Not all of my email consists of metaphorical daggers hurled my way. I actually get a fair amount of praise and comments about how I’ve won people over to the cause of atheism — I just tend not to post those, because of my awesome modesty and because you all know this stuff, anyway. This one is interesting because I didn’t convince the fellow to be an atheist, but instead made him think…which is what we’re all after, anyway.
Good day, Mr. Myers.
My name is Josh. I just wanted to send you a message about how you, in the strangest way, changed my life, and my faith for the better.
I’m quite aware of your feelings toward religious people. And I honestly can’t blame you. We don’t have a terrific public track record, and more often than not, we tend to be the closed minded conservative bigots everyone blames us for being, and I’m honestly sad to say that I was just that way, and probably hurt a few people while I sat around being Mr. Holy.
But all that aside, I feel I owe where I am now in my life to you, and whether or not you care how you’ve improved the faith of a young, struggling Christian, I wanted to tell you anyway.
Last semester I took a Religions of the World course, and as an extra-credit assignment, I was given the option to attend an event at the Missouri State University, at which you spoke. I went, and let me tell you, it was probably one of the most jarring and terrifying moments of my life. I’d always known there were those who strongly opposed religion. In fact, one of my best friends in high school was an extreme skeptic, who constantly asked me the tough questions, you know, the ones that usually can only be answered with “He works in mysterious ways.” But I’d never been in a room packed with people who whooped and cheered every time a stab was taken at the way I’d chosen to live my life. It was chilling and upsetting and I wanted to leave every second since you’d first opened your mouth. I didn’t hate you for saying it. How could I? It was your belief and you were sharing it, which you have every right to do.
But what horrified me the most wasn’t the room full of atheists, or the seemingly impenetrable arguments you provided that I should completely dump my faith and see the world in a different light. What turned my stomach and threatened to send me off the edge were the stories you told of Christians giving the rest of us a bad name, such as those at the Catholic Mass when the student stole the cracker and received death threats. I suppose hypocrisy is simply the nature of the conventional Christian. They act like children in a tree house that throw rocks at anyone who hurts their feelings.
Atheists ranting about how the past five generations of my family are superstitious crackpots I can handle, because the atheists are standing for what they believe, but when people who claim to have devoted their lives to furthering the love and compassion that Jesus showed start acting in ways that negate every message they’ve ever tried to present, or they choose which biblical rules they want to follow and which to ignore, and things like that, it really just makes me sick.
Anyway, I suppose this isn’t terribly interesting to you in any event, but I’ve resolved to stop sitting in church and being spoon fed pre-cooked beliefs, and to start seeking answers by asking questions I was afraid to before. The founder of Buddhism once said, “Do not believe these things because I’ve told you to, but find truth through your own experiences.” I’ve adopted that to the core of my beliefs.
I still believe in God, and I still consider myself a Christian, but I’m seeing things in a different light. I’m finding the meaning behind the rituals and traditions, rather than just believing there’s power in “holy” water or an oyster cracker. I’ve begun searching for the reasons why certain rules are administered, instead of just saying “because the bible says so”.
I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come in contact with you again, but I want to sincerely thank you. I know I completely missed the purpose of your speech, but whether or not you actually accept my thanks isn’t the point. I hope that maybe others of my faith can learn the lesson I did, and I definitely think that it’s a good idea to listen what nonbelievers have to say.
After all, knowledge never really hurt anyone, right?