Dear Professor Dawkins,
I've just recently finished reading The God Delusion, and HALLELUJAH! (pun intended). I only wished I had read it when it was first published.
After years of "sitting on the fence" in regards to what do I "really" believe, your book has given me the insight and confidence to proudly state that I'm no longer agnostic, and am enjoying discussing with people my thoughts and beliefs about being a person who can live comfortably without a God.
Like many other people who have written comments on this web site about their past religious upbringing, I too was born into a world of Catholic parents, and dragged to Mass every Sunday believing that it was just the accepted thing to do. I've known since my late teens that the religion I was born into was something that I found harder and harder to accept.
In my early forties now, and much more educated on life and worldly things in general, I am annoyed with myself for not taking the bull by the horns at a much earlier stage in my life, and question the Priests, Brothers, Nuns and teachers who poured religion down my throat whether I wanted it or not. The De La Salle Catholic school I attended was full of Brothers who were more than happy to "belt" the religion into you if you dared question the word of God (I wander what they were more frightened of? A belligerent student who dared to question their scriptures, or the fact that they had to use physical violence to get their message of God across?). Needless to say, there wasn't too many students who would dare raise their hand during a lesson to ask "But how is it possible for someone to raise from the dead? Or a virgin to give birth?
I am married to a wonderful Catholic girl who was also brought up in a reasonably strict Catholic home, who still believes in God even after my efforts to try and see my point of view (I tried to get her to read The God Delusion, but no luck.......yet!). We were married in a Catholic church, and have two beautiful children who were Christened. This is as far as I was prepared to go in relation to forcing my parents religion onto my own.
Our children have never been forced to go to Mass like I was, or made to sit through endless hours of lessons from the Bible. Even though my wife still holds a Catholic belief, she isn't a practicing one (like most Catholics I know). My wife, interestingly enough, always thought that I was either agnostic or leaning towards atheism from the moment she met me. I have never hidden from the fact that I was a "non-practicing Catholic". However, I have tended to keep to myself my wavering belief in any God at all, until now!
I'm happy to say that my wife and I are on the same page when it comes to letting our children make their own minds up on whether there is a God or not. They are at that age now where they are able to take in and learn all the wonderful things that this life has to offer, without religion being forced upon them. However, when at the dinner table the odd religious question might pop up from our ten year old son, I sit back and wait to hear what my wife has to offer in reply (usually on the side of religion) then he looks at me for my point of view, to which my wife tells me "don't confuse him". I simply let my wife know that my intention is not to confuse our son, but rather to open his mind to the thought that there possibly is no God at all, and that when he has learnt all that there is to learn, he will one day make his own mind up on the matter. My son simply replies, "I think I'll make my mind up when I'm grown up". I couldn't have wished for anything else. As for our daughter (the very independent, bright free thinking young lady that she is), seems to be leaning towards her dear 'ole dads side of the fence. Again, we have never pushed either religion or atheism onto our children, but simply given them the option to choose.
I was discussing The God Delusion with my older brother recently, and to my surprise he stated that he has been an atheist since his early teens. He told me of the time he sat down and informed our Mum that he didn't believe in God, and that he didn't want to go to Mass anymore (if only I knew that when I was younger). I was eager to find out Mum's reaction (which I thought would be rather "ugly"), to which my brother informed me that she was disappointed, yet respected his decision, and would always love him regardless of his religious beliefs.
If only the religious nations of the world who are in constant war and battle, adopt my mother's acceptance of her eldest son's beliefs, what a peaceful world it would be.
Thank you Professor Dawkins for opening my eyes.