I have spent hours reading the conversion stories on your website, some of which have brought me to tears, and cannot help but share my own story.
My parents brought my sister and I up in an environment where going to church was mandatory (if we missed a Sunday we were lucky enough to have services aired on the Public Broadcasting Channel...Phew!), but strangely god was rarely integrated into our daily lives with the exception of those dreaded Sunday mornings. There were no threats of hell or the devil, just a bunch of well mannered adults with good intentions who loved nothing more than a potluck supper and watching their kids dress up as angels for the yearly nativity scene. In retrospect, my parents were hardly religious themselves, they too stopped attending church after my sister and I left the house for college. How scary that religion was, even for them as nonbelievers, viewed as a significant tool in parenting!
It was, ironically, at a christian summer camp when i was probably 12 years old, that a fellow camp member told me that he didn?t believe in god. Until that time, I had no idea that this kind of disbelief was even an option. And since then, I have never doubted that organized religions are ridiculous, and so obviously untrue. How could anyone proclaim to know the word of god, or even that god existed? I proclaimed myself agnostic and figured it wasn?t really worth another thought, it was simply impossible to prove, either way. I now can also see that an inherent fear of death prevented me from wanting to explore the notion of atheism further, as the concept of simply ceasing to exist after I died was more than I could handle.
But it wasn?t until you, Mr. Dawkins, and reading 'The God Delusion', that at 23 years old I was able to go from a rather impartial agnostic to a passionate, unflinching, outspoken anti-theist. As many before me have said, you have been able to put into words what I have felt to be true for so long. You have given me the information to back up my opinions rationally and scientifically, which has consequently given me confidence in my own claims and my ability to defend them, to anyone. Although I?ll admit that finding myself disgusted by anything resembling religion has taken a toll on my life in more ways than one, I would gladly feel this disgust while fighting for truth every day than feel the catatonic pseudo happiness that comes with believing religions? horrible lies. Or the comfort that comes by simply ignoring them. I no longer fear death, I, like you, believe it will feel much like the millions of years that I did not exist and did not care that I did not exist. And the more I learn about evolution the more I am amazed to even exist at all. And furthermore, how lucky I am to exist in a time where you also exist!
Everyone I know or will know in the future will get a copy of your book. I?m even contemplating buying out my local bookstore and simply giving them away.
You have changed my life in the most wonderfully permanent way.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.