Dear Dr. Dawkins,
It may seem strange that I became an atheist after marrying a moderate Muslim man and relocating to the Middle East, but that is exactly where my freedom from religion took place. I spent most of my childhood outside Chicago, Illinois, and raised by conservative Christians. I was fortunate to go to a school that taught evolution but that did not matter, since when going home my family would warn me to not trust “the ways of the world.” I grew up in fear since I knew most of my friends were going to hell, and the only friends who I’d have up in heaven were the ones from my church (those being my more boring friends, I almost felt having my “secular” friends from school was a guilty pleasure).
As the years passed by, going to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesdays began to stress me since I was not entirely convinced with my faith. My family sent me to Christian conselors in high school, thinking there was something wrong with me. My Grandma even believed that I may be corrupted by an evil spirit. One night my Grandma went through my books and saw a copy of Siddhartha which I had just started reading days earlier. She was furious and threw it out! Much of my adolescence was spent hiding books that did not go along with my family’s view of God’s plan.
When I entered college I no longer believed in traditional Christianity but still couldn’t let go of it completely because I had the traditions and superstitions instilled in me at such an early age. I would find myself praying before each meal still and before bed just out of habit. It wasn’t until I reached 20 where I let go of Christianity completely. A couple years later I fell in love with a violinist who happened to be Muslim (though not religious) and we married. He was aware that I was not religious and fortunately never forced his views on me. I moved to Cairo two years ago and it was here that I became an atheist.
Living here I saw how people love to inject religion in every conversation. It’s a very superstitious culture; anything good is from God, anything bad is from evil man. Living here I saw the similarities between children born to Muslim parents and the way I was brought up. Children are not taught of evolution, nor are they even taught sexual education. People live their life for religion only. There is a horrible problem of poverty here but no one seems to mind since the “real life” will soon begin after death. Prayers are five times a day and no matter your faith you are forced to listen and respect the word of God. Work is irrelevant; stop everything five times a day and pray.
I began reading “The God Delusion” last year when a friend gave me a copy. It was bought in America because atheism books are not allowed here. When I go to the bookstore (even bookstores in English) there is no section on evolution and there is barely a section on science altogether. People are not allowed to question what is not to be questioned, and this kind of oppression was the catalyst for me to read Richard Dawkin’s book, along with a few others.
Though I cannot say it freely here, I am now a proud atheist. I finally feel my life is my own. It is not a life of a Christian, it is not a life of a Muslim, it is my life. Whenever I lost religion, I gained internal freedom. I am in awe of life around me, and I realize now that I never needed religion to define me or my reason for existence.
If I had read The God Delusion earlier I wonder where I would have been now, so many years wasted on religion and prayers (I spent years praying for God to “reveal” his plan for me and it always seem to point me in a direction other than my passions) but I am thankful to have read it in my mid twenties. Never will I look at children again as Muslim children living here, or Coptic Christian children. I look at them as children with little opportunity and little education. Reading about science and evolution I realize the real potential of humanity without religion.
Thank you for your books, The God Delusion really did change my life by giving it back to me.