I was brought up primarily by a single mother who juggled raising her two children and working arduously as a field biologist for the (formerly) Department of Environmental Regulation that played a heavily influential role in the creation and development of many of the environmental laws, rules and regulations in the state of Florida. As we grew, she made absolutely certain not to influence our religious curiosities as we discovered them in any manner and even went so far as to take my sister and me to services when we requested. I must, however, give her full credit for unintentionally revealing the empowering path of knowledge that lead me to atheism because as we grew and asked questions about the world, as she would commonly enthusiastically encourage us to do, she would always have answers for us that were backed by a wealth of evidence. (This question everything approach has held me responsible for many of the gray hairs that pepper the public educators in this state as well as a number of trips to the principal's office for praying on my teacher's insecurities in their field.) We were finding that when we asked about the trees she would give us their latin name as well as an innumerable amount of other interesting facts about them. When we asked about religion, she would reply with an honest and simple, "I don't know."
As I grew into my adolescence, by complete coincidence, I stumbled upon Carl Sagan's Cosmos. This for me was a game changer because it began answering many of the questions that I had been asking throughout my short lifetime. That moment sparked my unquenchable thirst for knowledge and truth and propelled me to complete the full collection of his written works over the next few years following. It is that indirect collaboration between Carl Sagan and my mother that holds the majority of the responsibility that shaped me into the, for the lack of a better term, "Atheist" that I am today.
Since making my beliefs (or lack thereof) public, I have received a great deal of unexpected and unwelcome fear-driven attacks, the goals of which, I presume were intended to coax me back to the side that I was never a part of. I would love to extend my sincerest thanks to you because the combination of reading your books and watching your lectures and debates have time and time again provided me with sufficient support to comfortably defend my place from what seems to be an army of angry religious ignoramuses. Your work (especially The Greatest Show on Earth) has permitted me to carry on with a well-defended mind that rests at ease and is clear for creative intellectual output that will progress my life and career as well as my field of study.
I have been a musician all of my life and hold a Master's Degree in Music Performance from a well-respected institution for higher learning in this country. Because of the nature of my profession, it has been difficult to find the time to explore science along side my work and personal research, but I have now come to a point where I feel confident that I can think critically about many issues in the world and accurately articulate and effectively defend my thoughts. I often warn people prior to debate that I do not lose since I wont make any claims that don't have strong supporting evidence. Indulging in both science and music on a daily basis has provided me a well-rounded mind that is both extremely creative and rational and I can't help but attribute much of the credit for the latter to your work, so thank you.
Carl Sagan and my mother set up a very strong foundation for me to build upon and you provided the materials and tools that assisted in fortifying my views and for that I am eternally grateful.
All my life I have had two major governing bodies actively working to ensure that religion and spirituality are deeply engrained in my life. From the earliest age the the organization permits, which I believe is around second grade, I was an active member of the Boy Scouts of America. I stayed very active in the organization through the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor in the organization. Up to the end of my tenure, which was the cut off age of 21, I also held many regional leadership positions. The reason why this is all troublesome is because every step of the way I was forced to admit my belief in god if I desired to advance in rank. Now it is difficult for me to be vocal because if the organization catches wind of my stance, I will have my entire lifetime of recognition for service revoked, which I find utterly absurd. The other governing body that I speak of is the southern United States. I may as well be a terrorist in the eyes of the majority of my fellow Americans with whom I interact daily. This puts me at an awkward place between my right to freedom and the desire to retain my recognitions and so I have cowardly found a loophole in the Oxford Dictionary's third definition for god, which is "an adored, admired, or influential person." I can state without being untruthful that I believe in god. What they don't know is that my gods are the champions of truth like yourself, Carl Sagan and Lawrence Krauss, to name a few. But I just wanted to take a bit of time out of my night to express my gratitude for all that you do and encourage you to be more courageous than I by venturing out to the logical and educational black hole that is the state of Florida sometime for a few laughs and maybe even a lecture.
Yours in Music,