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An Email From A Listener

We’ve been getting some tremendous emails lately from listeners who have ‘Escaped to Reality’ from what was once a skeptic-less existence.  Because the vast majority of present-day skeptics have been there before (I know of very few people who grew up as skeptical kids) we can relate to anecdotes such as this.  That The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe has played some role in people’s awakening to skepticism really does make all of our efforts worthwhile.

I’m not sure where to start, but thanks are in order. Your podcast is entertaining and informative and has really helped me break free from the bonds of my childhood. Thanks to your podcast and other sites you’ve changed my views and life :)

I grew up in Australia, firstly in Sydney then in rural town not too far from the beach. My parents are good people and they love me and my sister very much. The thing is, shortly before I was born they had become Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was something I grew up with, my parents encouraged me to question things, my mother is a school teacher and my father an electrician, but questioning my beliefs was not something I’d ever considered.

I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person who’s capable of reason and logical thought, and although I could argue (for entertainment) for hours with friends about various subjects, the glaring holes in my entire belief system were completely missed.

I was home schooled after my first year and a half at school, mainly because my mother could do it and because I didn’t like the way of learning at school (sounds pretentious I know, but hey, how many 6 year olds actually like school). I always had a keen interest in science and technology and my parents encouraged exploring these fields, which I did, and my current job is computer programming (although now I think packing up and having a farm somewhere sounds appealing.)

I moved to England when I was 19 and continued my devout faith, I was a veritable well of knowledge of the bible and the doctrine of the witnesses but I found myself getting distracted by other things that other people that age do, partying etc.

I moved to Barcelona 3 years ago and for the wrong reasons decided to slip away from my faith, I was at the time too lazy to bother with it all (it’s really a full time commitment), although I no longer considered myself a witness I still unquestioningly held on to some of the beliefs I was brought up with but pushed them aside with an “oh well if the end comes at least the worst that happens is I die”.

Happily though, thanks to my boss believe it or not, who is a very intelligent guy and likes to debate and question things, I came across your podcast. It captured me, firstly because of the homeopathy which was the theme of the first podcast I listened to and I had seen a homeopath when I was much younger, and a family friend is a homeopath, and it was so exciting to me to find out about how so much of what people believe in is just bullshit! But that was the initial wedge and it led me to think, what else have I thought true might not be. So after lots of research on the bible, god, religions, the JWs and many other subjects, I’ve finally been able to free myself from the constant pressure (almost fear, but not quite) that had existed in my life for such a long time.

It’s nice to be able to look at things with a skeptical viewpoint, it really is a freedom I have not allowed myself before, and I still have my love for science! I really appreciate the effort and work you guys put into your show, it really pays off, and I know I’m not the only person it has affected in such a big way.

My only sadness is that my sister and parents are still stuck with their beliefs and although all the JWs I know have been pretty decent people, I know the teachings of religions in general can be harmful!

Kindest regards,

Luke

5 comments to An Email From A Listener

  • Rallick

    Wow, that’s almost word for word my life’s story, with different places and dates. I was born in Holland, and moved to Ireland, then the UK. I think the conversion process for me was a bit slower than for Luke, but the overall story is strikingly similar. I’d just like to add my thanks to Luke’s, keep up the good work folks, you’re making a difference!

  • louiseb

    Wow that’s fascinating. I grew up in almost the exact opposite – parents with medical and scientific backgrounds, and a Mum who wrote to the school saying I couldn’t attend religious instruction. She would get into mildly embarrassing arguments with people about politics, religion, racism, you name it… nothing was off-limits because “people need to be challenged!” “Rebelling” for me was spending an afternoon after a philosophy class one day pondering whether I really was atheist or was I actually (gasp!) agnostic?! A: atheist. Religion was and still is for me quite a foreign concept and I find it hard to fathom how intelligent, educated friends of mine hold these beliefs. But then it’s clear from Luke and Rallick’s stories how entrenched these ideas we’re brought up with as children become.

    Anyway I still had a “hallelujah!” moment when I found SGU because finally I realised there was a voice out there for people “like me” and that despite falling under the umbrella of being a skeptic/atheist/non-believer/fan of science-based medicine/etc, I still had a lot to learn about logical arguments, how to effectively “challenge” people, etc. And that regardless of our ideological orientation, all of us have a responsibility to keep questioning things.

    Thanks guys, keep it up!

  • Hey guys, thanks for publishing my email, I really hope that it might help others in the same situation as me!

    @Rallick: I have a friend who’s just going through the steps now of getting out, it’s a difficult process.

    @louiseb: It’s true, now looking back I can’t believe I question many things that people told me, but the things I was taught from when I was little I just believed, things like the story of Noah’s Ark…I mean it’s embarrassing admitting such things but I believed it! But there’s that psychological side to it too where you’re beliefs are confirmed by those who you spend time with and it’s like a positive reenforcement loop. Also the schedule is so full, you spend hours a week attending meetings and studying literature, this keeps you occupied and stops you from thinking about what you’re actually doing.
    Another really important point is that if you make the choice to abandon your beliefs you instantly lose your friends and in many cases your family, making it almost easier to just go along with the flow.
    But as they say “The truth will set you free” and in my case, it really has :)

  • ChocoT

    I also grew up a Jehovah’s Witness in Australia. I was always interested in science (and a lot of psuedoscience, I could see the differences) and just assumed that one day the scientific world would mesh with religion. I had the same experience as Luke, as soon as I stopped attending meetings (at 16) it allowed me to see the church objectively.

    I started reading The God Delusion and listening to your podcast at around the same time. With every podcast and chapter of that book I was forced to completely change the way I viewed the world. I am not at all naturally skeptical, so I remember every time you guys mentioned a logical fallacy or talked about rules for evidence having my mind blown that I didn’t see the logic before.

    Because of you guys I quit my menial job and am in my first year studying chemistry. Thanks a million for doing what you guys do.

  • ChocoT

    Sorry that should be “(and a lot of psuedoscience, I could NOT see the differences)”

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