Dear Prof. Dawkins.
I can thank you directly for removing my agnosticism, which was bordering on semi- belief at times. You have very much changed my mindset permenantly.
Without bleating on about my life story, I'll condense it a bit by saying that I was essentially suicidal for most of my childhood, due to abusive parents. The abuse was of the psychological kind, which I believe is criminally under-acknowledged, in favour of the stereotypical sexual abuse by males. I am still trying to rescue my two brothers from that same situation, and the social workers don't give two shits. Hopefully times will change.
There wasn't actually any religion involved in the abuse, but my mother 'raised' me in such a way that if there were to be a sudden revoke of law, I would without hesitation travel down there and…you get the idea. Imagine the nurse in the film: 'One flew over the cuckoos nest', but infinately more sinister.
I still hold a huge amount of baggage, and having left the household 3 months ago, I am undergoing heavy psychological 'decompression', as I release 20 years of repressed emotions.
Religion enters the picture because I had a refuge, in the form of my grand parents. Most of my childhood memories involve the few times I was with my grandparents, because I have repressed most of the rest. They were both christians, but of a very endearing kind. Highly intelligent, they did their believing mostly in private, and were never the type to be seen singing the loudest. I was raised with bible stories, and church-going. It was never forced, and certainly not the child abuse that is the norm for evangelical parents.
The trouble was, I didn't believe it. But nonetheless I suffered the paranoia about hell, and the punishment for my borderline atheism. I was besotted with my grand parents, and struggled to reconcile my disbelief, with their strong faith. Basic logic dictated that either I was going to hell, or they were deluded. Neither was a comfortable thought.
They died, and being my only protectors, I wanted to kill myself every day from age 16-21. My mental hell was linked in with the semi-belief. I would cry out to god often, and reached my lowest point when I just sobbed away, crying out to my grandmother, who had recently died. I thought that I was being punished for something, or that God was in control of my life. About a year later, I read the God delusion.
I wasn't really impacted by the argument against god's existence, but it was the plentiful social commentary (that sounds derogatory….it is an extremely well written book!!) which stirred something in me, and awakened an interest in anthropology. From there, it's a case of putting 2+2 together, and it is so blatently obvious that religion is a (necessary?) social construct, male concieved and male benefitting.
I am probably not the best advert for atheism, still in a state of depression as I recover from a lifetime of abuse. The depression results in nihilism at times. Christians would love to quote-mine me, I'm sure.
But without doubt, I can thank the God delusion for emptying my mind of unnecessary guilt (for 'sins' such as lust), and the terror of going to hell has mostly left me. By FAR the single biggest benefit, is that I no longer feel a helpless victim of 'fate' – I am in control of my own life. That will have a very positive effect on my future.
Keep up all you are doing, I genuinely believe that you are a significant figure in changing medieval attitudes, and highlighting bullshit for what it is!!