Mister Dawkins, I am a Finnish male at the age of 19. I have a story to tell you, and it, by no surprise, has something to do with religion.
Ok, a LOT to do with religion.
(I'm sorry for the possibly bad grammar, I've forgot a lot of my high school English)
When we here in Finland turn 15, usually after the 8th grade, we go to a summer camp called “confirmation camp”. The camp consists of 10 days, in which “students”, meaning the people who attend these camps, have discussions about God, about bis existence and about the bible with a couple of older “teachers” (we don't really call them teachers, but they do teach about Jesus and such stuff from the bible). There are also priests, cantors and other people who work for the youth section of the church. The camp itself is aimed to convert a lot of teenagers into the Lutheran Church, the biggest church in Finland. I was among the few who really got converted. Why? Because for the first time of my life, I felt accepted by the community. Because I had been bullied a lot in school and suddenly people liked me, they even laughed at my jokes at times and made me feel like I was worth something.
This must have been a work of God, because it hadn't happened before. For the first time in my life I was liked. I do not feel that the teachers and the people thought they were dishonest, and I really still feel that I WAS liked, that I DID matter.
But then again, the recently converted are the focus here. Of course the teachers will make me feel comfortable 'cause they want to commercialize a religion. After the camp they make you swear, at the church, that you believe in God and that you will live by his word for the rest of your life. This is a big day for many youngsters and parents, and in this day is usually celebrated in quite a big manner. I had a lot of folk coming in to congratulate me for this “important day of my youth”. People usually only go to the camps because they want money or their parents just make them go. It is, very rarely, a religious choice of the young guy/gal, but an old tradition, which of course is good because it has “always worked”.
After my confirmation I have been a “teacher” in these camps.
I have preached about the word.
I have told people that they would suffer in hell forever, if they do not believe in Jesus's work (and, of course, in Jesus himself).
I have told people my own beliefs and offered them as the only truth.
Not until last year have I really started to notice a change in my view of things. I have never felt that homosexuality was a sin, I have never been anything but a liberal christian.
But last year I seriously started to doubt the possibility of God. Slowly I started to see the whole concept of God really irrational and, to tell you the truth, kind of dumb.
And I realized the cold truth. A God is an impossible idea. Or at least very, very unprobable.
And now I have finally agreed to myself that I truly do not believe in a God anymore.
This is really hard for me, because God has been the cornerstone of my life for a lot of years, and because a lot of my friends believe in God, “with their heart full of His Love”.
I have nothing to do right now, because, I have only been hanging around in the Christian youth center and have constructed my whole life on the concept of God.
Yet there is no God..
I think it is going to be really hard for me for a couple of years, but I believe that this helps me become the true ME. I believe that the clarity of atheism has opened my eyes for the truth.
And I want to thank you for it.
Thank you for your books (God Delusion is my favorite) and your other material.
Thank you for making it possible for a man like me to know the truth and see the delusion I've created.
And last but not least, thank you for offering support for us, newly converted atheists.