I was raised Methodist my whole life and eventually made a part of the church. Despite all that though, I was a rather reluctant member. I tended to be the annoying child in Sunday School who tended to pick apart all the lovely stories until they rather flatly told me to relax and not take it so literally. It wasn't so much with the factual contradictions (although there were plenty) but also the confusing morality at the core of it. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to point out the 180 degree shift we get in morality from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Larry Holmes could figure it out.
But I must confess (bad choice of word I suppose) that religion also did a great deal of damage psychologically with some of its “sins”. Those sins being what Chistopher Hitchens would classify as “thought crimes”. I was given the impossible task of policing what I thought and that if I didn't do that and give myself 100% over to the Methodist God I would spend an eternity being tortured in the eternal fires of hell. What a horrible concept for a child than having an invisible police officer watching over your uncontrollable thoughts and judging you and heaping vast amounts of guilt on you at the same time. I am still trying to work through all the pain that caused me as a child (although I don't think I will ever 100% get over it).
I also could not get over the fact that it did not matter how good a person was in action if he did not believe in the same invisible entity as everyone else he would go to hell.
I could go on for pages but it all made me a rather bitter agnostic by my teenage years. I felt I was in a minority that did not believe but could not take the next logical step and say flat out I was atheist. After all, I could not 100% disprove god therefore I must be classified as agnostic. And for the most part I kept my mouth shut and kind of silently suffered as the religious majority tried to preach to me what was right through their holy book.
After reading your book though it put a lot of things in perspective and made all those arguments that I never even thought of. Suddenly all those rebuttals from the religious which were built on faulty logic and reasoning I saw them for what they were. I also realized the problem in being that silent minority. I have to speak out for what I believe in. While I still have some trouble (especially when most of my co-workers are devout and vocal Christians who believe homosexuality for example is still a sin) debating with some of them, I am at least now debating them instead of being a silent and meek closet atheist.
So while it may not have been a complete conversion from Methodist to Atheist, I feel you have helped me more than I could ever say. My mind feels free and I can focus on living my life and appreciating my life instead of feeling guilt and shame from religion. I am free to live. A simple thank you will never be enough for what you've done but its all I can offer now.
Thank you sir. Thank you.
Miles, 26, USA