My name is Joe. I am 21 years old and am about to begin my Master's in Psychology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
My parents sent me to a catholic elementary school and a catholic high school - that's 12 years of my life. You might say I was brainwashed early on. Fortunately, I now call myself an agnostic. But more practically I am an atheist to the extent that I consider organized religion a dizzying, unnecessary, and pernicious tumour impeding the badly-needed evidence-based progression that has so helped propel society forward.
I think I recall when I was 17 I was still naively in defense of Christianity as something to explain what science cannot. How foolish and lazy a sentiment! If we were all that complacent a thousand years ago we would not have the technological marvels, the overall improved quality of life, and the more accurate insights we possess today.
When I was 19 I started becoming rather disillusioned and frustrated with the inaneness and blatant non-sensical nature of organized religion and when I was 20 I first discovered Richard Dawkins, interestingly enough not because of any religion-oriented debate but instead in a discussion against the pseudosciences, specifically homeopathy.
Looking more into Professor Dawkins' work and public appearances, he helped me come to realise precisely how pernicious and harmful organized religion really is. I am disgusted by the fact that creationism is, in some schools, taught as though it were an equally valid explanation as natural selection. I am disgusted by religious academics citing scripture as though that were enough to make something true and valid. And finally I am disgusted by organized religion's tendency to suppress critical thought.
I am forever indebted to you, Richard. I am saddened I won't be seeing you at James Randi's Amazing Meeting 9. Maybe next time though; this year I have finished my undergradaute studies and as of the fall I will officially be untethered (financially*, and otherwise) from my, if I may say so, over bearing parents.
*I realise it may seem contradictory; how is being financially disconnected from my parents going to allow for greater mobility? The idea is that by having my own income and living in a different city far away, I will be able to choose, without painfully long overdrawn resistance, how I spend my money (ie. attending the amazing meeting) no matter how modestly little I will have being a graduate student.
Anyways, I've rambled on long enough.
You are a credit to society, Richard Dawkins. Along with James Randi, Christopher Hitchens, Ben Goldacre and probably many more I have not mentioned, you have inspired me and continue to give me "faith" (haha, sorry) to continue leading a life as a scientist. Thank you so much for your excellent hard work :)