I wish I could say that your books converted me, that they opened my eyes to the world such as it is, a world full of wonder and mystery that is to be revered, not feared. I was fortunate enough to have come to this conclusion independently years ago in, of all places, the church my Grandmother took my brother and I to every Sunday. To me it seemed, and still does, an incredible waste of time, effort, resources, and human potential.
I thank you most sincerely, instead, for what your book gave to me instead, and that is the courage to stand behind my beliefs. I don't say lack of beliefs, as so many do, because I feel I believe more strongly in the principles of science, the philosophy of law, and in the principles upon which America was founded than I see most theists feel about their precious gods and rituals.
Being an atheist in America is incredibly isolating. I go to school in Melbourne, Florida, right in the heart of one of the reddest, most pious states in the south. My school is flanked on either side by a Baptist Church and the campus ministry/All-Faiths Center (what a joke that title is). Down the road is a Seventh Day Adventist temple thing (if that's a church it's the most bizarre one I've seen in my life), and to the east is another Baptist church. There are dozens of such locations within only five miles of the school.
Until last semester, I kept my atheism quiet, and simply avoided religious debate except within a very small group of friends. I'd learned the hard way what "coming out" can do to my social, romantic, and professional life. I've been ostracized by friends who found out, and turned down by girls who said, "One day I want to get married in a church and raise nice, Catholic children," as if my involvement, even in the distant past if I'm not around, would poison her children's minds against her own brainwashing. I've been isolated in jobs because of it, and subsequently quit to avoid the uncomfortably tense atmosphere.
Then I found your book, The God Delusion, and that all changed. I've come to realize how many atheists there really are out there in the same situation that I am, quietly trying to live a lie and fly under the radar, so to speak. After reading that I bought your entire published library (save for The Selfish Gene, that one always seems to be sold out around here and I end up getting something else in the meantime). I noticed when I went back for The Blind Watchmaker that The God Delusion was consistently sold out. That gave me hope that there were other rational people out there.
I'm proud to say now that I'm an atheist. I've chosen a rational life, and that's nothing I should feel ashamed of. I refuse to shade my view of nature with the supernatural and divine. I'm now president of an organization I co-founded here on campus, Students for a Secular Society, which should have University sanction in the next couple of weeks pending the processing of some paperwork, and we have close to two dozen students on the mailing list and a very enthusiastic staff adviser.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for inspiring this change in my life. Thank you for being the one to get out there in the trenches and take on this battle in the limelight. Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone.
With more gratitude that can be expressed in words,