I have just finished reading "The God Delusion", and felt the need to express my own arrival at atheism. Whilst I cannot claim that you converted me, as I have regarded myself as an atheist since adolescence, the book makes me feel far more confident about expressing my atheism. Whilst Australia is a secular society without much religious pressure, although the religious right has become more vocal since the rise of "terrorism" as our leaders like to call it, most people would find the idea of expressing yourself as an atheist as a bit odd. So I generally keep quite about it.
I was pleased by your discussion about the "respect' we are all expected to show for people's religious beliefs, no matter how absurd, yet there is no onus on religious people to respect atheism. Perhaps its because its not a belief. I am offended by their constant displays of their religion.
The disbelief in the existence of God came to me as a child of around 12, when lying in bed one night contemplating these things, I suddenly realised there was no God, and all these other people were wrong. This "God" they all believed in was simply a figment of their overactive imaginations, and a crutch for them to release themselves from real responsibility. It was such a powerful understanding that once realised it, I never doubted it again. It was very liberating, because I realised also that this meant that whatever I wanted in life I had control over. There was no 'other force' managing my destiny. I felt free and powerful.
I am keenly aware of a strong sense of morality which I believe is basically inherent, and don't understand why religious people believe they have the mandate on moral behaviour. From what I can see, religious morality is far more concerned with keeping people's sexual activity under control (especially that of women, and more especially daughters), than with caring for other human beings, and refraining from killing others.
I am proud to say that I have raised two children to young adulthood, without indoctrinating them into any religion, or to atheism for that matter. I have tried to show them that this is a choice for them to make if they wish. We chose not to baptise our children, even though most people do, even if they are not religious (go figure, it must be an each way bet), so that they could be free to make their own choices in adulthood. Nevertheless, they are well behaved, law abiding citizens, with sound morals and now that they are adult, their sex life is none of my business!
I will leave your book lying around though, perhaps they will choose to read it!
As atheists, I think we should be more inclined to express our views and be damned (literally). Thank you for writing this book, as it helps to give me new ways of expressing these things articulately. It is a breath of fresh air in a world stifled by hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo.