Born and raised in Finland, I have gone through many phases in my life. When I was about five, in kindergarten they told us a story about "Jesus". I thought at the time that it was sweet story. So when I got home, I told my mother excitedly what I had heard. She frowned and said that there is no such person as "Jesus" and there is no "god", and the bible is a collection of fairy-tales. I believed her and heard at home about dinosaurs and that the earth was at least millions of years old, and that I was a cousin of the other apes.
When I turned fifteen and had lost my best friend, I went to see a movie called "Quo Vadis", I got very emotional, and interpreted it at the moment as having met "Jesus". So I bought a bible and started to read it, and I wanted to live as "Jesus" supposedly said we ought to live. Then I started to search for a church that, in my mind, represented the teachings of said "Jesus", and ended up in a baptist church. I was baptized and was "born again" (in the movie-theater whilst watching "Quo Vadis"). I was their favorite pet in the church, and they kept asking me to "witness" about "Jesus" a lot.
When I was sixteen I went to study in a bible college. I studied for three years, and then I became an evangelist in the northern Finland. I was a "true believer" for nine years, I woke up five in the morning, read the bible for an hour, prayed for another hour, witnessed promiscuously all over the place like there was no tomorrow.
My mother became ill with cancer and she died when I was twenty-one. I prayed beside her deathbed, and believed she went to heaven, but my faith was slightly shaken up. At that time I had a narcissistic boyfriend whom I met in Israel. On the brink of my 24th birthday I married him. The next day he hit me, and I secretly decided that I would divorce him, which obviously wasn't according to my faith. He threatened to kill me if I left him, and the abuse continued. He threatened my father as well. I secretly resigned my job at the University Hospital of Turku, and with my sister's and father's financial help, I eloped to Israel.
I stopped reading the bible and praying, but I still believed in "god". Then I got a letter from a preacher in Finland, who wrote on behalf of my husband, saying that him hitting me wasn't wrong, and I should forgive him and return to him. This perhaps understandably made me quite upset, and my belief in "god" shook even more. There, in the kibbutz, I met an English man who was an atheist. I fell in love with him. He told me a lot about Monty Python and Douglas Adams.
About six- to eight months later I returned to Finland with my boyfriend, to divorce my husband. That's another story.
We went to see Monty Python's The Life of Brian. There were christians protesting outside the theater, proclaiming its inherent sinfulness and giving out pamphlets. I still had a grain of belief in me, but the film didn't hurt my feelings at all, on the contrary, it showed how stupid we people are believing in weird things. And so I slowly became an atheist.
Fast-forward a bumpy life, having two children and raising them on my own, these questions settled down in my mind, I told my children that people believe in many different "gods", I just don't happen to believe in any, but they had to choose when they got older, and I told them to always ask questions.
When I was about forty-eight, I had lingering hopes of a benevolent "god", and I said to people that if there is a "god", then doing good deeds would get us to heaven.
My son started reading Douglas Adams' books, and brought me a copy of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which I read for the first time and found hilarious. When I was fifty-one, my son, Daniel, picked up another of Douglas Adams' book called The Salmon of Doubt, which was complied postmortem, in which was high praise of Richard Dawkins' writings, and Daniel picked up on the suggestion, and on his next trip to the library, borrowed The Selfish Gene.
After reading it and getting the same sense of excitement Douglas Adams wrote about Richard Dawkins' masterful tellings of the natural world, my son then gave The Selfish Gene for me to read. And obviously I got terribly excited. Many fruitful discussion were spurred, more of Dawkins' and others books referenced in them were read, and I told my son about the hope I had had that there would be a "god", and I happily got over that, feeling free, liberated and happy.
The Selfish Gene was the catalyst. I wish to thank Richard Dawkins for inspiring me to search more of science and reason, and from there, gaining new meaning and wonder in living. Richard Dawkins gave value to the simple search for truth, and how even more precious our momentary existence is. All of this, plus seeing debates and lectures on religion and science has reaffirmed my tentative certainty in the lack of any supernatural forces. Me and my children are happy atheists, and in some cases, Antitheists.
I am grateful that there are such beacons of reason as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hithens, Lawrence Krauss, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Coyne, Victor Stenger, Daniel Kahneman, Sean M. Carroll, Carl Sagan, Brian Cox, David Attenborough, Dan Ariely, Anthony C. Grayling, Michael Shermer, Carl Zimmer, James Randi, Sam Harris and many others which I would like to keep on listing but dare not bore people any further.
Lots of Love,