Dear Professor Dawkins,
I've never been a “religious” person exactly. I was raised by an atheist father and a mother with the sort of apathetic faith in which one maintains some vague belief in God but does not practice the religion. Christianity played virtually no role in my upbringing, and for that I occupy a somewhat unique place among American atheists. However, for several years I was captivated by a different sort of dogma, the sort which places one outside of the religious mainstream but far beyond the boundaries of rational thought as well. Magick, witchcraft, wicca, occultism; whatever you choose to call it, I was obsessed with it for about five years in my teens. My bookshelves to this day are loaded with such nonsense as the works of Aleister Crowley, Cornelius Agrippa, and Anton LaVey. I became a veritable scholar of the occult, avidly consuming every volume of mystical lore I could get my hands on. Upon reading your book The God Delusion, I almost overnight realized the essential similarity of occultism and organized religion, and was able to face the reality that my mystical beliefs were simply hokum.
I look back on this period of my life with great embarrassment. The years I spent loading my brain with occult garbage could have been put to far better use reading the rational philosophy of Russell, Mill, and Hume and which I now love. These years were a great growing experience for me however, and if I had not become so severely deluded, I would have never had the profound experience of having ones eyes opened fully to the importance of reason, skepticism, and evidentiary support in investigating phenomena.
Vineland, New Jersey