Hi Richard, or who ever reads this e.mail.
First of all I just want to say how much I love everything you do, I wish I would've met you before in my life!!. My name is Maria I am 21 years old (22 in two months) and I am from Bogota-Colombia.
I want to share with you guys my experience about how I use to be really religious, how I felt then and now that I dont believe anymore how awesome I feel.
I was born in a Catholic family so all my life I was brought up with the idea of god, that I have to do good always if I didn't want to end up in hell. I actually really liked god and although I didn't go to church I use to pray every night. One day while asleep I had this really bad dream: A group of demons were dancing around my bed. I was like 8 years old and off coarse I freaked out. The next day I told my mum and she called her cousin who was a Christian and she told her that meant "lack of praying" and the solution was to go to a Christian church. So we did, we became Christians and everything changed from then on (at least for me) my mum made me trow away almost all my Barbie dolls and made me trow away my amazing Pokemon table game, because they told her all that belonged to satan and to the "world".
We kept going to that church until my mum realize the only thing we did was going to church and going to Christian meetings and then they try to get involved in your life and make decisions for you. So she decided to stop going to church, and so we did. But I kept praying every day and thinking everything was a creation of god and fearing if I did something wrong I will go to hell. then When I was 15 I had a friend and she was Christian and one day she invited me to her church, and I stayed there for like 3 years, and then my mind was totally screwed now that I think about the services I went to it really freaks me out to think how stupid you need to be to let some stupid asshole change your whole life for a big lie. I was 15!! and I stopped going to parties, I stopped listening to the music I use to like, all I did was doing "god things" because you can not do anything that belong to the world, or think about anything that belong to the world! that means anything different from god.
well I kept going to her church but I had to stay every Saturday night at her place because we went to 8 am service, and my mother although she is a believer didnt like that very much, so I start going to an other church. and I want to add something very curious here, well actually two things, first the jealousy Christians feel for other churches, like if only one was the real one, isnt the church just a place? aren't you supposed to believe your own house can be the church? and second the fact that you will save yourself from hell and bad things only and only if you are a Christian! so the other religions will die as well so Catholics, Jews etc they are wasting their time because they will go to hell anyway!.
my life start changing when I start asking questions, when I start finding a lot of non sense between the things that I was told and the things that I saw in real life, like fossils and scientific facts. suddenly I stopped going to the church and I prayed less and less, but
at first a feeling of guilt kept coming and I ask for forgiveness for getting apart from god. I never believed in evolution before. but maybe 3 years ago I suddenly thought why doesnt the bible talks about Dinosaurs for example, and why doesnt it mentions anything about the animals we have, yes sure god made the world in 7 days and he thought of all the living creatures we have in one!!
so although I kept praying and believing I started noticing I didnt feel "his presence" anymore, like I wasnt being "watched" all the time. And finally for the first time in my life I met an atheist and he is a really good persons with good feelings, and moral actions and I start reading and researching and realizing all the things I read made a lot of sense to me and that I just needed that! someone else telling me the things I've been thinking about for a long time but that was afraid to say out loud, I read the god delusion and watch some of your videos in youtube. And now I totally say and feel I am a not believer!.
Since I dont believe a few things have changed in my life. First my mother keeps telling me I will go to hell, and that she will pray for my soul. Which is Ok with me if that makes her feel better. I can say I feel superior to a lot of my friends now, becuase I now only believe in the things that can show me evidence, I am studying Veterinary Medicine, and I totally love science! she is the only one that tells me the truth now. BUt there is one thing that I hate and Im trying to overcome. Since I've believed in hell all my life you just have all those terrible stories and pictures of hell in your mind and even though I dont believe in that anymore I guess it is imprinted on me and I just need to wait until is gone.... the only thing I thank to religion is the fact that it helped me see the truth faster....
I can say the process is completed now....
Thank you for your time and for everything!