Dear Professor Dawkins,
thank you, you have done something incredible, we live in the same nation, and yet we have never met-but you have managed to affect my life so deeply. I was born and raised as an orthodox Roman Catholic, and attended a Catholic Primary and Secondary school. It was when I went to my secondary school that I started to have doubts, I started to become disenfranchised with the increasingly zealous and prejudiced teaching. What annoyed me the most was that in contrast to my primary school in which I had recieved a fair and balanced religious education, the secondary school curriculum refused to teach anyone the other arguments. The straw that broke the camels back , so to speak, was when my secondary school (the name of which I shall keep anonymous for obvious reasons) had a large child abuse scandal, in which a 50 year history of abuse with the monks at the school was revealed. I was sickened, I already disliked the papacy at this point, but that pushed me to see how horrible they were, forsaking the children they were charged to protect...it is one of the worst crimes imaginable. After that I began regularly speaking out against the Catholic Church in religious education lessons, much to the horror of the priest who taught us. The child abuse scandal was the elephant in the room, but at the moment nobody was quite brave enough to mention it. At this point I was agnostic, and relativley apathetic towards catholicism. I took a semi-deist position, as life and the world seemingly implied a creation, if not an interventionist one.
But this agnosticism was to be short lived, my atheism began when I saw a marvellous "Intelligence Squared Debate" in which Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens argued against the motion "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world" I was, for the lack of a better word, enraptured. The two speakers spoke with an unmatched eloquence and passion, I was amazed at how swiftly my view changed from a disinterest in catholicism to a hatred of the intolerant, ignorant, and barbaric nature of the Catholic Church worldwide. I sought to learn more, and purchased Christopher Hitchens book "God is not Great". By the end of it I was utterly anti-religious. And after reading your book-"The God Delusion" I was fully atheist, an antitheist I could be called. This is where I must get a bit vague about certain details (because I still go to this school), but I began to give and recommend your book and Hitchen's book to agnostics, atheists and theists alike. I also debated with them regularly and showed them videos of other debates. Through this method I converted one agnostic to atheism and one Catholic to agnosticism. But this was not enough for me, as I became more angry with the hypocrisy of the Church, if only they would debate with me on a level playing field. Taking the initiative, I contacted school officials and set up the debate "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world." I, like Hitchens and Fry before me, argued against that motion. It was held in the school library and about 60 people attended, a full house. I argued my best, and for the first time anyone had done such a thing in the school, I mentioned the child abuse scandal, and I also (which had never been done in the school before) blamed the Abbot of the school monks for being so negligent, and blamed the Church for the child abuse scandal, linking it to the celibacy of the priesthood, and I condemned how the Church so callously covered the scandals up. At the end of this speech, there was silence for a moment, then applause from the students. When it came to a vote, I only lost by 4 votes, with not a single person abstaining. I imagine I would have won if all the monks and teachers were not present.
I must thank you Richard Dawkins, for introducing me to these arguments and giving me the confidence that they could be won, and that freethinking rational debate could be had with these closeminded irrational people. Were it not for you I couldn't have managed it. Later this year I shall be doing the debate "Evolution vs. Creationism", I was shocked to find that there were still creationists in this enlightened land, and I look forward to beating them with reason, wish me luck.
Thank you Dawkins-you have played a role in making me who I am.