Dear Professor Richard Dawkins,
Being brought up in a powerfully Protestant Christian-based household (baptist, to be more precise), I spent my entire underage life believing without a shadow of doubt in my mind the beliefs my parents and religious instructors enforced in me, taking every word of the Bible literally, and actually believing the young-earth creation hypothesis to be the most obvious answer to any question regarding the origin of the universe.
As a child, you may very seldom find yourself asking many questions of such importance. You simply find other things much more interesting, such as video games, sports, or school. Although I was slightly intrigued by the mysteries regarding life's origin and the questions surrounding it, I felt that there was no need to investigate it since my parents constantly assured me that the answer was simple (and, of course, as an impressionable child, your parents are always right).
It wasn't long, however, before I started to realize things are seldom as simple as they may be made out to be.
Although I had struggled with it lightly as early as age 8 or 9, I had come to the official conclusion at around 13 years of age that I was predominately attracted to the same sex. Being a Christian, the very thought of such an occurrence happening to me was utterly horrifying. In my mind, it was the "sin" I tried so hard to control and abolish. The clash between my faith and sexuality raged for years, completely consuming my thoughts day and night. My indoctrination barred me from any any happiness I could have experienced from living the life I should live and being who I actually was. This metaphorical cage I found myself pinned inside had me longing for some sort of hope that it could, and would, ultimately cease, and that I could live my life without this secret moral war being waged in my head.
At 18, I left my parents' house and ventured into life on my own, as many do. It was only then that I felt the freedom to begin looking for a solution to my dilemma.
For the first time on my own, I actually read the Bible. I read it over and over again, studying it and analyzing it, all the while studying as many different denominations as I could find, and what I found was a heaping helping of absolutely nothing. Nothing besides confirmation that the way I was leading my life was not only wrong, but condemnable to an eternity in some ridiculously hot room presumably located in the center of the earth. Obviously enough, I also discovered the Old Testament. Really discovered it for all the absolute idiocy that it conveyed. It wasn't until that time that I began to seriously doubt what I had been taught my entire life. I began to wonder if god even existed, which, at the time, was a very scary thought.
Some time had passed and the doubts remained, but I didn't really have enough information to come to a permanent conclusion until my cousin and best friend introduced to me your book, "The God Delusion." When I received this book, I devoured it (not literally, mind you). I found it (and still find it now) to be the most educational and interesting thing I have ever had the pleasure to read. It confirmed and cemented my conversion to atheism and broadened my interest in mental disorders and Clinical Psychology, which is now my career path. I don't have much of an attention span, and repetition bores and frustrates me, but I can say that I have read this book cover-to-cover eight times, and it has yet to grow old to me.
I suppose the point I am trying to make is that you, through your writing, were the foundation I needed to live a happy and successful life free of concern for things that aren't even real.
Should I never receive the opportunity to personally thank you for what you have done for me, I will do it now.
Thank you, Dr. Dawkins. If it weren't for you, I'd still be banging my head against rocks trying to figure out what is so obvious.