Dear Professor Dawkins,
I was raised as a devout Baptist, at church every Wednesday and Sunday, many times more than that. Throughout my childhood I had questions about religion, but because of my upbringing the answer always seemed to be "God this" or "God that" and for a while I was fine with that. I started having questions however, of whether I was "saved" or whether I was simply living a lie and needed to figure out how to really be "saved" by Jesus. I didn’t feel different after confessing my sins, being baptized, the whole process, so I did it again, all by the time I was 11. Once I got a bit older however, I still didn’t feel like there was any difference, even though I was doing everything I could to be in church, go on missions, attend small group Bible study, the list goes on.
At the age of 16, my best friend committed suicide. I was told that he would be spending eternity in Hell not only because he killed himself, but because he was didn’t have "Jesus’ gift of salvation." I finally decided that there was no way a loving god could send someone as kind as him to an eternity of suffering simply because of that, and so I left Christianity for Wicca, as a few of my friends practiced that and the only thing I knew at the time was that I didn’t want Christianity and Jesus anymore. Wicca worked for a while, however my mother found out about it after finding a book in my room and absolutely freaked out "out of love." I was after that forced to go to church with them every Sunday, no matter what. I started acting like I was a Christian and for a short time even told myself I was. My girlfriend at the time was a Christian, so even when I finally decided to tell myself at least, that I was an agnostic, I didn’t want to tell anyone else for fear that she would break up with me. It was after we broke up that I read The God Delusion, right before my Freshman year of college.
I will confess that my first copy of The God Delusion was an illegal copy that I had downloaded from a pirate eBook website, because I didn’t want my parents to catch me with a book on Atheism, fearing a similar reaction to the revelation that I was a Wiccan. After reading The God Delusion, it seemed to make so much sense and I realized that Atheism wasn’t the evil, horrid, immoral thing I had heard about all through my youth, but something I completely agree with. I now consider myself Atheist and am close to telling my family. So far only a few of my friends know, but I have been telling more of them every day and as proudly display the Out Campaign A on my Facebook page, along with Atheist as my religion and plan to order the Out Campaign pin as soon as I get a little extra money. I have also bought a copy of The God Delusion on iTunes recently and plan to buy a hard copy at some point in the future.
I really just want to say thanks, Professor Dawkins. Your book completely changed not only my opinion of Atheists, but my life, and I’ve realized how much freedom Atheism really is, not having to constantly worry about some deity’s opinion of you. I have recommended The God Delusion to many of my friends, and hope that many more like myself will continue to have their perceptions of Atheism radically changed by your masterpiece.