I was born in 1967, I was brought up until the age of nine in Belfast. I damaged my ears enough when an IRA bomb blew out the front of a large department store, Woolworths I think, to keep me out of the army. Disappointing when I tried to join up as a school leaver but a "blesssed" relief now. I was taught that fenians were the enemy. I was sent to Sunday school. I wore a sash and walked the Orange march and I will never forget the day that a proddy v fenian stone throwing incident between me, David Thompson (Tommy machine gun), Eddie Larmer (Larmer bell) and a few catholic lads turned into the biggest riot I have ever seen.
All this and plenty more before 1976 when I left Ireland to join my mum in northeast England.
Nine members of my family were in Stephensons shop next door to the fish&chip shop that was blown to pieces by a bomb on the Shankill Road. The IRA bomber was still holding it when it went off. My aunt , Doreen Stephenson owned the business next door and recently had the dividing wall reinforced. If not for that my family would have suffered a far greater loss than a few minor injuries.
A few weeks after arriving in South Shields I got a twinkle in my eye for a local girl. It turned out she was catholic but that didn't seem to matter to anybody. I'm the type that will just stay schtum and observe when things get a little odd. So I played and teased and flirted and enjoyed her company very much and absolutley nothing untoward happened.
It was shortly after that that I realised if they just mixed the schools in Ireland the trouble would probably all stop after a while. I was still nine years old.
I sometimes feel, in fact no, I far too often feel like I am still nine years old and the reason I don't understand anything is because all the politicians, priests, and self proffessed smart arses are the proper grown ups.
After reading "The God Delusion" I feel as if they are all nine years old and I have grown up.
It was a wonderous release from much of my ignorance. I was always a little afraid to really ask myself the question about what my beliefs were. As I read the book it was as if you knew all the questions I wanted to ask but hadn't.
I can't thank you enough for teaching me to accept my Atheism. Of course I feel as though I want to run shouting it from the rooftops and I worry a little about the anger that arises about how much of my life is and has been tarnished by fairies. It hurts alot.
On my fortieth birthday relaxing in the Dominican Republic I read the first book I could be bothered with in ten years and I don't believe there can be any other book that would have invigorated me more. Thank You , in the word of Brian, "Alot!".