It is rare to have the opportunity to meet one of your heros – so let me tell you about the experience…
Growing up in the mid-west I was surrounded by religion. Growing up feeling “different” I questioned everything and thought 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 any social media) and I remember feeling pretty isolated. I found forget how but I got a hold of a newsletter put out from 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!
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 people – duh) 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 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 relevant topics – religion and how to get rid of it and evolution/science. I enjoyed both of those events very much and did get books signed. This third time I attended a cocktail party prior to Dawkins stage appearance. I was one of around 25 to attend and it was amazing to have the opportunity to talk one on one with my hero!
I thought for months of a question to ask since I was going to have the opportunity. I wanted something brilliant but after more thought, 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 moment! I told him of 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!