“Is Richard Dawkins your C.S. Lewis?” My Christian friend, who had never even heard of Dawkins before, asked me that when I said I was going to go see Dawkins in Chicago. C.S. Lewis is the unofficial patron saint of Wheaton College, and it’s practically a requirement for every student to own a full library of his books and quote him as often as possible in conversation. So yes, Dawkins is my C.S. Lewis.
This afternoon my friend and I drove to the University of Chicago, where Richard Dawkins was speaking. I wasn’t too hopeful about getting in, since there were only 200 seats, and we were late on account of traffic and having gotten lost. Sure enough, I spent the entire hour of his lecture standing outside the building listening through an open window with about 20 others. And it was totally worth it. To my starved existence, it was priceless just to be able to laugh at jokes about religion with other atheists. Even if I hadn’t been able to hear Dawkins’ voice, I would have stood outside that building for hours. I was ecstatic, staring raptly at the dead worm on the windowsill, listening to Dawkins read the preface to the British paperback edition of The God Delusion, wondering at the atmosphere of open inquiry and the lovely late-summery evening as darkness fell.
After the Q&A session began, we were able to get inside for our first glimpse. I think all of the questions were from atheists– at least, I don’t remember any argumentative theistic questions, which was refreshing. My Christian friend thought that Dawkins never actually answered questions straightforwardly, but I thought his answers were very sophisticated and only changed the subject slightly to make the discussion more relevant and intelligent.
Afterwards we stood in line to get my copy of TGD signed, discussing (aka debating) what we thought of Dawkins. A fellow atheist came to my rescue, which I really appreciated. My friend was taking the whole thing very seriously and picking apart everything Dawkins had said, but I was too thrilled to care, really. While Dawkins signed my book, I told him I’d recently become an atheist but was still attending the Christian university where Billy Graham had attended. He said “good for you” with this extremely bewildered look on his face that said “are you mad?”
I am still completely on an euphoric high. It was exactly what I needed.