I feel compelled to add to what appears to be a rapidly growing collection of similar stories! I grew up in a small town in Texas, in a devout catholic home. As a child I suppose I was a devout catholic, but as I grew older it was harder to take seriously what I was asked to believe. Come on, a piece of bread and a cup of wine really become human body and human blood? Not to mention that's pretty gross. So needless to say, although I still went through the motions, religion became significantly less important. Nonetheless, my parents still applied pressure to “stay close to god” and I caved simply to keep the peace.
The catalyst for my conversion came with a very joyous event in my life, the birth of my first daughter. I'm not sure whether it was pressure from my parents or simply an entire lifetime of being a catholic, but the next step was a baptism. Then I heard something that I had not thought about for many, many years. The deacon in charge of the baptism classes was talking about a previous tenet of the church in which any baby that was not baptized and died would not go to heaven. He went on to say how that was incorrect and gave reasons as to why the church said that was no longer true. I remember thinking how significant a shift in thought this was. I mean, I grew up believing this my entire life. Then other questions popped up in my mind. Does this apply only to those that died after this was changed? What about adults that were not baptized, did they not go to heaven simply because they were adults and not babies? What about all the suffering that had been caused to the families who had newborn babies die without a baptism before the church decided to change its stance? I kept thinking of my 4 month old daughter and what would happen if she died. I couldn't believe that religion was making me think of my child dying! I also thought how silly it was that the church changed its mind on baptism. What possible evidence could they have now to know that it was no longer true that unbaptized children do not go to heaven?
This turned into a snowball effect and I thought of all the tenets, principles, canon, etc., that made no sense to me. I could no longer rationalize holding on to this religion. I knew that I no longer wanted religion to have any influence on my life but I wasn't sure what the next step was. I didn't know anyone that was intentionally not religious and so I was caught in limbo, so to speak. Then on a visit to a bookstore, I ran across Daniel Dennett's “Breaking the Spell”. I read the book and my mind was sprung open. I next read “The God Delusion” and this book absolutely changed my life. My wife was taken with how voraciously I read this book and the only way I could explain it to her was, “Imagine the feeling you had after eating the absolute best meal of your life, how satisfied you felt. This is how I feel after reading this book.” My mind was quenched of a thirst for answers to questions that religion could never answer. I have since read all but two of your books and have found other authors that have also enriched my knowledge. I had a few undergraduate courses in biology and had a decent understanding of evolution by natural selection, but the picture was hazy and it is now in clear, stunning HD.
I live my life and make decisions with nothing to guide me except science. I teach in a physical therapy program and by looking at the human body in terms of evolution, I am better equipped to answer questions and treat patients in a way that I was previously not. Not to mention, it gives me great pleasure to talk about evidence-based practice.
I am glad to be free from the snare of religion. Living without a belief in god has opened my mind to the great beauty of this life we live. Thank you and I hope you are able to make it back to the University of Texas at Austin again soon.