Thank you Richard Dawkins.
When I was 4 years old, my mother "converted" from Catholicism, to christianity. It was during a prolonged fight in the marriage, due to my "atheist" dad's partying habits.
About a year later my dad also converted. He prayed to be freed from his smoking, drinking, and drug addictions, and was "miraculously" freed from them overnight. (Hasn't touched any of the 3 in over 25 years).
This "miracle" cemented both my parents belief in god and the bible, and led to the environment I was raised in.
My dad, as at least a pseudo atheist before his conversion, asked a lot of questions in bible study, and hence was refered to a lot of different christian apologetics over the years. And since he wanted to believe (both to keep his wife and kids, and because of aforementioned "miracle") it was enough.
I grew up hearing him attempt to logically argue Christianity vs Catholicism with my Mom's parents.
After 1st grade, my churches private school shut down, and rather then risk some "unknown" private school, or worse yet a godless public school, they started home schooling my sister and I.
They also decided the biblical passages like "go forth and multiply and fill the earth" and the "quiver full" passage etc were meant literally and still valid today, and threw away birth control. My brother David was born when I was 6. The 3rd of what ended up being 10 kids.
Fortunately I guess I'm higher IQ than average (130) and did well in home school, which quickly turned into self education.
However I was completely sold on Christianity and the inerrancy of the bible. I was bombarded with apologists in my home "education" and ended up seeing or reading nearly everything the "Institute for Creation Research" ever published, without ever reading the other side.
With this kind of viewpoint, it's hardly surprising my parents became more and more "fundamental", if the bible is supposed to be inerrant. And then when I was, I think in the "third grade" of my home school, my parents attended an IBLP basic seminar. Which nowadays, is considered a cult by even the majority of Christians. They proceeded to join the "Advanced Training Institute" as their home school curriculum of choice. Which I've found out since was literally written in large part by teenagers who hadn't even graduated their "home school" high school.
During this 20 year period between 3rd grade and my "conversion", I read the bible cover to cover over 5 times, memorized over 12 chapters, attended sermons based on scripture every sunday, and in depth bible studys twice a week from 12 on. As well as vast exposure to biblical apologetics.
I was always very confident in my beliefs and the bible, but after I eventually left the affiliated "ALERT ACADEMY" when I was 21 and set off into the world. Having been thoroughly discouraged from the idea of higher education.
I found myself woefully unprepared for real life. I muddled through, yet was no less sure of the "inerrancy of scripture". I became very skilled at using biblical arguments to justify what I wanted too. Justifying alcohol was simple. So was pre-marital sex, I'd debate that with any pastor based entirely on scripture.
So I wasn't living as a fundamentalist, yet still believing like it.
About 3 years ago, I started getting into internet arguments about YEC, atheism etc. I thought I was doing well, and had a chance of converting people for probably a year.
One time in particular I was fed up with the incredible bias of the other side (ironic I know) and challenged all to look at the other side as objectively as possible.
In the name of integrity, I did the same, I was challenged to read "the Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins. In combination with some "skeptic" links online.
I think its worth noticing that I perfectly realized how ingrained my bias was before I started reading. I knew if I thought I would go to hell for not believing, then I wouldn't be able to truly question.
So I actually sat down, and visualized "what if" atheism and evolution was correct. I kept at it until I felt I was perfectly open to either side being true. Part of what helped me accept that, was the verse in John that says
God is Truth". Since God is truth, and bias is the logical enemy of truth, it helped disarm my guilt for trying to be objective.
After all, by trying to search for objective truth, according to John, I was searching for God.
I realized it would also help me more completely refute my opponents to truly understand their position.
And of course, I did realize during this process that if christianity was in fact wrong, then no, it wouldn't effect my after life to question it.
So yes, Richard Dawkins was extremely key in my conversion, but I actually put in serious effort to open my mind. It isn't easy when you've invested so much time, energy, and emotion into it.
It also broke my faith when I was shown clear evidence that the bible has errors. Millions of jews in the exodus from egypt, and other number errors, and the last straw for me, the broken promises. Like how "with faith like a mustard seed" you could move mountains, and anything you asked in Jesus name would be done. Yet he never once answered me.
My greatest regret is the wasted time... I could have had a Phd years ago. I'm finally starting school again now, but I won't ever get that time back.
However I have to say, I have never been more happy or at peace. During this whole process, I was depressed, unemployed, and stuck in a rut, feeling like a loser. When I realized I only live once, this is it, it really motivated me to make the best of my life. 3 years later, I make 50K+ a year as a car salesman, I'm going back to school, and have a home and a girlfriend. All stuff praying never helped me achieve.
I am still a huge fan of Richard Dawkins, and have finally caught up a bit on life and am going back to reading, I just bought the God Delusion and am massively looking forward to reading it! I've also seen Richard Dawkins in interviews and am amazed at how perfect he is in his role as a proponent of science. He's actually qualified as a scientist, yet also speaks and writes extremely effectively. The 2 tend to be entirely different types of people more often then not.
Thanks for standing up for truth!