Dear Professor Dawkins,
It's such a satisfaction - and a relief in a way - to finally hear somebody saying, clearly and explicitly, all the things I imagined for a long time but never really knew how to put into words.
I'm 25 years old, I was raised catholic, and I can still remember with great clarity the first time I questioned god's existence. I was 13. It took me seven years to finally free myself from my religious conditioning. As much as I’ve learned from biological sciences, it was an anthropology class I took at University that finally helped me rid myself of the religious dogma that I’d been taught since I was a baby, and see it for what it is: ideas thought up by people, not revealed by a higher being.
I used to think I converted to atheism. Now I realize that I converted back to atheism, which is how I was born.
I live in South America, and it's hard to be an atheist in a country where christians are the majority, where the catholic church holds so much power. It's hard to know that my parents judge me - and even worry about me, as if free thinking is something to worry about. It's hard to have friends tell me, "jokingly", that I'm a heretic. Or to have people give me pitiful looks. But I guess it's the price we have to pay for speaking the truth to people that don't want to hear it. And since I work in science, the truth is very important to me.
I used to think I had to keep silent about this. But now I understand that I need to stop tip-toeing around religion. Why should I? I don't owe religion anything. Except, perhaps, all the guilt and prejudice it brought me for so long.
Thank you very much, and I can't stress that enough, for reminding me that atheism is something to be proud of.