I want to say thank you. I will briefly explain why.
I was born and raised in a Mormon family in Utah. I've served a two year proselyting mission in Australia for the Mormon church by my own expense and that of my family. While I was away from home on this mission, I became aware that some thoughts and ideas I had concerning evolution did not line up with that of my church leaders. I was encouraged to stop thinking about it. I was told not to read any other kind of reading material other than church literature. At one point, I was even advised to lie to the people we met. I hated it. I held high regard for honesty, and this seemed wrong to me.
I did not feel very proud of myself. I couldn't look myself in the mirror. Luckily for me, I secretly checked out some books from a local library. I checked out your book, "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" as well as the book, "Why Evolution is True" written by Jerry Coyne. I was fascinated! I absolutely loved those books. I would wake up early and stay up late reading. My mind felt so active and clear. I actually felt happy, something I hadn't felt for a while. As I would walk around in Australia, my mind would drift into thoughts about evolution and the amazing wonders around me. I read many other of your books, Mr. Dawkins. They are the best books I have ever read. I especially enjoyed "The God Delusion". I would recommend it to everyone.
Well, needless to say, my mission leaders were quite upset that I had stopped "testifying" to people. I was upset that they tried to use coercion and guilt to try and build faith back in me by saying I was damning my posterity, that I was throwing away my heritage, that I wasn't being honest with myself, that I wasn't smart enough to make this kind of decision. I was ready to leave my mission in Australia.
I am home now. I am still reading your books and constantly defending truth and reason from the ignorant attacks by my parents. My father, by the way, is the local Bishop or pastor for the Mormon church. My parents have said they are concerned that they are going to lose their son, when all that I've seen is them preparing to kick me out and cutting off support to me. I suppose they don't mind physically losing me, but, oh, if they lose me spiritually, think of the dread consequences.
Being an Atheist in a Mormon community is very difficult, Mr. Dawkins. I have nobody to talk to. No one who is willing to honestly talk with me. I don't have any friends who are not members. When I don't show up at church, I get questions from friends, family, and co-workers as to where I was. It is social suicide to talk about Atheism.
I know this story sounds bad, or maybe rather pitiful, but on the bright side, I finally feel free. I feel I can be honest to a level that would be impossible in the church. I know I was greatly benefited from your writings. I have gained a desire to study evolutionary biology in college. Sometimes I get some very funny looks when I tell people what I want to study. Thank you again.
If you are ever speaking in Utah, you'll be sure to see me there. I hope someday you will be able to raise the consciousness of some people around here for me to talk to.
A Grateful Reader and "Convert"