Dawkins, I can't say I've read any of your books, but I'm certainly getting around to it. I just need to figure out how I can get my hands on one. I may have to resort to the same desperate measures I take to get my quantum mechanics textbooks– that is, illegal downloading.
Being fifteen, I genuinely can't afford to shell out eighty bucks for Cohen-Tannoudji or any other standard QM text. But I could afford a copy of The God Delusion, and I'd pay full price if I had a safe way of obtaining it. Also on the list of “things I want that my Christian parents probably won't let me have” are an OUT campaign pin and a Happy Human pin for my messenger bag. I love buttons.
But none of this is going to happen anytime in the foreseeable future. It doesn't look like college will be easy to get to, either, as my parents are now refusing to assist with tuition due to the fact that I am an atheist. I was outed recently– my parents realized that I was acting strangely and got me to confess. I thought I was pretty convincing, seeing as I'd gotten away with it for months without any sign of them noticing.
I mean, I attended their meetings (that's what Jehovah's Witnesses call church) three times a week, I conceded to having a bible study with a sister in the congregation and I never said a word. Maybe that's what gave me away: for a long time, I was a devout Christian and was very interested in the word of God. But I'm a terrible liar. I could never pretend to believe in something I thought was stupid, so I resorted to not talking about it. Witnesses manage to inject their love for Jehovah into everyday conversation, so even being in the same room as my parents when they were talking about something– it doesn't even matter what, as long as it's a topic that they are seriously discussing– could put butterflies in my stomach. I was terrified when things started to get “serious” because they might notice me leave the room or grow quiet.
But that's all over now, it's out there and there's nothing I can do anymore. It's not much of a relief, though: I never really thought it'd matter to me if my parents knew or not, and it turns out that it doesn't. Once I came to terms with my own atheism, I realized that I'd been on that road for a while. My parents and I had already grown apart intellectually; it was a gradual process. I've always been a studious kid, but my fascination with math and science didn't come until around the age of nine. My parents knew nothing about the sciences and I quickly found that my questions and interests were outside the scope of what I was being taught at school, which is when I turned to textbooks and lecture notes I found on various university course pages.
When I started learning about science, I didn't just learn facts. Over years of becoming intimately familiar with the ideas presented by my areas of study– mainly physics, pure math, comp sci and (more recently) microbiology– I gained intuition. The ability to reason logically and analyze, to distinguish science from pseudoscience and how to speak and write with precision. As my knowledge grew, my faith became weaker.
It eventually reached a critical point when I actually decided to approach evolution. I had many reservations about religion as it was, but the only thing keeping me faithful was the fact that I didn't really know a thing about Darwin or his theories other than the information that the JWs provided in their magazines.
That got me thinking. I'm an expert on ID/Creationism now because of my background– to show myself that I had a foundation for my beliefs, I worked through every “argument” mentally and found that there really was no good reason to believe in God. In fact, I had come to the same conclusion that so many atheists do: religion is dangerous. It threatens our independence and is an insult to reason.
What really put the nail in the coffin, though, was one of my father's friends. He's in his forties and has a degree in zoology. I always went to him for advice regarding my religious beliefs when I had questions; he was so logical and was usually the only person that could give me answers. Other than some of my teachers, he was the only person I actually looked up to– and the fact that he was of my faith put him above my instructors.
When my dad found out about my atheism, he suggested that I send his friend an email. I hadn't sent him an email in quite a while, and I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. On one hand, I didn't see any possible way to refute the stuff I'd been reading, but on the other, this guy always had some new perspective for me to look at.
His reply left me confused and sort of disappointed. He was someone I looked up to, yet he fell back on the same Creationist arguments that I'd read before. And while it was awkward, it certainly finalized my decision.
And I can't even tell you how much relief it brought! This is evidently a common occurrence among converts. It was amazing. I was literally ecstatic for a few days; it was liberating, exciting beyond words! To know that second-guessing myself at every step was gone, the ambiguously defined morality was gone, my feelings of guilt were gone. The conflict between what I felt was right and what I thought I knew was right was over with. I was free. I had my freedom of thought back– well, not even back. I'd been indoctrinated since I was a child. The inner conflict I'd grown up with had suddenly lifted and it was an indescribable feeling. Simply amazing.
I'm glad it didn't take me until my thirties to figure this out! 😀
Anyway, I'm writing this to you because, even though I haven't read your books, I'm a fan of the interviews on YouTube, the writing of yours that's been displayed online and the fact that PZ Myers is a close friend has had a great influence on me. What you've done for atheist advocacy is amazing, and I think it's important. While I live in a liberal area and I haven't known discrimination, the family situation is difficult. My parents' understanding of atheism upsets me. The fact that they let fairy tales dictate their life upsets me. Atheists should be proud and outspoken, and you're making it easier for us to do so.
PS… ah, I always feel the need to interject and say that I'm a girl. I don't know why, I guess I feel that my identity is important and helps people to get a better feel for my personality. I see my personality as important to my writing. Sorry if that seems a little weird…!
PSS: VERY IMPORTANT!! IF YOU POST THIS ON THE WEBSITE, DO NOT USE MY NAME! My parents will find out– just use my internet name. It's “mynabyrd.” Thanxx