Dearest Mr. Dawkins,
I am an Egyptian. Born and raised in Egypt, the notion of no god was unimaginable to me. Science class did not include anything that might remotely cause any doubt in a young mind. When I was about 4-5 years old my father (a fundamentalist Muslim, that's redundant) left Egypt for The States, to provide us with a better life. I was raised by my mother ( also a fundamentalist) and she would read the Koran to us on almost a daily bases. When I was very young, I always had a question in the back of my mind as she read and explained to us, if god made everything, then who made god? I used to think that when I got older I would understand, I mean all the adults in my life seemed to believe it, and I surely didn't know more than they. I have never been able to understand, and am now puzzled by the fact that they believe such things, and that I once did.
I wasn't however always puzzled by it. Come to think of it, I stopped thinking about it and just assumed it was true for the next several years. The beliefs included things like: “women are inferior to men, homosexuals will burn in hell, all men who did not worship god and accept "Mohammed" as his prophet were to burn in hell, that every one who did not submit to the former was my enemy and the enemy of god, and that I should fight for "islam" if ever I was given a chance”. It does not sound much different from "Christian" principles, but for a young kid it was quite an impression. Throughout the rest of the years in Egypt, I was subjected to religion class and bad science classes. I remember talk of injustice in Palestine and elsewhere in the Arabic world, brought on as a sign of “the nearing apocalypse”. I remember thinking that I would be honored to die and kill, other men and women for god. Scary stuff, I know, I thought that way.
At 11 years old my mother, brother, and I moved to America to be reunited with my father. Happy times, right? When finally we did come here, I found that my father had become more religious. I did not understand it then, but free society scared him. He saw normal things like, uncovered women and homosexuals as a threat to his faith. He fought back by becoming immersed in his faith. I later found out that one of the reasons it took so long for us to follow him to America, was to indoctrinate us enough before we came. Well, needless to say it didn't work on me, but unfortunately I can’t say the same for my younger sibling.
The first two years I was here, the constant religious bombardment continued. I was having a hard time adjusting to the new society and learning a new language, and didn't have time question much. I did however notice one thing, when I first moved, a lot of people, "Christians" and others, helped for no other reason then helping their fellow human. I just remember thinking "how could they go to hell?”. Then came high school, I started to have American friends, I had my first girlfriend, had my first bacon cheese burger, and I started to doubt.
By the end of high school I still believed, or so I thought, but I was getting closer and closer to the truth. I started to examine things like, why should I go to hell for eating bacon? It did not make sense to me, and I kept ignoring it. The first real below to faith came in my freshman year at a community college, that’s right, my first encounter with philosophy. In that class I came to realize that I wasn't the only person to think of these things. I went on, playing along, pretending to believe, and not knowing what had happened. I started to make excuses as to why I couldn't make it to prayer, and making things up to keep my parents “off my back” about it. I even lied to them at one point, I said I had married one of my girlfriends in the mosque, so they would let her move in with me.
I started fighting with my dad more and more. He wanted me to become “a better "muslim"”, and I wanted nothing to do with it. It went on like that for a while and finally things came to a crashing halt in September of 2008. My father hit my mother, I remember I was sleeping and when I woke up because of the commotion, I lost it. I told you earlier that my mother is a fundi, but I love my mother, she did everything she could with the capabilities she had for me and my brother. Long story short I left the house after my mother, being “a good muslim” let him back in the house. This is the time when i started to move away from all my ties with "islam"(family mostly), I became isolated, and that helped.
One day while at work, I was looking up something along the lines of “the bad effects of religion”, and that’s when I came across the book that changed my life. In January of 2009, and shortly after my 22nd birthday, I read “The God Delusion”. As I read that book I finally realized what I was, I had been an atheist for a long long time and just didn't know it. Your book made me realize that god had no place in my life. It made me realize how beautiful life really was. I have since fallen in love with science and the romance of the human story. It's because of your book I will take physics next year, and while I am ashamed to say that I haven't told my mother yet, for fear of losing her, I have told almost everyone I know “that I am an atheist”. I have tried to convince my brother to accept the fact of evolution and am sad to say, its too late for him. I have however convinced one of my cousins to read your book and think he may also apostasies.
Since reading your book, I have read many works of philosophy and science. I have read your "Greatest Show on Earth”, what a wonderful and fitting title, and actively use it in debates with the religious. I just wanted to let you know that you have changed my life for the better, and that your courage and tenacity makes a difference. I think your style and wit is great and is much needed. I cant express my gratitude enough for your work, your honesty, and attitude.
I apologize, but I refuse to capitalize the names of the religions and god.