I occasionally put up some of the wackier/more obnoxious e-mail I get from creationists and other deluded True Believers, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression—I also get lots of friendly and supportive email. I just don’t think any of it is quite as entertaining as the crazy stuff. Anyway, for balance, and because he was nice enough to give permission to post it, here’s a message from the sane side.
Dear Prof. Myers,
I wanted to write you a thank you letter, for a couple of reasons. I understand that you must be a busy man, what with the students and family and all, so I hope you at least get a chance to read this, if not reply. I apologize in advance if it seems long. I’m not good at writing concisely
First, let me thank you for your highly enjoyable blog. I really appreciate genuine attempts to explain things in laymen’s terms, as I find most scientific fields fascinating, but am no scientist. It’s very satisfying to read a piece about a new species or new information on already identified animals and understand it. Or least hope I have, I guess. On a related note, your critiques of creationism are fantastic; even to an amateur like me it is clear creationist claims don’t meet any sort of rigorous scientific standards, and it’s nice to know specifically why. It’s also pleasing to get the perspective of a real scientist as to how and why creationist programs are bad for schools and education in general.
Second, I want to personally thank you for helping me realize I need to stop beating about the bush and just admit being an atheist. In the past I suppose I would have described myself as “undecided,” “spiritual,” or at most “agnostic.” I will also admit that I was scared, not only of conceding that I don’t know the meaning to much of anything, but of the negative reactions I would surely receive from friends, family and people I know if I were to say I was an atheist. I started reading your blog sometime late last year and in a strange way all those links to creationist websites, letters and news stories were a big part of this decision. I mean, I didn’t get a lot of exposure to atheism when I was younger, only some benign Christianity (my parents, thankfully, stopped asking me to go to church with them and the most I had to do was join hands for grace at Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas), so there wasn’t much pressure one way or another. Those websites, letters and links, on the other hand, gave me a lot of exposure to people who would not only disagree with my worldview (they’re free to do so, frankly) but would impose theirs on me by force (which is decidedly not acceptable).
After reading and becoming, I think for the first time in my adult life, acquainted with truly devout Christianity (or whatever), the only logical conclusion I could draw was that the more devout someone is, the more likely they are to act out of sync with the spirit of their religion and the more likely they are to be, as far as I can tell, nuts.
Reading you, on the other hand, led me to the conclusion that the best way to fight these people and their ridiculous ideas that I’m immoral, evil, or leading an empty life or others astray, or communist, or whatever the bogeyman of the week is, is to not to hide what I believe. To throw it in their faces, actually, to be able to say and show why they’re wrong, and why what they’re trying to do is the truly immoral choice.
So, there it is. I’m an atheist. There never was, is or will be a god or gods and any claims to the contrary are wishful thinking at best and outright willful ignorance at worse. Far from being immoral or evil, I’m a conscientious and moral person – and I think about morality constantly. And I don’t need some bearded, invisible man in the sky or contradictory holy book to tell me when I’ve done wrong.
Thank you for helping me say that. I hope the next time you feel angry or upset about religion in the US, it picks you up a little bit to know you’ve reached at least one person.
P.S. If, for whatever reason, you felt it would be good to share my letter, either on your blog or just with friends, please feel free to do so. Leave me name attached if you do, though. I’m damn tired of hiding what I believe – and what I don’t believe in. I didn’t write this to get you to put it up on your website, either. I am genuinely thankful, it’s just that you talked about sharing stuff a while back and the difficulties you sometimes encountered when it wasn’t clear what you could do with a link or response.
Also, squids/octopuses are neat and all, but I just can’t get beyond the fact that they are also completely terrifying. They’re so…unearthly.
Now we just have to work on the cephalopod aversion. And the tithing.