My story is not as spectacular as some of the people who have written since I wasn't raised in a religious family, but ever since I read The God Delusion, I have had a desire to thank you.
My parents weren't very religious as I grew up, my mom would best be described as a deist, and my dad would be a pantheist or atheist. Regardless of their beliefs however, they never discussed the idea of a god with me and so the first time I even heard of God was when, at age 5, I went to stay with my aunt and uncle for the summer. They were very religious, and so the first Sunday I was with them we went to church, and I was sent afterwards to Sunday school with my cousins. There they talked about the story of Noah, and I remember asking how so many animals could be kept on a boat. This was my first encounter with God, and I'm glad that reason won out in that encounter.
After that summer I started school and over the first few years of school I faced many conversion attempts. (Although I only realize they were conversion attempts looking back at them.) My best friend gave me a wooden cross to wear around my neck, and I did wear it for 3 years until I lost it, not because I believed in Jesus since at that point I still hadn't even heard of Jesus. I wore the cross because I was fascinated by the patterns in the grain of the wood. Later I was given a “What would Jesus do?” bracelet, and was taken to a Mormon church several times by another friend.
Meanwhile throughout this time, I became a fan of Star Trek, and I would watch it whenever it came on TV. This led to an interest in astronomy and when I was about 13, I would borrow books from the library on the subject all the time. One time, due to a book being put on the wrong shelf, I found “The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy” with the astronomy books and I borrowed it thinking it would have information on stars and planets. I read the book and was immediately hooked on Douglas Adams. Looking back, it was that book being on that shelf that lead to who I am today.
Years past without incident without me thinking anything of religion. To me all it was, was a novelty. Something other people wasted time doing, and at one point was a key point of many deaths, nothing more. It wasn't until I saw videos of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church that I acknowledged the dangers religion still poses to us. Even then however, I didn't think much of it and went on in blissful ignorance.
At some point about a year ago, I was searching YouTube for videos of Douglas Adams, when I came across a video that had him reading part of Restaurant at the End of the Universe at one of your presentations. After that I started searching for information about you, and I ended up watching The Root of All Evil on google video, and the way you presented your information and showed information prompted me to begin looking more into it. I read atheist blogs, and watched videos, many of which recommended The God Delusion, and so I bought my copy and read it through. The arguments were clear, easy to understand, and presented with a vein of humour to keep the reader hooked. I had to read more, and I've since watched any clip on google video or YouTube with your name, have bought a copy of The Blind Watchmaker, and am waiting for my bookstore to get more copies of The Selfish Gene so I can buy it as well.
Now, I am an outed atheist. My parents were fine with it, and it turns out that my best friends are also atheists. I continue to study the subject matter and enjoy gaining the friendship of theists and then letting them know that I am an atheist, forcing them to come to terms with the fact that despite what their religion tells them, I am a good person. Some break off the friendship, but for others it is a question that is the first small pebble that starts off the landslide of questioning their faith.
I've been an atheist all my life, but it wasn't until I saw your work that I realized that there was a name for it, and that there was indeed a battle to be fought for reason. Thank you for opening my eyes, and if you are ever in Calgary, I hope that I can get an opportunity to shake your hand.
Peace and Long Life,
Calgary, Alberta, Canada