Dear professor Ehrman,
My guess is that you get a lot of correspondence. My apologies for adding to this pile, I just want to congratulate you on your work and on your honesty. I just read Misquoting Jesus and God’s Problem, and intend to read Jesus Interrupted through this holiday vacation. I have enjoyed the first two immensely. I will confess that I am a full blown, “dead-again” atheist. I have read the works of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkings, Christopher Hitchens, Dan Dennet, George Smith, Carl Sagan, and so on. I am, in fact, President of the Atheist Humanist Society of CT and RI - you can be sure we will be talking about your work, recommending it to others and we’ll be placing them in our library. So the topic you write is very important to me on an intellectual level.
What I like most about they way you present your work and conclusions is that it seems to me you are keenly and particularly attentive to Christian sensitivities of what you are presenting. This sensitivity (and respect) is mostly lacking in the other authors I quoted above, and it is greatly appreciated. Hitchens particularly (though I agree with a lot of what he says) seems to go out of his way to be provocative (insulting?) This obviously does not help in actually enhancing the public discussion of these ideas, nor to put non-believers in the best light. I don’t think his approach to the subject is helpful at all.
On a final note, I’d like to comment on something you wrote in God’s Problem regarding atheists (and I would be surprised if this is the first time someone has written to you about this, but just in case): …”to declare affirmatively that there is no God (the declaration of atheists) takes far more knowledge (and chutzpah) than I have (pg 125)”.
I don’t know about this. Being an atheist myself, I can tell you that for me there is very little extrapolation from understanding that humans have believed in all sorts of gods since the beginning of time, gods that we have abandoned for all sorts of reasons, to the conclusion that the concept of “god” is a human invention. The only reason we are still debating this is because we have still so many questions about the universe and because the concept resonates with our psyche. But in fact, humans are great at creating stories, stories about unicorns, mermaids, vampires, super warriors, gods of the volcano, of rain, of everlasting love, extraterrestrials, you name it. Moreover, if we can agree that if there is some creature out there that created a huge and complex universe at some point (one in which we tantamount to bacteria growing on some distant tiny pond somewhere) but that does not interfere in our affairs, what difference does it make, in real terms, that this creature actually exists? His existence is actually inconsequential to what happens on this planet, and almost certainly to what happens after we die. So the difference between existing and not is pretty much semantics.
I think the most likely explanation for our presence on this planet is serendipity and biochemistry. If we find life of any sort out there in the universal expanse, then we can probably assume that given the right conditions life will spring naturally. Maybe I can declare myself an agnostic until then, though I feel that I don’t need to wait.
Again, a real pleasure to read you work. Please write again soon.
Carlos A. Mojica