I can't say I had any sort of religious upbringing. Our family went to church briefly. Then we just stopped. For us it was always more about being kind to each other than worrying about what the big man in the sky would think. Plus, my parents majored in biology in college, so there was never an evolution "controversy" (I use quotes because
the whole evolution-creation/ID debate is contrived anyway). I grew up considering myself Christian, but it was a casual belief at best (looking back, I would have expected myself to be a bit more religious considering I'm from the evangelical bastion of Colorado Springs). I figured Christianity in its modern form was generally harmless and
a force for good. All that changed after I entered college
One day my freshman year, I was speaking with one of my good friends (who is a Southern Baptist and probably won't like my newfound atheism) and, I don't remember how the subject came up, but I dropped the e-word. To the shock of my naïve mind, my friend retorted, "There's no such thing as evolution." I couldn't believe that someone could still think that in the 21st century, but it opened my eyes.
The more I looked, the more I realized just how hateful Christians can be when it comes to faith. An example that comes to mind was when the same friend who denied evolution was nearly up in arms about how men should literally rule the household and be the only ones who work while women stay home to raise the children. When asked for a rational justification he replied, "Because I'm a Christian, and that's how I was raised." I'm sure it sounded like a great answer in his mind, but it sounded a bit too medieval to me.
Furthermore, the political power evangelicals hold in this country has truly begun to distress me more than anything else. They certainly want nothing less than to destroy the US Constitution and make the US a "Christian Nation" ruled through Biblical law. I want nothing to do with a theocracy, and it worries me to see the dangerous turn my country has taken under the Bush presidency. All told, these revelations in religion destroyed my belief that Christians are really about good. What they really want is power for themselves. I was never much of a believer in the first place, but I could not stand listening to their hateful, ignorant garbarge anymore. Without remorse, I turned my back on Christianity.
However, I still felt the need to believe in something, but I struggled to find a religion that suited my rationally grounded worldview. Then I found a clip from The Root of All Evil? on YouTube in the wake of the Ted Haggard scandal (I went that church once
with a friend and saw Haggard speak. I thought he was creepy then). It eventually led me to your book The God Delusion where I found I didn't need religion. It has given me a whole new perspective on the world that makes sense, and for that, I thank you. Luckily,
my family is not religious, so I won't have any problems telling them I'm atheist. I
might lose a couple of friends, but then I guess they weren't really friends, anyway.
Finally, I think you're doing a great service to humanity, and I want to encourage you to keep it up. Hopefully, we can all use the reach of the internet to work together and help those who are shunned by their supposed loved ones for becoming atheists. In the end, maybe we can show just how much more moral we can be without any ancient writings ruling our lives.