Category: Converts Corner

The religions were interesting to me, but none were persuasive.

I was born in 1944 in the Midwest region of the United States. My parents were Catholic. I attended and graduated from a Catholic high school where the majority of teachers were members of a religious congregation of sisters. As a small child, I expressed a desire to become a priest, and I received so much positive feedback that I persisted throughout high school and college — I just assumed that my life would be spent in a religious institution. After a year of college I joined a religious order and was a postulant, then a novice in the order. One afternoon, while sitting in the chapel during a period of time called meditation, my mind wondered to a childhood incident where my parents hired someone to come to our home dressed as Santa Clause. While sitting on the actor’s lap, I couldn’t help notice that his mustache was held in place by, what appeared to me to be, a band aid. In that instant, I realized that Santa Clause was not a real person, but only something which made the Christmas season more fun. Rather than blurt out the truth, I decided to go along with the gag, and not spoil the fun for me and the rest of the family. In the monastic chapel, while remembering that moment, I realized that my belief in the God and the rest of the Catholic pantheon (for lack of a better word), was no different than my prior belief in Santa Clause. It was like someone had turned on a light — a light that has never gone out. Shortly there after, I left the Order.

The year was 1965 and I was 21 years old. Within a few months, I was drafted into the Army. It was suggested that because of my background, that I serve my time as a Chaplin’s Assistant, which I did. I worked for several Catholic priests, both in the United States and in Vietnam. I did not make a secret of the fact that I did not believe in God. By the way, if anyone tells you there are no atheists in fox holes, don’t believe them — One night, during the Tet Offensive, my platoon was awaiting instructions in a bunker while mortars and rockets fell all around us. I asked if I was the only atheist in the bunker, and learned that nearly a third of the men there indicated that they were atheist too. Not exactly a scientific survey, but it demonstrates the point.

After I completed my Army service, I traveled around the world, making my way overland to India and Nepal. This was in the late 1960s and early 1970. Although I was exposed to numerous religions — Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist – including Tibetan, and others, but I never gave a serious thought to the idea that one of them could be “the one true religion.” The religions were interesting to me, but none were persuasive.

After my travels were complete, I returned to my home and began a career as a factory work and became involved in the labor movement. When that career came to an end, I returned to school and became a paraprofessional, and have work as such ever since.

Although I have never made a secret of the fact that I am an atheist all these many years, until very recently, the only reason that I could use for my position was simply that religion simply made no sense to me. I also knew that I was not the first to come to that conclusion. I knew that many of the founding fathers of the United states were probably atheist, and I knew of famous people like Clarence Darrow and others from his time. I was always a big fan of Madalyn Murray O’Hair as well. However, I began to find my real heroes in people like Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krause, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and other scientists, who have explained in terms that lay people like myself can understand, that the cosmos can be explained in completely natural terms from now all the way to the big bang, and probably even before, all without any reference to supernatural powers. We know that the gaps in our current knowledge will someday be explained in natural terms without reference to superstition. And we also have biblical scholars like Richard Carrier, Bart D. Ehrman, Daniel Dennett, and others who explain the real historical significance of the bible. What a wonderful time in which to be living.

I often wonder how my life would have been different if my early childhood years had not been filled with the fantasy of the priesthood. Be that as it may, I am grateful to Prof. Dawkins and the others mentioned above, who provide hours and hours of intellectually stimulating lectures and debates. Although I may never live to see it, I look forward to a world in which the practice of religion is remembered only in historical terms — in the same way we study Greek, Roman, Egyptian and other ancient mythology.

 

-Mike

I just became an atheist a few seconds ago.

My parents are missionaries. I just became an atheist a few seconds ago. It was not only because of “The God Delusion”, but also – and maybe mainly – because of my personal experience through the years. It also did not happened suddenly – I matured to this moment for years.
What’s my story?
In the name of God and the Bible I was beaten as a child. It was “only spanks” they say, but those spanks, along with the paternal regime of my father, made me suffer from anxiety disorder and also pushed me to marry a cruel, deeply religious man. This man nearly devastated me and I was forced to divorce him.
And in that moment I realized, how deeply hypocritical my environment and whole society is. I felt like an outcast. My so-called friends gave me endless lectures regarding how Marriage is a holy sacrament and is unbreakable. No one cared that I was abused. Even now I hear sometimes, that I am still married to this man, and by my new marriage I am adulterizing. I hear it although I am finally free, cured from my anxiety and happily married to a wonderful, calm, loving and caring man.

Because of my story and through the years of thinking about my religion over and over I decided to read “The God Delusion”. What I found there left me with no choice, but to name my atheism out loud.
Since I know God is not there, I feel free and happy like never before. And I know what I’m talking about – I was deeply religious for over 30 years. And there was not even one moment during those years when I could have felt so relieved, as I am now. I don’t feel the burden of guiltiness and shame, which followed me as I was Christian (Roman Catholic). I am not fear of death now – because I was never afraid of it, I was afraid of hell.
Thank you Richard Dawkins.

 

-Margaret

From Mormon to Secular Agnostic

I am a fan of Richard Dawkins and of the work that he did as a professor of biology, and I have become increasingly grateful for his tireless work for this foundation. I was a Mormon, but have always held some non-standard views of the church. At one point I was a anti-evolution and even overall anti-science, but certain things like a deep love of the earths prehistory and eventually for the true histories of the people who inhabit it. I snapped out of the darkness of pure religious thought later in my teens, and came to love and appreciate science and the pursuit of truth. Now, I’m on my second year of university, studying linguistics and Canadian indigenous languages and cultures. After some careful thought, I’ve found the truth of science, history, culture and language irreconcilable with the false reality that Mormon faith has painted for me throughout my youth and I no longer wish to return to the proverbial darkness of religion which clouds ones vision. As a Mormon, it is customary for family to mourn their “lost sheep,” and that serves as a great point of fear for me. That and the fear that I now recognize as deep indoctrination and psychological issues that have resulted from years of cultural immersion make it extremely difficult to make the transition. I’ve already adopted a more humanist morality. I’m a vegetarian, and I believe in doing as little harm to anything with a nervous system as I can. As I move forward with this, I will need as much support as I can possibly get and the Richard Dawkins Foundation is a great resource for me to begin. Overall, I’d like to thank this organization for everything it does for those who need a help and advice while they transition from the cultural cloud of faith that surrounds them, to the breath of fresh air that is secular agnosticism.

 

-Dominik

Closet atheist needs atheist friends

Dear sir/madam

I don’t know who is going to read this but I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

I was reading about religion for a quite long time because I knew there is something wrong and the religion is not good enough for me or society. The Islamic teachings are so sacred in my country and the only way to let myself to get around this is to find the solution in different Islamic schools of thought. I started to read every book against whabisim and it seemed convincing that time. Little by little I gain the courage to criticise some Islamic teaching and the cycle grow bigger. I thought I’m losing faith so I went to the mosque much more often than usual. When I spoke my thought louder I lost some friends as I were asking for women rights in my country and I was criticising some profound beliefs in that country. Sorry I forgot to say I happened to be from Saudi Arabia.

Losing friends didn’t bother me much, two or three friends aren’t a big loss in the sake of right and gender equality. However, I continued reading and studying religion till the point I considered my self as an atheist but I was hanging in the religion by the last string “family”. By that time I came to the UK to study English language and to study masters in physics.

One day I came a cross the god delusion in charity shop and I bought it for a pound. Half way through the book I announced myself an atheist with a plan to hide this from everyone. No religion can convince me back I tried many religions but each religion is more stupid than the other. Physics and rationalism are my new religion if I could say so.

As I started studying my MSc degree it happened that I was thought by Jim Alkhalili. An atheist came from a Muslim country. That must was hard for him as I expect. The sad thing every one is judging me by skin colour and name every one assumes I’m a Muslim even my British classmates. I don’t blame them it’s rare to find an atheist named [deleted for privacy].

I’m very scared. I already lost a sister because she found about me. I’ll lose all my family soon or later and I’ll be looked at as bad person from every Muslim I know in my country. I’ll lose my job I’ll lose friends and I’ll be headed as the Quran say so.

I’m very terrified.

I have no one to speak to I just want to talk.

Good night

Kind regards
Moha

Science shows us the wonder of reality.

Dear Richard,

I have just finished reading ‘The God Delusion’ and felt compelled to write to you to let you know how much of an impact it has had on my thinking.

I am a gay man, brought up to Irish Catholic parents. My mother was a wonderful, kind-hearted woman from the country, and my father was a very well-intentioned, but highly religious man(iac). Having practically abandoned any kind of actual religious belief long ago, I still felt a distant affection for the rituals of the church, along with residual guilt-resonance whenever I did anything un-catholic (sex, usually).

I now feel quite happy to say categorically that I am an atheist. I will still happily sing church music (I was a choral scholar and lay clerk at Oxford at around the time you wrote the book) but will appreciate it for its artistic value, without attaching any mystical meaning to it.

I’m currently sat in a cafe in Nepal, having just finished the final chapter. I am very taken by your passion for science and your explanations of the alternative ways of perceiving quantum theory. This jogged a long-forgotten memory of applying to be a choral scholar, as one of the stages of the process, I was required to have an interview with the then Chaplain. We were required to write a short statement explaining how we would uphold the Christian values associated with being a choral scholar. As an enthusiastic teenager fresh from a Physics A Level I waxed lyrical about the wonder of the natural world and included something about how quantum physics might better help us to understand the nature of God. I remember vividly the chaplain taking me to task on this, taking me down a peg or three, suggesting that I had no idea what I was talking about and that I shouldn’t even make such stupidly ill-informed suggestions. I was thoroughly deflated by the encounter, but I now realise that perhaps I had hit a raw nerve. It is also possible that he was just an arsehole.

In any case, I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I have never written to an author after reading one of their books, but felt the need to do so today. It’s always nice for us to hear that our work has a positive impact on people, so I just wanted to let you know that I’ll buy you lots of drinks if our paths ever cross.

All best