Dear Mr. Dawkins:
What can I possibly say that hasn't been said before? I know, for the past years, after publishing all of your books, you must receive the same, recurring emails – but I wanted to thank you nonetheless.
I was raised a cradle Catholic by an abusive, alcoholic father, and a mother who is as “hardcore” Catholic as they come. I went to Catholic schools, and my life was inundated with Catholicism. Never was I given a chance to explore any other beliefs, but more so, I never wanted to. Why would I derail from the beliefs my family, for generations, had held to be absolute truth? What good would that result in?
Until I hit high school, I had no idea that anyone could believe anything other than Church doctrine. And then, the wheels started turning. I started to think more rationally, and the more I learned about other religions, the more I questioned my “fundamental” beliefs, which sounded all to similar to everyone else's. How did each religion rationalize its infallibility? The more I thought, and the more I tried to pair reason with a religious belief system, the more brick walls I came up against. But even then, my questions to my mother about religion were stifled, and priests just considered me a “troubled youth.” Try explaining to a priest that his occupation doesn't make the slightest bit of sense, and you'll walk away with a damnation sentence so severe, one could only laugh at its ridiculousness.
Finally, I couldn't bring myself to believe anything that wasn't based in rational thought. I tried, o man, I tried. But after a few years in college, I faced myself, and my parents. I told them that I couldn't make any sense of a god, and that I didn't believe it for one second. Their reaction, although believable, still makes me wonder. All I heard was cries of damnation (from my own mother), and “how could you do this to me,” and that she never wanted to speak to me again – as far as she was concerned, she didn't have a son. Like something out of the movies, eh?
However, I was convinced that I could lead a fruitful life, and be a scrupulous person, sans religion. That is where your books came into my life. You put explanations to everything thing I knew I believed but didn't understand, and opened up an inviting community of similar minded individuals by encouraging me to “come out.”
Your countless hours of research are changing the world Richard Dawkins, and I both commend and thank you dearly for it. Some day, I'd like to shake your hand and thank you in person, hopefully expressing my gratitude more eloquently than this email was able to. But until then, I look forward to your future publications – you have changed more lives for the better than anyone could possibly know.