It is rare to have the opportunity to meet one of your lifelong heroes – I did – let me tell you about it.
Growing up in the mid-west I was surrounded by religion and it never made any sense to me. The evidence that I saw and the logical thought led me to question everything and think for myself. As a result I become an atheist around the age of 13. This was especially difficult since the environment that I was in was so centered around religion with a church on every corner (slight exaggeration but not by much)! This was decades before the internet (or social media) and I remember feeling isolated and alone. I seemed to be the only one who could see through this illogical and childish delusion. One day I found a printed newsletter which was published by an organization called Freedom From Religion which you subscribed to and was mailed (not emailed) to you once a month. It covered issues such as separation of church and state. I looked forward to received each monthly newsletter because it was great to have even this small connection to a like minded community standing against religion!
Around this same time Richard Dawkins published his groundbreaking and now iconic work, The Selfish Gene. I have always been interested in science and especially biological science. I was fascinated with evolution and how it made the myths of religion irrelevant and what should be nothing more than a footnote in ancient human history – not “institutions” aka CULTS which limit thought and demand ignorance and blind obedience to a supernatural entity.
Dawkins book explored the mechanism of evolution and in the massive volume explains how all life (including animals such as humans) have evolved for genes to be passed along. As Samuel Butler stated that a chicken is just an egg’s way of making another egg. The chicken exists only to reproduce and create another egg…not a chicken. So the childish query of “which came first the chicken or the egg” is answered.
But back to meeting my hero. The book was published in 1976 at which time I was in my mid-teens so I eagerly read it and as you can imagine, this book further built on Charles Darwin’s discovery and made it even clearer in my mind. Decades later Dawkins would come out as a vocal militant atheist which is a position I had held – well since it was clear from the evidence that all life on earth evolved and that no supernatural force was necessary for this. Dawkins published his work The God Delusion in 2006 which stated in a concise book his critical views of the religion.
I had had the opportunity to hear Dawkins 2 time prior to meeting him. Both times were in Los Angeles at the Alex Theater. At both those events it was an evening with Professor Dawkins and a guest having a discussion on stage on relevant topics – religion and how to get rid of it and evolution/science. After words the audience could ask a few questions. I enjoyed both of those events very much and did get books signed. This third time I attended a cocktail party prior to Professor Dawkins stage appearance. I was one of around 15 to attend and it was amazing to have the opportunity to talk one on one!
I thought for months of a question to ask since I was going to have the opportunity. I wanted something brilliant but after more contemplation, I ultimately decided that a question was not the best use of my time with Dawkins. I decided that telling him how much of an influence he had been on most of my adult life from the age of 16 to that very moment! I explained growing up in the Midwest and rejecting religion and how much his work book The Selfish Gene had meant to me and how now, his work against religion was so important and was changing so many lives around the world by giving them the confidence to “come out” as atheists and escape the illusion of religion and start living life here on planet earth. Thank you Professor Dawkins for all you have done and continue to do!