I'll try not to bore you with a long winded tale of my departure from my upbringing, since it is simply not as extreme as other stories you will have read. However, I feel the need to tell you of the impact you have had on my life.
I was brought up in what I can only describe as a 'vaguely Christian' household. My parents are fantastic and I owe them everything, from the university degree I am doing to the laptop I type this on. When I was young I went to church along with the rest because it was simply what was done. I never took much interest in it and always assumed that everyone who went also regarded it as a bit of a joke; a nice thing to do to meet people but not to be taken seriously. This continued until I hit about 15.
Even with an adolescent mind in the full unclarity of puberty, it still hit hard and hurt when I realised what religion was, and how seriously some people took it. To say it horrified me would be an understatement. The combination of general ignorant acceptance in God on the 'general public' side and the ruthless destruction in his name on the extremist side lost me a great proportion of my faith in humanity. Serious claims for a 15 year old I know but that's just how I felt.
Needless to say an instant atheist was what I became. Or so far as to say what I realised I had been all my life. The conversion was not hard to come by at all, but as you so perfectly put in The God Delusion, a closet atheist I was. The term had always been associated as a synonym for 'evil' in my head (which had never given it a lot of thought). But it took no thought to realise I was indeed an atheist.
Enter you. I picked up The God Delusion in my first year at Sheffield (studying Engineering in case you're interested), and just read it straight. I have always been a fast reader but this was something new. I got through it in an afternoon and then became a shut in for the rest of the next day while I did some arbitrary uni work and just reflected on what I had read. It was a beautiful feeling to know I was not alone. I could sit here and type out how clear your writing was and how I agree with this and have been thinking that for ages, but it would be simpler to sum it up with the following sentence; you made me proud to be an atheist.
And for this I cannot thank you enough. I feel freed from both the ignorance of faith and the self-berating of how I formerly viewed my opinions. I am still hugely saddened by the effects and scale of religion on the planet, but can take solace and (infinitely more importantly) pride in knowing I am not part of it.
So there's my story. If it reaches you I hope you enjoyed it. It's been quite nice to write it down actually.