Dear Professor Dawkins,
I am 17 and I have recently found the answers I have long been searching for. I am an atheist. I was raised from birth as a Catholic, forced through the sacraments without ever having a say. I went to both primary and secondary Catholic schools and I am now in the sixth form of the same secondary school. It was only this year (year 12) that I have been even remotely informed about the atheist argument, in a philosophy class. (I guess my teachers were to busy trying to prove how Jesus was born of a virgin to mention it).
To become fully informed I had to partake in my own research, which included watching various debates, reading your book 'The God Delusion', which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way. I grew extremely interested in the argument to the point where I was fully convinced by it. I still enjoy watching various lectures (including lectures on biology) and debates which you take part in.
Although I know exactly how I feel about my believes I am very apprehensive about telling anyone. Currently only around five people know two of which are atheist and the others agnostic. I haven't told my parents, or anyone from my family. I am scared to tell them, if I am been truly honest with myself. I am unsure what will come of it, wether they see it as an immature phase or whether they never look at me in the same way again. Although the latter seems drastic it is still one of my concerns. (admittedly not with all members of the family.)
Another of my concern is my school finding out. I am quite vocal in my philosophy class, I enjoy it as a subject and I often use your points (to which I rarely receive a counter argument) to aid me in evaluations. My points are taken on aboard by both teacher and pupil, however my fear is that if I am known as an atheist my ideas and arguments will be tossed to one side with the class thinking 'here she goes again, crazy atheist.'
This wouldn't be a problem if I didn't care what they believed, but as you inspired me, I want to help others think in a similar manor. 'Not what to think but how to think.' I want help people think in a way where they look at the evidence, not just because it is written in a holy book. I don't know wether I will be able to do this if I state my belief, however I don't want to live a lie. I feel really torn on this matter. Although I understand one day I will have to state what I believe, I am simply unsure on how and when to do it.
Despite this predicament, I am ever so thankful. I see the world in a whole new perspective, its although a mist has finally cleared and questions which I have always asked myself have finally been answered. I am also very thankful that I have came to this conclusion at only 17 with the rest of my life still ahead of me.
Thanks to you I also am highly considering a degree in philosophy and theology, I understand this might sound strange and a complete contradiction of the points I have just made, however I find the questions that arise in philosophy extremely interesting, and although theology would seem an odd subject for an atheist to take, I believe I can use it to aid my own argument (contradictions through-out the bible etc.) however I will do further research into this degree before applying to ensure it is what it appears to be.
The reason for even considering this degree is because as stated before I want to help others in the same way you have helped me and indeed thousands of others. If I can help one person then I know I will have made a difference. Although I am unsure how I want to do this (teaching, writing etc.)
I do not expect a reply I simply want to explain how I feel to someone I know won't judge me, on a website which will accept my beliefs and even feel the same way.
thank you again
P.S. Apologies for any grammatical errors.
KM, 17, United Kingdom