Dear Mr. Dawkins,
thank you for existing at the same point in time as I exist. We are the lucky ones (as you put it) for sure.
I started out my life being born into a home that was not particularly religious. I remember my Mother saying a quick prayer before we ate dinner, and that was it. I never went to church, was never told about the bible, nor read stories from it. I remember my Mother had bought me a set of books of which she read one per night over and over again to me before bed. What they contained were stories of influential people throughout history. Some of the stories, just to name a few were about the Wright brothers, Helen Keller, Marie Curie, Beethoven, and others. I also had books about animals, and they contained real data, no ark in sight. All this between the ages of 0 til about 3. Then, a big shock to a little developing brain........Catholic Pre-school.
My Father is a born Catholic, although you'd never know it, and that is the "reason" I was sent to not only a Catholic Pre-school, but also middle school, and high school. You can imagine the shock of a child learning the stories of the bible and Jesus for the first time. The way it was presented to me at school was that if we did not attend church, we were "SINNERS!". This scared me as a child, and as my parents claim I was quite upset with them when I learned of all this. As a small child of only 4 or 5 years of age I was demanding that my parents take me to church! How dare they not do what was right. Terrible! My Mother agreed with me, and promptly started taking me to church on Sunday mornings. My Father would not go, even though HE was the Catholic, not my Mother.
After years of Catholic "training" by the school system and going through all the stages of confirming my faith I remember asking my father why he didn't go to church, or read the Bible. He told me that he didn't want to go to church because to be a decent man he didn't need to. I recall him saying, "have you really read the Bible? I have dear and it's brutal. The men that sit at the front of the church here in town are the most corrupt men I know." That was it...he said nothing else. He told me I was sent to Catholic school because they were convinced (through media) that they were "better" schools. They believed the hype.
Now in my 34th year, and after many years of questioning what I was told was the truth at school (and believe me I questioned it. My theology teachers dreaded debating me) I have finally come out of the closet as the Atheist I always was. This was made possible by you, Richard Dawkins. It is something I have always thought.....but I needed someone to corroborate my inner knowledge. Your life's work has made it possible for someone as corrupted by my education as I was, to find the truth. Well, truthfully speaking it's Darwin that has convinced me. You will however get all the credit for being the voice of reason in this day age to present this evidence so eloquently as you do. I thank you Richard.
My Father will not say he is an Atheist. When I told him I was an Atheist, he looked worried for me. Not because of his fear for my eternal damnation in the future but rather his fear for the judgement I would undoubtedly encounter by others here and now. It's sad really, to see a caring family member scared for you because of made up mumbo jumbo.
Thank you Richard for being a real teacher here and now and the voice of reason in my and many others lives. I rather enjoy having my brain set in the "ON" position seeking evidence, rather than the "OFF" position blindly following as a member of the flock.
A Roman Catholic by design, an Atheist by intellectual choice.