quite tough for me. However going trough this process has really payed off and broadened my horizon.
Thank to you very much indeed for opening my eyes for the beauty of nature. Learning about evolution and genetics really helped me to understand how we are all related to each other and how silly racial bigotry indeed is.
I‘ll do my part in helping to shape a society based on logic and reason.
Looking forward to reading new books from you. Keep up the good work.
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 14 April 2012 at 03:32 AM
Here is my story:
Ever since I was a child, I was indoctrinated into Christianity. I went to Christian school, went to church twice a week, (I still have to go once a week) and always was reminded that god was watching me. My parents would give me rules based on the bible. I accepted it until sometime in ninth grade, which is also when I took an interest in science. I had heard of people not being Christians (this was a shock, since my whole life had revolved around the religion), and I decided to investigate. I researched nearly every religion in the world. I still called myself a Christian, but my beliefs had been questionable since 6th grade. Then sometime towards the end, I heard of atheism, and believing in nothing. I picked up The God Delusion at the library and read. It attacked the very beliefs I had been raised up on, making me think. After I finished, I organized my research of religion and the science for or against it. The odds were astoundingly clear. Every shred of evidence that still stood for religion was based entirely on gaps. The only thing actually proven was science, and by extension, atheism. It was then I realized. There isn't a god. And I'm happier that way.
Thanks for reading my story, and a special thanks to Richard Dawkins for writing The God Delusion.
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 14 April 2012 at 03:18 AM
Dear Mr. Dawkins,
My wife and I grew up as solid American Heartland Christians. I gave up religion in young adulthood, but still believed in God. My simple faith held that a person would not be hardwired to desire something that does not exist. Also my feeling of gratitude for the goodness in life had me reasoning that it must have a receiving agent. At 47 years of age, I never once doubted the existence of God. Then my wife picked up the God Delusion on disc. After listening to your book, I was absolutely convinced God does not exist. My wife's faith was wobbly already when she listened to your book, but it ushered us both safely into our new enlightment.
I just wanted to thank you for your work to enlighten people, an extremely important calling. My wife and I used to believe the atheistic position was a pessimistic world view, but now that the veil has been lifted and true beauty reveals itself, we are happier than ever to see things much more clearly. Your work, along with others of your ilk throughout history is like a stream of reason running down a mountain of ignorance. Bit by bit the rock is eroded and the stream becomes a river. My wife and I are now part of that stream of reason and in our way, over time, by being examples of ethical, charitable people, plan to do our part to wear away ignorance in our culture.
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 14 April 2012 at 03:16 AM
Dear Mr. Dawkins,
I would like to share my conversion story, to encourage others to do so, to raise awareness and most importantly – to Thank You for everything.
I am a 28 years old woman from Estonia. Estonia has been known as one of the most irreligious countries in Europe (at least as far as the “affiliation with any church” statistics go) so luckily enough I did not have a deeply religious childhood or family. My parents consider themselves Lutherans, but we almost never went to church and my parents didn’t baptize me and my sisters on principle – they wanted us to make that decision on our own, as adults. For that I am immensely thankful. They never scared me with stories of hell or bothered to teach me any scripture. Yet my parents did instill a belief in me that the world and everything in it is God’s handiwork and the will of God, they told me stories of Jesus, of heaven, and taught me a simple evening prayer to recite if I wanted to. Still, all this was quite enough to muddle my little impressionable brain.
In 1988 Armenia was shattered by Spitak earthquake. Estonia rushed in to help and I remember clearly as my mother asked my permission to donate many of my old dresses and shoes to the thousands of children orphaned or left homeless in Spitak. There was even talk of adopting one of the orphans. As little as I was, I was shocked and absolutely devastated that God, my benevolent God of heaven and angels and everything nice, would let such a tragedy to take place in the world. From then on my evening prayers ended in tears and I don’t think I cried so much for the sadness, as for the injustice. What did those children do to deserve this? If they didn’t do anything then what purpose did that horrific event serve? Was God just cruel? Nothing added up, nothing was right, the workings of God were suddenly totally incomprehensible to me.
Years passed and I still held on to the idea of God and the idea of afterlife, but I had passively acknowledged that I would never and could never make God “match” my personal sense of morality, I sort of adopted the “the ways of God are inscrutable” stance. When I was 16 I fell in love with a boy who had been raised in an atheist family. We talked about everything and that included religion. I was always thoroughly frustrated that every single argument that I had for the existence of God fell flat against his arguments. I had to agree that the world and universe seemed to exist neatly enough without a God. I decided not to be baptized, as I figured that God could not be that petty as to mind whether or not I'm baptized. The only real argument for God that remained dear to me was the “divine inspiration” argument – music and art were capable of moving me to such extent that I felt certain that there had to be a spiritual higher being channeling through human creation. Surely people by themselves could not be that talented, right?
Fast forward to 2009 – I picked up Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” not because I ever doubted it but because I too felt deeply disturbed by the growing religious fanaticism and blindness spreading in all corners over the world. With every new story of yet another school teaching creationism or banning scientific evidence it felt like a new dark age descending - slowly and firmly. So I thought – I’ll read Coyne’s book and I will make the last attempt to atone my God with the reality of universe and everything in it. With first five pages I was sucked into the wonderful world of evolution theory backed by meticulous hard evidence and I felt such awe and wonder that I actually, no kidding, considered dropping my ongoing master studies in international relations to pursue a biology degree instead. I didn’t find the atonement but I found something much more fantastic – a passionate thirst for true knowledge, for truth, for evidence. After Coyne I devoured “The Blind Watchmaker” and “The Selfish Gene”. With every passage another peace fell into place, another “click” in my brain. And then, I finally picked up “The God Delusion”. When I read the quote by Douglas Adams: “It was a concept of such stunning simplicity, but it gave rise, naturally, to all of the infinite and baffling complexity of life” – I felt tears running down my face. And then it hit me – I am moved to tears for science, for man-made, gritty, messy, hard-work science, not divine inspiration, but 100% human pursuit of knowledge and truth, and it is wonderful and awe-inspiring and it moves me to tears! Music and art have nothing to do with divine inspiration and everything to do with homo sapiens – the wonderful, complex (but not perfect!) product of evolution. We are fascinating beings with different talents and different emotions, capable of learning and capable of loving and caring – all on our own! It is daunting yet liberating to know that neither Einstein nor Beethoven were “touched by God”, that all the great thinkers before us are just as human and mortal as I am. To know that not prayers but hard work and willingness to question everything is the way to get any answers. To realize that the only "life after death" worth pursuing is the ongoing lives of our ideas, our deeds and our genes in our children. And finally, to make peace with the knowledge that the little Armenian children didn’t do anything to deserve an earthquake that left them orphaned. That sometimes tragic things just happen, because life is messy and unfair, but it is also fascinating and wonderful and each of us only has one chance at it. Because there is no God.
Thank You for everything, dear Mr. Dawkins, dear Richard. You will never know how many people you have truly inspired and awakened.
PS! The wonderful atheist boy I met when 16? I married him last summer. :)
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 14 April 2012 at 03:12 AM
Non-believing Preachers, Listen Up!
If you are an Atheist who is currently preaching the Gospel in a church somewhere, or a closet Atheist, then this blog is for you. If you’re a charismatic minister then I’m going to “check your mail” and you will understand me in a way that the majority of the Atheists who read this blog will not. If you are a not religious person, you may find this personal story both tragic and/or moving. Some of you will hate me, but after reading this, most of you will understand exactly where my passion for our movement comes from.
Please understand, whether you like me or not, it doesn’t move me in any way at all. I have never lived my life for the acceptance factor or to win a popularity contest. For me, it has always been “balls to the wall, all in, or nothing at all.” So with that said, here we go!
Most of the “preachers” I encounter are nowhere near as insane as I was when compared to the level of religious dogma I was living in. Christians often tell me I wasn’t sincere, I didn’t really believe the bible, or I’m just pissed off that God didn’t give me what I wanted. However, you will not let yourself get to the level of insanity that I was at if that were true.
I heard God audibly and I became so bold that I would throw people out of wheel chairs. I would lay people down who had back injuries flat on their stomachs and run on their backs believing that I was carried along by the wind of God (Mal 4:2 The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings). For this was the demonstration of the Holy Ghost and power (1Cor 2:4)! And my language and message were not set forth in persuasive, enticing and plausible words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, proof by the Spirit and power of God that was operating in me and stirring the most holy emotions in the minds of my listeners and thus persuading them.
I believed I could raise the dead back to life and that I was endowed with supernatural power from on high. I was baptized in the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4). There was a radical evidence of the call of God on my life. God called me to be a prophet. “Miracles and Wonders” would flow through my life. I would be used by God to raise the dead, so why wait? God would honor my faith, so twice I went to the local morgue to raise the dead. After all, that’s where the dead were. I had never seen a dead man in my life, yet Jesus spoke to me in “red” and said, “go raise the dead, my boy, go raise the dead, (Matt10:8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, RAISE THE DEAD, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give ). The second time I arrived to raise the dead I had caused a disturbance and was told by the authorities if I ever returned with this nonsense I would be arrested for harassment.
Permalink - Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 11:40 PM
Dear Richard Dawkins,
I'll make this brief. When I read The God Delusion, all the nagging doubts that had been rattling around in my brain for quite awhile were confirmed. Your words crystallized my thinking. I was finally able to say aloud that I no longer believed in all the religious BS that has perpetrated so much pain and suffering in the world.
Thank you and Happy New Year!
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 07 January 2012 at 02:33 AM
My earliest memory of religion is from attending a Southern Baptist church at a young age. Around the age of 12, my family moved, and I began attending a United Methodist church. I continued attending church until around the age of 18, when I went to college. Looking back, I now realize that my young mind was more interested in the social aspect of church than the religious aspect. I was baptized and confirmed, even though I did not truly understand or believe the words and thoughts I mindlessly repeated. I read the entirety of the Bible at least once.
A few years later, my brother came out of the closet. Not only was he gay, which our former church did not accept; he was atheist. There is no possible way I could accept the values of a religion over the love of my own brother. As time progressed, I began to consider myself a theist. I still believed in a higher power -- mostly due to the complexity of our world -- but wholly rejected organized religion.
It was not until earlier this year that I finally read "The God Delusion". It had exactly the kind of information I needed to seal my own identity as an atheist. With the knowledge I gained from your writing, I was confident in coming out of the closet as an atheist to my friends and my conservative Christian family, although I am still afraid of the commonplace prejudice against atheists by mainstream Christians here in the United States. I can now proudly profess that I am a de facto atheist, and that there is no proof of the existence of a higher power. I attribute this knowledge primarily to you and your writing, and I thank you for that. You are a beacon of information in an age of blissful ignorance.
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 07 January 2012 at 02:32 AM
Dear Professor Dawkins,
I am writing to thank you for the direct and powerful effect your work, as well as the work of your contemporaries has had on my life and my thought. I was raised a Roman Catholic, and until the age of about 8 or 9 I had no doubt that what I had been told every Sunday was true; why on earth would I question that which was endorsed by my family, my mother and by a whole host of adults in the local Catholic community? It was around this time that I became truly interested in questions of science, in particular astronomy and the universe. The night sky was always a source of wonder for me, and through my fascination with space I began to delve further into science. It was at this point that what I had been told from the Bible (i.e. that God created the universe in six days, that Noah collected two of every creature and that Jesus was born of a virgin) came into conflict with my new studies (the universe is the result of a rapid expansion 13.7bn years ago, a 900 year old man would have been very unlikely to be able to collect two of every species ever and no-one is born of virgins). The conflict between my ideas and my upbringing continued largely unresolved, until one day, I picked up The God Delusion and read it for the first time.
Since then there has been no looking back; I immediately ceased attending church and made it clear to anyone who asked that I had reached a position of atheism. My realisation that God was neither probable nor necessary has only increased my intellectual curiosity, and I have taken to challenging the incursion of religious views into matters with which they should have no concern.
Once again, thankyou for all you have written, spoken and argued. Please continue to do what you do best
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 07 January 2012 at 02:31 AM
I hope you burn in hell and... no, just kidding, this is not a hate mail.
I´m happy to see that your converts´ corner is getting larger and larger, as it is, in my opinion, a great source to witness the power of reason.
As for my conversion, it is not as dramatic as others i could read about on your website, but for me it is just as important as those.
I´m an average looking person, born in Sweden and raised in Italy (i hope you´ll forgive any errors in my writing). Although my parents aren´t religious, the rest of my family is strictly observant Catholic, and while my father and mother never interfered in my spiritual point of views on life, universe and everything, the remaining religious part of my family was absolutely enthusiastic in indoctrinating me. When i was eight years old i was already a "believer". Well, as much as a child CAN be a believer. But a major event made me seriously religious.
I got sick, Lyme disease, and it got so far that i suffered meningitis. The doctors saved me, but at my return home i discovered that the whole community had been gathering in big prayers for me, and they convinced me that it was God that saved me. I was eleven years old.
The first earthquakes that shocked my faith happened when i was fourteen. I started to read some books, and started to think about God and religion. I was young, but still, logic projected a shadow of concrete nonsense over my religious beliefs. I was scared. I had visions of Satan, and i spent restless nights waiting for the fallen angel to enter my room, laughing at me. Every night i saw how the flames where on their way to my bed, where i was laying wet by my own tears.
So one day, in complete desperation, i talked to God and begged him to hit me with lightnings if i turned my back on him, just before transforming into a cruel atheist beast, that my Catholic relatives had warned me for.
God didn´t kill me.
I never really have been able to shake off all my fears, but i became non-believer.
So, i was never a believer when i read your book. But you are responsible for a minor conversion that is, as i already mentioned, important for me.
Now i´m twenty years old and i can say with honesty and pride that i am an Atheist, a radical one, and not Agnostic, as i used to be.
Being able to argue for my new, Atheist position, with the power of logic, science and common sense, and feeling confident in my opinions, is helping me overcoming my old religious ghosts and nightmares. And i have partially you to thank for that.
I really want to write thousands more pages about the subject religion to you, as it really matters to me, but i hope i managed to condense my story of conversion here, that it is understandable and useful to you.
With great esteem Jacob Romano
p.s. Oh, almost forgot. I don´t want to be a priest anymore. I want to be a physicist. Alternatively an MMA pro fighter ;)
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 07 January 2012 at 02:29 AM
I am writing to thank you for all the work you do on behalf of clear thinking and reason. I was brought up a Christian and attended a C of E primary school where I was taught creationism in detail, the only mention of a scientific understanding of how the world worked was 'Scientists believe in a theory called the big bang but we (i.e. you) believe in this'.
As my education progressed, I took a keen interest in science and religious studies and saw no obvious conflict as long as my religious beliefs gave way to scientific ones whenever the two were in disagreement. My opinion was that science answered the how but religion answered the why and how to be a good person.
The first stumbling block I encountered when I studied another religion, Islam. It was so obviously and blatantly a product of human imagination that I started questioning the logic of my own faith. I continued to be influenced by Christian holy men and established religion though until I came across 'The God Delusion' in a book shop whilst visiting the popular science section.
My biology teacher had mentioned your name a few times so I decided to buy the book not really knowing what it was about. I am embarrassed to admit this but upon reading the part of the book where you state that any reader with any sense of reason will be an atheist by the end of it, I did raise an eyebrow and think that was not likely as I had thought a lot on the subject and was very confident in my beliefs if anything it would be a test of my faith (I shudder when I think about how I could have been so deluded). By the end of it atheist I was though.
Your book changed my life. The change was entirely for the better and I am a much happier person because of it. Being certain that there is nothing after this life isn't crippling as I thought it would be, it is liberating. You only have one chance and it has to count, there is nothing else. Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to try and free people of the shackles of religious dogmatism.
Yours Respectfully and Gratefully
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 07 January 2012 at 02:27 AM
Dear Professor Dawkins,
My name is Cian O'Donovan, and I am proud to call myself a humanist and Atheist. I know many people Write to you and many people pour their hearts out to you over their conversion to atheism so I will try to keep this as brief as I can.
2 years ago i was on the verge of taking my own life, I was bullied in school for being a "Geek" and for reading a lot. I went to a catholic school in the South-West of Ireland and was raised in a fairly strict catholic family. At the "Crossroads" in my life as i like to call it, I came by one of your books that my father had on a shelf, I think it was The God Delusion or The Selfish Gene, I'm not entirely sure, at that point in my life I was sad all the time and started to commit self harm, I believed in god, and I would stay awake for hours thinking " If he was real why would he want this for me?" (as a child i was taught that god wanted what was best for everyone), this lead me into a period of contemplation on the physical existence of a higher power, a most troubling transitional period for a child to go through. It was at this period that i started to really read into what you were saying.
You opened my eyes.
I came to believe that most discrimination form the start of the world itself had some, no matter how distant, co-relation with religion, it gave me confidence in my voice for equality and social justice. I moved to a new school where i met like minded people and most immediately felt accepted for who I am. Thankfully, My family have accepted me even though most of them (bar my father) are Christian. I cannot begin to thank you for... pretty much saving my life, my family knows nothing of the self-harming or depression i went through, and i hope they never here of it as it would cause too much shame for me, You have had such a profound impact on my life and so many others. I ask but one thing of anyone reading this, do not condemn others for their search for spiritual enlightenment, they merely blind themselves to the truth by looking for this, so pity them, for they have not reached our conclusion but must be guided to the truth and given not spiritual nonsense, but answers and those answers must be complex and complicated. Such is life.
My name is Cian O'Donovan, and I am 15 years of age.
Permalink - Posted Monday, 26 December 2011 at 11:19 PM
Dear Professor Dawkins,
I'd just like you for not only espousing views based on reason and evidence but also for making people own up to themselves about their views and to become prouder of it. I was brought up in a religious family by parents who do not believe in evolution, I attended a religious school and went to church when I was a child. I became disillusioned with Christianity as a young teenager when I was able to read the bible and found it not only unbelievable but deeply unpleasant. When I was a little older I fought to stop going to church a battle which I eventually won despite my parents and ministers best efforts to turn me onto the more liberal form of Christianity. However, for years after I felt wrong for having no religion, faith or belief in a higher power. Even though almost everybody around me was Christian many were all quite tolerant of other faiths and these other faiths were explained to me at school. What everyone seemed to tell me was that many people believe different things and that's ok but it's important to believe in a higher power. So when I became disillusioned with Christianity I explored other faiths but I dismissed all of them as not being this one magical universal truth, some of them were downright hideous. However, I felt that I must be wrong as this was against what all of my trusted adults were telling me. I became ashamed of my beliefs and when asked what I believed,I just muttered about believing in some greater power but not being religious. Thanks to reading Professor Dawkins books as well as books by the 'Four Horsemen of New Atheism', I have finally come to admit to myself that I do not believe in God or any sort of higher being any more than I believe in Russell's teapot. I have also come to be proud of my rational beliefs and have come out as an atheist to friends and family, which has caused some discomfort but I am confident enough in my beliefs now to defend them.
Thank you sincerely
Permalink - Posted Monday, 26 December 2011 at 11:16 PM
Dear Mr. Dawkins,
This is my atheist testimony, I do hope you read it.
Your book the God Delusions states in its preface: "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down". Well your goal was not quite reached, it took over 4 years in total, however I only read the first 4 chapters before my outrage overcame me, so maybe that is why. However I have to admit that it was your book that initially set me thinking critically about my faith. It made me realize that my faith was not infallible and led me to ask questions I might not have asked. You always complain that people with faith simply won't listen to the evidence. Reading your book caused me to listen to the evidence.
My conversion began when I moved to Manchester to study Theoretical Physics at the University Of Manchester. This was key in my realization that God is imaginary, constantly providing satisfying answers when my religious delusions couldn't. Attending a decent, bible teaching, certainly church did NOT help. The more I learnt about christian theology, the less comfortable I was with the answers. Every question I had was answered, sure, but I always left discontent, leaving science and reason ready to provide, not only a more logically satisfying explanation, but a more thrilling, comforting and magical one. I trust you know the definition of magical I mean. I learnt it from you.
Your debates with John Lennox perplexed me also, as did reading his book. As much as I agreed with him, I constantly found your stance more appealing.
The works of Tim Minchin and SMBC comics (and others) humourously pointed out logical flaws in my faith and Derren Brown (again, and others) enhanced my belief that the world is rational and everything has a rational explanation. These combined works, as well as James Randi and others made me remember that I firmly believe that all other magic (supernatural) phenomena are complete bullshit (homeopathy, pyschics, etc). This is not a stance that the bible takes by the way. On at least one occasion, a character in the bible (Old Testament Saul, if your interested) visits a medium for advice, who then communicates with a dead guy for him. This was a majot turning point for me, when I realized that the bible took seriously things which I completely dismiss as fraudulent.
These days, I am a changed man. I am now working through every audiobook I can find of your works. I hope you read this so you can explain to me the absence of Climbing Mount Improbable as I am anxious to listen to it. Thank you for being so instrumental in my conversion.
Permalink - Posted Monday, 26 December 2011 at 11:13 PM
Dear Richard Dawkins,
I was raised in a Muslim family, I used to memorize one third of Quran by the age of 8, I was deeply believing I remember many times I wept when I listen to the verses. It happen also that I thought with some reason and objectivity. and I could find cracks in the pictures that all people around me, religious people were trying to hide carefully. I started to research with loads of doubts. Then 6 years ago, I was driving my car in Cairo, listening to the Audio version of “The god delusion”, having no idea at that time about you. and then I parked the car and started to listen carefully. that was really the sound of my doubts and that was really my arguments I was afraid to raise.
No I feel I can see the bigger picture, it’s not like being brought into reality from ignorance, it’s just like becoming more free thinker and having more control of my short life on that planet
عزيزي ريتشارد دوكينز, لقد نشأت في اسرة مسلمة متدينة, حفظت ثلث القرآن وانا في السنة الثامنة من عمري, و كنت مؤمنا بشدة و من اعماقي.. اتذكر العديد من المرات التي بكيت فيها تضرعا و خشية حين كنت اسمع آيات القرآن . و لكن في نفس الوقت كنت افكر بمنطق و بموضوعية. و التقطت عيناي شروخا صغيرة جدا في الصورة الجميلة التي يحاول المحيطين طمسها و خاصة الأقارب و رجال الدين. أيضا يوجد نوع من شغف مراقبية الآخرين في المجتمعات فالكل يراقب مدي تدين الآخر. عبر تلك الشروخ الصغيرة استطعت ان اري المشاكل و اخضعت تلك المشاكل للبحث بأمانة و حياد و علي الفور نمت لدي الشكوك.
اتذكر منذ ستة أعوام مضت كنت اقود سيارتي في شوارع القاهرة وانا استمع لكتاب “وهم الإله” وقتها لم اكن اعرف من هو المؤلف حقا, اذكر وقتها اننا توقفت عن السير فقط لأستمع بتركيز الي الكلمات التي تخرج من سماعة الكاسيت. كانت تلك لحظة مميزة في حياتي كان ما اسمعه هو بالظبط اصوات الشكوك لدي و اصوات المنطق الذي يخالف ما يحاول الجميع اقناعي بانه الحقيقة
الآن اشعر انني اري الصورة الكبيرة فالدين مفهوم تماما في سياق تطور المجتمعات البشرية. حالة التنوير هذه لا اعتبرها كنوع من الخروج من الظلمات الي النور او الابتعاد عن شر مطلق.. وانما هي فقط اتجاه اكثر نحو تفكير حر و ايضا عدم اضاعة للوقت القصير المتاح لدي علي هذا الكوكب في مشاعر بدون معني حقيقي
كل التحية و التقدير و الاحترام أحمد
Permalink - Posted Monday, 26 December 2011 at 11:10 PM
Dear Mr. Dawkins,
My name is Josh Elliott, and I just wanted to say thank you for opening my eyes to the truth behind religion. You are an inspiration to the youth of our generation, and I only hope that more and more people will look at your words with truth. Sincerely,
Permalink - Posted Monday, 26 December 2011 at 11:06 PM
Thanks you so much Mr. Dawkins.
I am a 15 year old science fanatic ( an understatement at best) who lives in St. Louis Missouri.
I wanted to sincerely thank you for opening my eyes. I cannot stand religeous hypocrisy, and I couldnt stand people like the WBC, or the jehovas witnesses, or any of the ilk saying that people are going to hell for not worshipping their invisible diety. I wanted to personally thank you for helping me to drop the baggage of the catholic religeon. I want to be a scientist when I grow up sir, i want to be a chemist. I want to do something like Fritz Haber did when he and Bosch made that amazing machine of theirs, and i want to thank you sir for your inspiration,
Permalink - Posted Sunday, 11 December 2011 at 09:55 PM
Dear Prof Dawkins,
I am a practising surgeon in the UK who was raised a muslim in south asia but was always sceptical of the inane, fatuous, restrictive teachings of islam. Asking questions about islamic tenets was prohibited. The reply from my religious family would always be on the lines of 'allah knows best' or, in the case of origins of the cosmos and life, 'human thought cannot reach that far, so one should not question such matters'.
I remember the day when, in one of our pre-medical school biology classes in my country of origin, the teacher - in response to a question from a witty classmate of mine about the disparity between Darwin's theory of evolution and what the quran says about the creation of the universe (such enquiries are not normally made in a muslim country) - harshly remarked, "you should remember evolution only for the exam, but you should really believe in what religion says!"
Being a natural questioner myself, I had my own doubts about religion and god but stuck with islam due to first the muslim society I was raised in and then, after coming to the UK, expectations from family and friends here. It was through watching your television documentaries over the past couple of years or so that I gradually started becoming more bold and honest with myself and sliding away from islam. Following your beautifully eloquent and brilliantly thoughtful speeches on the internet over the past few months made me finally realise, and accept, fully the beauty of reality and the fatuousness of religion. I now consider myself a complete atheist and a humanist. Having been a student of science all my life, this to me makes much more sense than being a blind follower of the stupidity of religion. In my view, all religious faiths are preposterous, anachronistic fairy tales but islam is all that plus outright viciousness.
Your amazing ability to explain answers to difficult questions in light of what mankind has discovered so far through honest enquiry and empirical observation, rather than baseless religious beliefs, has made me a true convert. I haven't revealed all this to my family or friends yet as the repercussions, even in a liberal country like the UK, would be unpleasant. I do, however, intend to slowly work on those closest to me!
I applaud your intellect and your efforts and will help RDFRS in any way I can.
Permalink - Posted Sunday, 11 December 2011 at 09:46 PM
Dear Mr. Dawkins,
I have just read The God Delusion and I would like to congratulate you for this masterpiece. Why did it take me so long to get around to reading it, you might wonder? Well, I'm not sure I have a good answer other than to say it has taken until now to feel truly ready to free myself from my religious upbringing. Your book has provided an avenue of reason and knowledge that has finally clarified my thinking on what has been a 20 year journey from regular church going christian to what I would term as emancipated humanist.
Even as a young boy, I had wondered why my religion in particular (catholicism) was the true and only path to god. Why were hindus and muslims and protestants wrong? The answers I received from my parents, who are by the way well educated and progressive people in most ways, were so unsatisfactory as to be forgettable. Likewise, the rather well-intentioned priests who asked us to pray for the conversion of the less fortunate non-catholics and the success of foreign missionary works, always left me guessing why other religions existed at all.
So it was, until I took a degree in Geology and learnt of Darwinism, evolution, geologic time and so on. It was the power of education and an inquisitive mind that led me down the road to where I am today. Your book has helped to liberate me intellectually and that feels wonderful. My faith, for want of a better word, is now in humanity and reason alone. I have realised that we do not need the lens of religion to enable our more altruistic tendencies.
I live in the United States now and see that this country, and others that have their politics and laws infected with religion, have a frightening potential for harm, exclusion, fanaticism, ignorance, etc... There is no time for complacency when these beliefs are so entrenched and 'sacred' to so many. I am glad that you have advanced the debate to a place of reason. I know you have had to endure many slings and arrows along the way and I admire your bravery for it.
Permalink - Posted Sunday, 11 December 2011 at 09:44 PM
Yes, I am a convert as a result of your book The God Delusion and have never been happier.
I grew up in a loving Baptist home but even from a young age had questions. However, one is quickly taught not to question and I never did (being a good Christian girl). But the inner nagging did not leave me. While at University I rarely attended church but when I started teaching returned to the fold once more. To my parents credit they allowed me to marry a non-Christian. It must have hurt them but they recognized his good character and integrity. I will not bore you with the whole story but over the next 20 years I gradually left the church and my Christian beliefs. Yes, it took that long! First I stopped attending church, then the Bible study group. The GUILT was terrible and it took many years to come to terms with that. But my search was not over. I wanted to get to a place that I, me, myself had got to having worked out for myself what I believed. If I was going to be Christian, I wanted to start over and do it on my terms and not because I had been told to. If I was going to be something else I did not want my husband just telling me I should share his outlook. Many more years of reading all sorts of alternative views, talking to people of various faiths etc and I was nowhere closer to deciding what my world view was. I was getting panicky as I turned 51.
Then I read your book and all the pieces fell into place!! And nothing can stop me now. There are not enough hours in the day to read and learn about the cosmos, evolution, origins, philosophy, biology as well as what the fundamentalists are preaching and teaching (scary!). I feel that if I am going to defend my viewpoint I must know as much as possible about a wide range of disciplines and topics. All this has helped me to be more analytical and to THINK logically. One does not have to be a scientist to think scientifically. It has been the most exciting time of my life and I am loving every minute.
The problem is that my close friends and relatives do not want to engage with me. Since I made my views clear they avoid talking about anything related to religion. This isolation is compounded by living in a small town in Zululand, South Africa. However, I am determined to continue educating myself and will be prepared when they are ready to talk to me.
Once again, many thanks to yourself, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Matt Dillahunty, P.Z. Myers and many others for being “out there” and making one feel part of a very sensible, inquisitive, rational, well-spoken group of individuals. You are all my life-line.
Permalink - Posted Sunday, 11 December 2011 at 09:41 PM
Dear Professor Dawkins
I was raised in a Christian Baptist family, although my parents were pretty easy-going about it. The rule was that we (my siblings and I) had to attend church until the age of 16, and then we could decide for ourselves if we wanted to continue. I never quite latched on to it, I was too inquisitive as a child and teenager, far too questioning. Noah's Ark? Really? He built a boat that could fit two of every animal? What about penguins? How did he get those? Of course, I was too polite to ask those questions in Sunday School, and I knew the answers would be more of the same unsatisfying stuff. But that's what I was thinking during every sermon. In hindsight, I think that my parent's relatively low-pressure approach meant they probably weren't drinking much of the Kool-Aid, either. Still, certain ideas stuck with me; the idea of a God or spirit, and the idea of an afterlife or some continuation of consciousness.
I'm 31 now, and about four or five years ago, I revisited my childhood love of outer-space by purchasing my first telescope. By immersing myself in the world of astronomy through forums, podcasts, and joining the local astronomy club, I became exposed to a world of scientific thinking, and eventually to skepticism. I didn't even know skepticism was a thing! Well, one thing led to another and soon I had to confront these lingering religious ideas in my head once and for all. I came across your book, The God Delusion, and began listening to the audiobook version at work. A few chapters in, I decided that perhaps I could just be agnostic. So I tried that on for a day, still too timid to take it one step further. To be honest, I never thought that atheism was anything more than just a kind of iconoclasm. It never once occurred to me that there was a sound, logical reason to be an atheist.
The next day, however, I finished your book and a particular passage towards the end hit me like a splash of cold water in the morning - it was the Mark Twain quote you read, about how he didn't fear death because he'd been dead for "billions and billions of years" before he was born. I realized, at that moment, that my entire attachment to God and an afterlife was simply a fear of non-existence. It's a reasonable fear, I think. I've been conscious for quite a few years now, I'm rather fond of it. But not once did I look at it from that perspective. Once I did, it gave me the courage to take the step forward.
I am now an atheist. And I must say, from this perspective it's a wonderful view. Since finishing The God Delusion, I've become fascinated with evolution, biology, and especially cell biology. I'm trying to learn as much as I can now. I feel more connected to the natural world, and have a newfound appreciation for life. At last I have found something that speaks to my inquisitive mind, and gives me satisfying answers! The only drawback is that many people in my country (the United States) seem far more frightening now.
Well, that's my story. I know that I will probably never have the opportunity to meet and thank you in person, so I wanted to do so here. Thank you so much for your the work that you do. You are making a difference.
Permalink - Posted Sunday, 11 December 2011 at 09:40 PM
Dear Professor Dawkins,
I cannot express in words the profound influence you have had on myself and many others. I was raised Christian conservative and always believed that the word "atheist" was synonymous with "evil." After taking a few steps back and observing my beliefs from a neutral point of view, I concluded that, actually, the word "faith" is indeed synonymous with "ignorance." After a year or so I finally decided to inform my devout parents of my loss of ignorance. Currently, I'm constantly being told that I'm the lost one, or I'm the one who doesn't know what they're talking about. Needless to say, I've adopted your policy regarding debates with YEC's. I'm unable to successfully argue with people who value faith over evidence (or knowledge). Despite my perpetual frustration, I don't have to hide my beliefs anymore, which is a great weight taken off my shoulders. At first I feared death after I stopped believing in the afterlife. Now, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have this life and certainly wouldn't insist on having a second. My fear of death was primarily based on dying before I had all the answers. However, I now realize again that science is all about constantly learning and having all the answers would make it incredibly boring. I suppose dying while knowing so little could be classified as almost a beautiful tragedy. I am currently reading all of your books and am absolutely intrigued by your views on evolution. So intrigued, as a matter of fact, that you've inspired me to return to college (after a year off) and become a science major (and yes, I'm leaning toward biology). Thank you so very much for everything that you have done and for opening the eyes of myself and many others to the beauty of science and rationality.
Permalink - Posted Saturday, 08 October 2011 at 05:47 PM