Dear Richard Dawkins,
I am a 27 yr old Australian and proud to call myself an Atheist. I now have both a black and a white hoodie simply with the word Atheist printed across them, that I never leave home without as I wander around Sydney. This would not be the case if it were not for you. It does go far deeper than a pair of jumpers, mind you, I really do have a lot to thank you for!
I was brought up in a fairly strict Catholic house, attending church every week, and serving my time as an altar boy. I will have to admit, I fell for the delusion and use to be proud of following certain rituals and traditions, such as reciting prayers properly, kneeling to the tabernacle whilst crossing the church etc, feeling God was watching like Big Brother. Unfortunately for the church and my parents, my parents taught me how to think for myself. Sounds bizarre as they still attend church etc. but I always found them arguing for the side of reason, even if it countered the church’s position.
I questioned religion, more and more, not understanding why I never got an answer to life, the universe and everything, that satisfied me. It was almost like the disappointment of getting 42 as the answer. I went from being a Catholic to believing all the religions were man’s misinterpretation of God, and that they were all the same. My thoughts got more vague and based on bits of stories and movies that I enjoyed until I realised I was cherry-picking to make a perfect religion ie when you died, you went to a world (like the Robin Williams movie ‘What dreams may come’), though hell was simply being haunted by your regrets in that world. Then when i realised that psychopaths wouldn’t feel regret, I hit a dead end. No one ever said a word to me that there was even a possibility that God and the supernatural may not even exist! and I wish that someone had the courage to do so much earlier.
The answer was finally shoved under my nose by an ex-girlfriend trying to convince me of the non-existence of God, as she wasn’t good at arguing it herself. It was your book, The God Delusion. I read it cover to cover and was fascinated. For the first time, I felt utter relief, elation and a contentedness that I had an answer that fitted everything! It was so simple, yet I had dared not think or say it until I read your book and was inspired by your words. For that to begin with, I thank you!!
That, however, started a chain reaction with me as I started youtube-ing your speeches and interviews, learning new names: The rest of the four horsemen, AC Grayling, PZ Myers to name just a few. I started buying book after book: God is Not Great, End of Faith, Moral Landscape, Breaking the Spell, The Selfish Gene, Greatest Show On Earth… I was hungry for knowledge! I figured since I wanted to learn so much, and I was getting through an average of a book a week, that it would be in my interest to put it to use or have some sort of guide. So I have now started going to University to do a BA majoring in Philosophy. That I am sure is only the beginning and again, for the inspiration and guidance to discover the truth, through reason and an understanding of the cosmos, I thank you.
What you have given me through your work is one of the greatest gifts possible and I will carry it with me my entire life.