Dear Professor Dawkins, or may we call you Richard?
Your influence via the God Delusion, lecture talks posted on this site and the various RDF forums have been a great help and have boosted our psychological well being.
I will be brief, our tale is no longer a cause of pain, guilt and deceipt. It was not always this way. Methodism and Roman Catholicism are strong brands of the God thing. In my adult life as a firefighter I was not often in contact with church-goers except for my bipolar, overly religious, hypochondriac mother and the occasional duties of attendance as a senior member of the service. My father was a low key catholic and died the day I started work at 17. As a youth I was encouraged and nearly accepted at a seminary to follow in the footsteps of my uncle but evaded it through a combination of scouting, outdoor activities and the poor health and operations on my father's heart that necessitated spells in hospital as did the psychological problems of my mother. My wife's and my father's familes were quite normal I think, my mothers were imigrant Irish catholics and producers of large families that like ours, are largely disfunctional.
From about 15 I was always interested in physics and astronomy although unaware of the internal religious conflict most of the time. In 1973 I attended a lecture on black holes and later read Stephen Hawking and although well and truly lapsed had not really made the right connections. Our own children were brought up outside the church and are well balanced not really understanding of the anger and frustration we were was caused. My wife is an ex-methodist who tried the evangelical approach as a young woman but was always a little worried by the overt displays at "meetings". We are really horrified by the God channels on Sky and Peter Popoff once outed as a fake and bankrupted is at it again but is not alone. "Miracles" abound and miracle water and prayer cloths are pushed nightly from UK bases.
We are seriously grateful to you and hope to meet you at Oxford. Your eloquence and knowledge inspired us, we hope to pass on the message. Thank goodness we met with the results of the life you have dedicated to reason, critical thinking and science! I like to think I am "evolving".
Damian & Jenny Walker - AKA Mr Blue Sky