Dear Professor Dawkins,
My name is Austin Chapman and for years I was a closet Atheist.
My parents were devout believers in the Christian faith, so when it came time to enroll me in school they chose private Christian education. The school I attended was called Grace Christian School, and their institution educated children from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Even at a young age of five or six, instead of showing us the importance of reading, writing, and math they first wanted to instill in us the existence of a "loving" God and a fiery eternal hell. They had their own Christian produced textbooks that taught God in every subject. I wish you could see their "science" books, you would be furious. They taught that the world was 10,000 years old, and that the reason we have fossils today was from the compacted sediment of "the great flood." It taught almost nothing of Evolution, and what it did was completely wrong, stating that we evolved from monkeys and that there was no macro or micro proof of Evolution.
I believed these lies because I was taught this basically from birth. Every day we would have a 30 minute chapel (church service) in the church connected to the school. After chapel we'd then have a 45 minute Bible class each day where we would be taught a more in dept message as well as writing a verse for memory each day. They then tested and quizzed us on Bible curriculum and a grade was given. If you did not pass Bible class, you could not receive a high school diploma. We were also expected to attend their church on Wednesday nights and Sundays for services.
I always had trouble believing in God, that "invisible man in the sky," but every time I doubted it they'd be there ready to scare the hell out of me, or back in me should I say. I asked Jesus to my savior again and again, out of fear not belief. Finally, at age 16 I convinced my parents to send me to a public high school. I was in complete culture shock which led me into depression and drug abuse. Several years passed and I was finally able to clean up my act around age 19.
Once I was no longer under the influence of drugs, I marveled at the use of my brain again. At that point I started doing research in many different scientific areas out of my own interest, one of which was Evolution. I was awe struck at how much sense it made to me, everything was proven and calculated by science. This led me to read your book The God Delusion. From that point on I was 100% I was an Atheist, and to beat it all I wasn't scared to say it anymore. I'm the happiest I've ever been, and God is nonexistent in my life! I finally can see the true beauty in the world and in science. It's much more amazing to know and understand the processes that created the universe, than to just say an invisible man made everything.
The thing that genuinely bothers me about my experience at Grace Christian School is that I consider myself an intelligent person, and for years I followed with blind faith. Not only blind faith, but with an underlying feeling that what I believed was wrong. I fear that many people out there who lack intelligence and proper reasoning skills are stuck in this perpetual lie. Many people who believe in God aren't happy, I know I wasn't, so it's a falsification for Christians to say religion brings everyone comfort.
Thank you for your works Professor Dawkins, you truly changed my life. Please keep up the amazing work.