Recently, I came across a section of noted atheist Richard Dawkins' website called Convert's Corner, a place for user-submitted stories of their deconversion from religion and, often, their high praise for Dawkins' work and influence in their lives. As one story by ex-Christian Andrew Hawkins puts it, "a friend lent me The Blind Watchmaker and my faith disappeared in an instance. Without genesis and original sin there was no need for Jesus. At last, here was the explanation I was looking for: Evolution..." So powerful is Dawkins' delivery of truth and revelation, it took only one book to change everything for Hawkins!
Picking up on the theme of unabashed praise for Dawkins' work and desiring to pursue evolution to its ultimate conclusions, I sent the following message to the Converts' Corner. As yet, I've received no reply and they have not posted it on RichardDawkins.net.
Dear Mr. Dawkins,
I just wanted to write you a note, a short one, if I may. I always knew words had power, but I never fully realized that power until I read your books. How you found the insight and wisdom that has escaped so many before you is beyond me, but I'm sure glad you've passed it on! Your disregard for anything beyond the natural world is impressive. It takes a lot of faith to stand up and say ""I know for sure that God (a supernatural being) does not exist because I have not and will not allow myself to see beyond the natural. Therefore, there is no supernatural." Some may see it as the perspective of a narrow mind, but you saw beyond that. You took your cues from science. You searched for the evidence. You found the evidence. You made science explain what you had to say. And your excellent education allowed you to say it well. What else is needed to persuade? You have persuaded me, and my life is forever changed as a result. Your words were powerful. I feel that power right now in amazing ways. Just because this world looks designed, doesn't mean it is! Randomness is a beautiful thing, isn't it? I don't have to feel guilty any more. Geez, religions have a way of making you feel guilty, don't they? How could we possibly be to blame for anything? The universe happened. We happened. The cards fell pretty well for us, I guess, considering how it could have been. Who made the cards? No one, of course! Because there is no one beyond the natural! There is nothing beyond this world, nothing beyond what I can touch, see, feel, hear, and prove with the scientific method.
Anyway, I could go on and on. But the truth is, I can't. I came to realize my own part in all of this. I happened by accident. My parents happened by accident. Everything I know happened by accident. You helped me understand that there was no purpose to life, no design, no bigger picture beyond evolution by natural selection. What I came to realize is that, compared with other people, there wasn't much that I had that would be of much use to who I'd become in the future. My genes don't have a whole lot to offer the next stage of the evolutionary cycle! I have a few talents, but beyond that, I'm nothing special. I wouldn't even consider myself handsome. I thought, what if I get married and create children? Will they be better or worse than me? Will they have my physical or mental faults? Will they be an improvement? I thought about it quite a bit. In the end, I guess I kind of caved in to the pressure of evolutionary thought. That's a big weight on the shoulders, thinking I'm a stage of a grand scheme of change, adaptation, selection, and filtration. There's so much at stake. So, no kids became the better option. To be frank, I didn't even think getting married would be of any use, since love is only an emotion driven by our desire to better the species. It can't be real in the sense that religions talk of it. I used to be taught that life was special. But after reading your stuff, I didn't think that was the case any more. I mean, what's special about random mutation and natural selection? What is to be set apart? Nothing. Everything in the natural world just happened, and it will all un-happen as randomly as it started. Now, I'll be honest. Some of the thoughts I was having while reading your latest book The God Delusion scared me. I began to think about the randomness of life and how, no matter what I try to do, I'm always short on cash or behind on bills. What is the point of trying to make it somewhere when there's no purpose to anything anyway? You made great points in your book and at the end of it, I had to agree that the idea of a God was simply preposterous. I came from primordial ooze and I'll become that once again. No point. Anyway, I decided to take matters into my own hands and call this game before it started getting really boring or simply impossible! Downtown there's a hotel that's fifty-four stories high. I've figured out how to get to the access roof. After I send this message, I'll probably call my mother in Boston and wish her luck. She's getting remarried in a month. I won't go into detail with her. She's never been one for rational thinking. Mr. Dawkins, if you've read this far, thank you. I don't want to take up too much of your time. You've got people to deconvert! I just wanted to share with you my take on things, for what it's worth. Don't feel responsible for what I do, by the way. Actually, you should feel glad. You've released me from bondage! I felt so weighed down by purpose. Here I was looking for it when it's never been there to begin with! The things they do to us when we're young, eh? Well, I'd say God bless you and all that, but that would just be stupid. And I guess saying Darwin bless you is pretty stupid too, seeing as the guy has been dead a while. So life bless you, I guess. Thanks for your words. Like I said, I never knew power until I read what you had to say. And that, as Robert Frost once said, has made all the difference.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
I attended an opening night showing of the new Ben Stein documentary with friends and colleagues on Friday. Interspersed with his trademark humor and some hilarious old and new footage, 'Expelled' follows Stein as he goes in search of the truth. Why, he asks, does America celebrate and uphold freedom of thought and expression in every other area except this one - science and its relationship to the big questions - the origins of life, the importance of human life, and that pesky question that just won't go away - from where did the first self-replicating cell come?
According to Richard Dawkins, one of the best known atheists in the world of unbelief, the answer to that last question is unknown. Why, then, do they seem so confident? Why do Darwinists take such great pains to defend what they don't know? And why are they so hostile to other theories? As Stein points out in the film, those who are confident about their beliefs are not going to turn to hostility when they are
challenged. It seems the first to do that would be the unsure and the confused. And yet, here they come, the new atheists, guns blazing as they attack and vilify religion. They have their theories, and we have ours.
It all boils down to the simple argument of design versus chance.
Did all this just happen, or was it planned and designed to happen this way? Are humans a special creation or are they just one of many species? Are our actions a product of genuine free will, or are they simply the result of natural selection? Why is there evil and suffering in the world? Is it somehow connected to us, or are we mere victims? Could it be that we are responsible to something bigger than us, a designer, a creator? And even more than that, could it be that this designer loves us deeply and has a purpose for our existence? Some say it is a bedtime story, a fairy tale. One of the scientists in 'Expelled' scoffs that they shouldn't even insult children with it. What if it were true? What if science could explore and reveal aspects of it? Are we going to let it?
Has life come to us by design or by chance? Do humans have a purpose? Are we special? Is science big enough to let God in?
Join the discussion here at LifeNotes: Design or Chance?