The story of Richard Morgan, converted after a Scottish Pastor braved the underbelly of richarddawkins.net...
it was his interest in evolution that led him to follow Richard Dawkins. Upon finding the author’s actual website, Morgan was excited to communicate with scientists and philosophers who could offer more insight into evolution.
But rather than discussing the nature of evolution in the “oasis of clear thinking,” Morgan was horrified to discover in his first forum that more than half of the people devoted their time saying rude things about believers using extremely foul language.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘The Social Network’ but there’s one point where a girl says to the main character ‘Just stay in your dark room and make snide remarks because that’s what the angry do these days.’”
After witnessing the discussions firsthand, the newly minted evolutionist agreed that the Internet was more a place where people could hide behind their anonymity and say rude things as a kind of therapy.
Still searching for answers however, Morgan continued to be a part of the community, drawn particularly to a discussion on David Robertson’s open letter replying to Dawkins’ first chapter of The God Delusion.
Prompted to write a response to each of Dawkins’ chapters in the book, the Scottish pastor eventually compiled all the letters into a book called The Dawkins Letters.
Criticizing the book in the forums, members began to attack the letters until one day Robertson himself appeared in the discussions and began defending the points he made.
“I don’t know how many hours he must have spent just replying very calmly and politely to people who were sending out the most vilest insults and criticisms,” Morgan recalled. “He just kept coming back and occasionally with a few words of Scripture thrown into his general discourse.”
Unable to understand what was wrong with Robertson, Morgan himself posed a question on the discussion boards asking members why the pastor kept coming back and what result he expected. One of the seasoned and experienced posters on the forum commented, “It’s just another Christian attention seeker.”
“Yes, David Robertson was seeking attention but it wasn’t for David Robertson. We all know for whom he was seeking attention,” expressed the now Christian Morgan.
For several days the attacks continued, until one day someone replied that David Robertson was a liar. But Morgan throughout all of the threads had not noticed this and asked where the pastor had lied, bringing him a bout of criticisms as well.
“I was probably too unintelligent to see where he was a liar,” remembered Morgan.
As time went on, he began to see more and more the brutality and harshness of the chats, recalling one shocking post where the site administrator had published an article about an extremist Russian prophet who tried to commit suicide when his prediction for the date of the end of the world failed to come true.
A couple of posters in response to the story regretted that the fallen prophet had failed in his attempt to put an end to his life. Stunned by the level of inhumanity, Morgan wondered how any civilized person could say they wanted to see anybody die. Writing a protestation to some form of humanity in the forums about his shock and disappointment in the members, one respected member on the site simply replied to his post with an LOL– laugh out loud.
It was then that Morgan realized he did not want to be a part of these people. “I’m not condemning all atheists,” he clarified in the interview. “I’m talking about anonymous atheists on internet discussion boards and the messages they express which are extremely negative, puerile, [and] full of hate…”
Coming back to Robertson’s replies to all the “nastiness and unpleasantness,” which Morgan himself was a part of, composing a piece of music just to insult the pastor, Morgan reread the debates and was impressed at several aspects of Robertson’s participation.
First, his persistence and continual presence in the discussions astounded Morgan. Robertson always came back and sometimes got up two hours earlier in the morning to give adequate response time to the criticisms.
Secondly he defended himself in a robust manner while not hesitating to wish everyone well. He wasn’t the meek and mild kind of Christian who said "I love you all and you’re all nice," but the kind of Christian who stood up for what he believed in.
Printing out over fifty pages of Robertson’s posts, Morgan read through all the posts again and found no lies. What he discovered instead was humility, intelligence, sensitivity, and several references to the Bible.
In his confused state, without God or a community of atheists to turn to, Morgan started to post on The Free Church of Scotland’s forum, which the Scottish pastor was a part of.
Writing to Robertson about how he appreciated his responses and comments, Morgan shared how he couldn’t believe in God. “I’m not an atheist because I want to be an atheist. I’m not a happy atheist. I’m an atheist because I can’t believe in God."
In response to Morgan’s post, Robertson, the “resident fruitcake” at the Dawkins’ forums, asked him two questions which subsequently changed his life: 1) Why don’t you believe in God? 2) What could make you believe in God?
Dismissing the first question as dumb, Robertson’s initial reaction to the second question was “certainly not proof and evidence.”
At that moment, Morgan's instinctive response conjured up to his memory, probably from his previous Mormon days, the verse, “We love because he first loved us.” And in that instant, Morgan understood the expression “amazing grace.”
“I was certain without having any rational explanation that God existed, that he loved me without waiting for me to love him, that he loved me unconditionally without waiting for me to deserve it.”