I am but a tiny speck of atheist sand in the middle of an extremely conservative town in the northern area of Virginia. Camouflage and Sunday church are the only things that happen around here, so to be a person that despises both is a little disconcerting to others. For a while, I was silent about my views, and would even go to Bible camps and Sunday schools. I felt like a hypocrite; well, simply put, I was one. I was terribly afraid of being the black sheep in a town of so few. Clearly being one of few targets but a greater bounty on my head. Something happened though, something clicked. I wasn't as afraid of being different, I was liberated from ages of Christianized oppression.
At first I was not a devout atheist, well I wasn't even a devout agnostic. I was simply a person walking around asking “too many questions for my own good” in regards to religion. My urge for answers did not falter. I pressed my luck with every preacher, adult, and teacher alike. Most gave me vicious looks, many treated me different afterwards. This taught me one of the true offspring of religion: prejudice. Was it not prejudice that fed the Holocaust? Was it not prejudice that enslaved the African-American people? Everyone in and out of the religious rank is enslaved; you are either in or out. It took a little while to get used to being in the outgroup.
Each consecutive year I grew more fond of my own abilities of a person, and concentrated less on the “acts” of a “god”. By freshman year of high school I was completely over any aspect of religion. To me, it was only about never being good enough, and belittling yourself to a deity on an altar. I grew sick of being associated with such hypocrisy and finally took my stance as an agnostic. I suppose I originally used the word agnostic simply because it is a “softer” term than atheist, and for some reason people perceive it as not being as “terrible” as atheism.
Receiving your book as a Christmas (oh, the irony) present was perhaps the best present I've gotten in a while. With each page, I grew a little more sure of myself, and was able to walk out a complete and headstrong person in my faith, or lack thereof. You provided the “atheist baptism” that I needed, and I thank you. Your book is one of two weapons I thrust at friends who are blinded, or share with friends with similar beliefs. Your book, and the genius of Bill Maher's “Religulous” helped me to stand against the painfully blind believers, and aide me in combating the atrocity of religion.
I felt the need to write this, not only to have a chance to share my story with you, a great idol and hero of mine, but to allow others to see how liberating agnosticism and atheism can be. As a side note, I want to go to Oxford University to study Psychology, and I also plan to dabble with The Sciences, and nothing would make me happier than to have you as my professor. I look forward to the possibility of being taught by you, and if not, at least by your books.