You did not convert me. I don't know that I can truly give credit for my conversion to anyone but myself, but if I MUST do so I suppose the credit must be given to my very religious 5th grade teacher.
While being fascinated (I still am) by stories of Greek and Roman mythology, I was snapped out of a delightful daydream involving heroes and gods and monsters when my teacher said something to the effect of, "Of course we KNOW that these are are make believe. There is only one god and the path to Him is through our lord and savior, Jesus Christ."
Sir, I was 10 at the time and living in the southeastern U.S. My 10 year old, southern brain SHOULD have said, "Oh. Of course." At least that is what I was told it was supposed to say. Instead, my 10 year old southern brain said, "HUH?"
Because I was 10 and did not understand what a pariah was, I raised my hand and asked, "Um...How do we KNOW this?"
Thus began my introduction into circular logic. She actually smiled at me the way one might smile at a mentally handicapped child and said, "Because WE have the BIBLE."
Again, my 10 year old brain went fully against survival instinct and asked, "But how do we know the Bible is true? The Greeks and Romans had stories, too."
"Because God tells us it is true."
" In the Bible."
I was raised Christian. 98% of my family is Christian. I was never, as a child, even hinted to that there might not be a god. It was an understood thing: you breathe, grass is green, god is real. Done. My mind, however, just would not operate that way. I could not just accept that something simply WAS without evidence that it was...or why it was...or how it was.
I call myself an agnostic atheist...not because I am on any fence...but simply because the rational side of my brain will not allow me to claim absolutely what I cannot prove absolutely. I will not say, "there IS NO god," only because I cannot, by any scientific standards, DISprove god. Instead I say, "I do not BELIEVE there is a god. There is no sufficient evidence that supports the claim of god, and I will maintain my position until such time that such evidence is given. No, gaps in evolution do not qualify..nor do the existence of trees and sunsets." I do feel it necessary to point out that I also say, " I do not BELIEVE there is a Big Foot. There is no suff..." you get the idea.
As you can probably tell by how poorly this is written, I am only a high school graduate. I was a dog groomer for 10 years, a soldier for 6, and am now a soldier's wife. I am not a scientist or anyone of any real importance. I am only a person with the inability to take "because I said so" as an explanation for anything. (Take a guess how well the Army liked me.) It is because of my lack of formal education that I, and others like me, owe you a sincere debt of gratitude, Mr. Dawkins, for giving our cause credibility and dignity. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for every time you give voice to my frustrations in a way that I just never could. I cannot give you credit for converting me to reason, but I CAN give you credit for giving reason a face and a voice.
One last note, then I will leave you alone: I was once asked by a rather angry Christian if I thought I was better than him because I didn't follow "JAYSUS". I replied, "Of course not. I believe everyone is born atheistic, then are exposed to various theistic ideas as they grow older, and most will accept whatever they are told as absolute truth. I don't think I am any more 'better than you' than a person who has never caught the chicken pox is better than me. Some of us are naturally immune to the varicella virus....others of us are naturally immune to bullshit." The concept was, however, lost when I had to explain what "varicella" meant.
Thank you for everything you do in the name of logic and common sense,
A nobody from Nashville, Tn.