From Jehovah to Dawkins

I wrote this for the de conversion part of the Richard Dawkins website. When the forum part of the website shut down, to protect the charitable status of the Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDF), many moving testimonials were lost from the forum. Thankfully mine was copied for my blog, and explains my thought journey. To make easier to access have now made as a page. Hope you enjoy:

Dear Richard Dawkins

It really is a pleasure to be a moderator on this site. Thank you for RDF.

Maybe for me it would be true to say that Douglas Adams converted me, and led me to your works.

When I was eight I came home from school with a question as to why it rained in England but not so much in Africa where they seemed to need it most. My mother was unable to answer that question. That evening Jehovah’s Witnesses came round and my mother asked them my question.

The next 6 years was one of study. Easily I was reading publications, attending meetings, and going door to door roughly 30 – 40 hours a week. When I started secondary school I was concerned that my school acquaintances (not friends as “bad associations spoil useful habits”) would not survive Armageddon. I needed to help them see that only those that called on Jehovah would be saved. Also I knew that if they rejected what I said they would be damned to eternal sleep in hell.

Many a night spent weeping. Not only did most not heed the warning but I became a victim of bullying. The system of things was against me. Yet the congregation almost seemed glad that these people would be destroyed and soon. Even when I was on the floor being kicked I had in mind that Jesus on a stake being crucified was far worse and that he wanted his persecutors to be forgiven.

Thankfully in the main it was verbal and psychological the bullying. Though what was really driving me to despair was the thought I had failed to be convincing in helping to save my class. Half way through the first term my mother agreed to have me taught at home.

This suited me fine. More time to study God’s word, witness and help out at home (my younger brother is severely autistic and needs constant care). For science lessons I had the blue book on evolution and creation which Dawkins has multiple copies of.

My mother one day was looking at a list from school of books to read and came across Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. We had a lodger who was a big Adams fan – my mother decided such books were unacceptable as they did not teach the world was created by God. However, the more the lodger told me memorable quotes from the book the more I wanted to read it.

Secretly, like someone reading the Tyndale bible, I read the book while pretending to be asleep. I laughed silently. Not only was the book funny, but there was an illicit thrill that this was naughty but nice. Maybe I was dishonoring my mother reading this book – but it was a fun story!Douglas Adam's with the answer to life, the universe and everything to the left

And then something hit me between the eyes. If I wanted to prove that it was not the Magrathians but God that built the earth what evidence would I need? So at 13 I reread the Creation Evolution book. It did not give me anything except – well how else? Well I could say the same thing about an alien race making the earth.

By now I was close to being baptized. I had no access to science books, and one night when I was about 12 my mother had gone into my bedroom and seen a programme called Murder Most Horrid which had a satirical scene on the Ku Klux Kan – I was in the kitchen having finished watching the news that was on before. My mother accused me of watching this programme, then lying when I pointed out the facts (it had just started, I was in the kitchen before it came on). The result was that we no longer had TV in the house.

So my only source material was JW books. So I decided to look at all the old publications. Thankfully an elder had out of print copies which I was able to look at. I wanted to learn more about the society, and see if they had answered my question before somewhere.

What I discovered was an organization that changed dogma, and made predictions which had never come to pass. I was shocked. To give credit so too was my mother looking at these old publications (especially where new editions of a book changed belief without acknowledgment).

So at 14, having already had an interview as a step towards being baptized we terminated our study. I decided that I needed to go back to school to get accredited qualifications. I went back to my old school and things were fine in comparison to what they were.

When I went to 6th form friction developed between myself and mother. She had started reading the Watchtower and Awake! magazines again, while I wanted nothing to do with it. Also I had by now openly read all Douglas’ books, radio series, TV series. I came across a reference where Douglas mentioned a certain Richard Dawkins as being an influence on him, an evolutionary biologist. Decided that any friend of Adams would be a friend of mine and therefore went to a bookstore where they recommended The Blind Watchmaker.

I had about finished reading when I went to University. By now relations with my mother were strained. She did not approve of me going to 6th Form, let alone University.

But I was determined. I needed to get away from the arguments at home, and the emotional blackmail that I would be letting my brother down going to University. One moment my mother was fine with it all, then for no reason she would have a barmy about it. Looking back I realize that she was scared how she would manage without me (my parents divorced just before the JWs).

When my Uncle took me down to University it was the happiest day of my life. It was like an after life. While studying Economics and Politics I came across Bertrand Russell’s lecture “Why I am Not A Christian”. Overnight I decided that really I was an atheist, but I did not really want to make a big deal about it.

As to my mother, well I still get it in the neck being an atheist. But she and my brother are doing well.

However The God Delusion has awakened in me the political animal that I always was. Secularism is about protecting personal freedom and individual liberty. No one in the name of faith should be able to reduce people’s freedom. Also, science should teach science – not the kind of lessons I had when being taught at home which was a debasement of science fitting religious teaching.

So thank you Douglas for entertaining and getting me thinking about logic and reason. And thank you Richard for popularizing science and understanding what needs to be said about the elephant in the room. Together you have enriched my life.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

16 responses to “From Jehovah to Dawkins

  1. Pingback: God to Dawkins in Gradual Steps « Homo economicus' Weblog

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  3. Nice post. Thanks for pointing me to it. Since you brought it up Adams was deinately there nudging me in the right direction… so was Dr. Who.

  4. Pingback: The Blind Watchmaker – Dawkins Video « Homo economicus' Weblog

  5. k p spong

    I’m so glad I didn’t have go through this sort of thing, and was brought up in a (basically) secular household.

  6. Jehovah’s Witness are an occult, they do opposite of what the bible teaches and do not acknowledge Jesus is God.
    Instead of seeking truth from God, you seek truth in man.

    prove there is a god? why don’t you prove existence of Evolution of evidence of Big Bang.
    if you can’t then, you’ve always been in derision all your life.
    Shame you were bullied, bullied for what? for being a Christian? for Jesus? or for being a Jehovah’s Witness?
    We all get bullied in our life, but nothing comes close to being bullied or persecuted for Jesus.

    Do you even acknowledge the purpose of religion? religion is there for love, peace and inner peace-
    Christianity for love
    Islam for peace
    Yoga for inner peace etc
    but why is religion causing problem in this world? problem does NOT lie in religion but man!

    How can a religion made to bring love and peace cause death and chaos?
    problem lies in human beings, we are all the same, one who kills is a murderer and another who judges that murderer can also be a murderer as well but he’s time as not come to kill! We all have the same structure of DNA coding with X and Y therefore we are all not so different. We just have different coding and genes.

    Religion is the same as a gun.
    You give a gun to a man to use and protect his family. But because man is so corrupt and bible says “no one is good” Psalms 14, man will use the gun to kill, bully, cause chaos or massacre.
    so where does the problem come from? Man or Religion/Gun?

    You’ve chosen your path to follow man rather than God.
    In the end, only people who follow Jesus are the chosen ones before creation of ‘time’.
    Since you later knew you were an Atheist ever since basically means you were not called by God but made for destruction. Not to repent now means you’ve made your decision to turn your back on Jesus but to follow man- Dawkins who is heading to hell and will take you along.

    • So much anger from you. When I was being beaten up for believing as a child in the Jehovah’s Witnesses – being kicked repeatedly while on the floor – I asked for my bullies to be forgiven.

      By contrast, you try to belittle that event with breathtaking arrogance about something that happened to an eleven year old boy. A reminder that shamefully atheists and Christians are put to death in this world. Religious freedom is for every single person.

      You further ignore the story claiming I was all along an atheist. Not so, and in your eagerness to tell me how I should believe you again ignore what I have said.

      If you actually bothered to read this blog rather than assume my position I do not make the argument theism causes wars. Sadly people have made use of divisions of thought to cause untold misery to each other, rather than embrace our common humanity. My contention is religion has in practise not helped bring the world together in harmony to overcome this human trait.

      Then again you say evolution does not exist. The evidence says otherwise. If there is a God, or no God, this is how life developed on earth.

      I’m afraid having realised the man made nature of religion, your puerile threats of hell are no worse than a childhood playground bully verbally lashing out at someone they cannot comprehend. I grew out of fears of demons and destruction in the end of days. These words are name calling designed for vulnerable children. Not me.

      But thank you for sharing with me your version of religion.

      I do not believe things out of fear or anger. If you think shouting and preaching would work to make your case, you really are showing yourself up not me.

    • Yoga is NOT a religion! Plus if all of us are the same, how come some of us think that religion has a purpose of spreading peace and love while some of us believe it’s divide and rule? What would have been the need of separate religions if the sole purpose for all of them is peace? Would Israel and Palestine be an issue then? No. Because there would be no grounds for discrepancy. You are blaming man, but I believe man is the one who “brought” religion for a sense of power, to dominate, to rule and to stamp a clan of people as their own while reject the existence of the others. I come from a so- called secular country where everyday there is news of some violence due to religious grounds. The entire system over the world is being fuelled by religion, and most of it is corrupt and unhealthy. You talk about attaining Heaven and in the bid for that create a living hell. Who does that? I do not think God intended to do that.

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  9. David

    “It did not give me anything except – well how else?”
    The argument you make seems to be that this book tried to prove argument A by disproving argument B. You show that disproving B could equally suggest believing in argument C. Okay – but then your conclusion from that is to say that, therefore, you are going to believe in B, the argument that got disproved, a fact which you actually raise no objection to in itself.

    Besides which, surely chapters 9 and 18 of the Creation or Evolution book DO contain numerous arguments for God’s existence which cannot be applied to the Magratheans? But then perhaps you came to realize that this line of reasoning against God’s existence didn’t make sense, which would explain why at that point in your story, you abandon such analysis and instead turn to criticism of others to support your course of action – and criticism for what, in particular? Simply for learning new things as time went on. “changed belief without acknowledgment”? That’s like complaining about a new version of a science textbook for having updated its periodic table without acknowledgement. It may be of some academic interest to compare a modern day periodic table to one from a century ago, or to compare a modern day Watchtower to one of the oldest ones, but if you think the changes you’ll see in either of those instances are evidence of some sort of weird conspiracy, then you’ve completely missed the point of both of those pieces of literature. Neither of those changes reflect anybody trying to lie to you or hide anything from you – or indeed, any actual change in the underlying facts. They both just reflect improved knowledge – and a willingness of the people involved not to try to stick to their previous claims but to try to keep expanding their knowledge and understanding, generally considered a positive quality, not a negative one! And in both cases, sensible people will just be glad of the increased knowledge now available, not angry that the previous understanding has changed.

    • I find it incredible that giving a false prophecy about when the end of the world is going to happen (life time of those that saw 1914) can be put to one side as “improved knowledge” when bible itself says to beware false prophets. Let alone other things mentioned in my post.

      I hope the penny drops one day. Think for yourself.

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