Dear Prof Dawkins,
I see you have met my friend Melissa. I’ve actually never met her, but nonetheless she is incredibly important to me. You see, I became acquainted with her because of you. And the two of you together (along with a small legion of people I’ve never met) saved my life. Let me explain…no, that would take too long, let me sum up.
I was a conservative American evangelical pastor who accidently became an atheist. I hated it. I hated losing my religion. Truth be told, I still hate it.
I didn’t chose to become an atheist, it was something forced upon me. The Truth, which had always been knocking at my mental door, had forced it’s way into my life. It stood there, naked, unwelcome, and immovable. One day, I knew I didn’t believe any more. That hurt. It hurt probably more than you can possibly imagine.
I didn’t want to live anymore.
My entire life was wrapped up in my faith, in my god. Realizing he couldn’t possibly be real was devastating to me. As I write this now, tears well up into my eyes remembering the pain. I know it must seem ridiculous, trite even. But faith was not just my career, but my reason for living.
I was so fortunate that I heard about the Clergy Project. A place for me, filled with people like me. I visited the page half a dozen times before I drummed up the courage to fill out the application. And when they accepted it, and they wanted to interview me, I had to sit in the parking lot of a local pizza shop to talk to a screener. I told him my story. I said, out loud, for the first time, I was an atheist. And the man on the other end of the phone, the Clergy Project Screener, understood me. He had been in my shoes. He let me into the club.
He asked me what I wanted to be called? I dared not revealed my real name! So I called myself John Jameson, as in the whiskey maker. I called myself Jameson because my loss of faith made me want to crawl into a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey and drink until I died.
But once inside the Clergy Project, I realized how many people were just like me. This inspired to write my story, which in turn lead to me live blogging my coming out experience. This would later be picked up by Hemant at the Friendly Atheist blog, which brought tons of people to my blog, including Melissa which you have had the pleasure to meet.
The support and love my readers gave to me imparted hope to me. I could hope that things would work out. I could hope that there was life after faith. I could hope that my wife would eventually understand me. I could hope that I could hold my family together. Eventually when I found myself without a job, readers like Melissa, personally gave their own money to me, every month, to ensure my family’s financial survival.
In the end Prof Dawkins, things worked out for me. This was, in part, because of you. Your foundation played a crucial role in the launch of the Clergy Project. I have no idea how much of a role you personally may have had in this. But it doesn’t matter to me. You, in some part, saved my life and my family and I am in you debt.
I cannot possibly repay you for your help in the creation of the Clergy Project, but I hope you know that I am grateful.
And for any of my readers, especially for those who have kept in touch, and those who gave financially to my family…for as grateful as I am to Prof Dawkins, I am still grateful for you!
Things for me are better than I could have hoped! I wish I could hug you all. I love you all.
Prof Dawkins, Melissa, Clergy Project members, and PNF supporters if you ever need someone to talk to…never hesitate to reach out. I owe you all.
PNF, aka John James, but actually Brendan Murphy