Dear Prof. Dawkins:
At the age of 24 (I'm 26 now), I finally took a step that I had known was coming for some time and told my family that I'd embraced my inner atheist. I was lucky, of course- my immediate family are East Coast liberal, which makes them almost as accepting as an AB+ transfusion patient- and have received no flak over this decision with the exception of my grandmother, whose arguments I would write off as *just* silly if they weren't also just a little hurtful. (“You may call out to your god if you're in pain one day” and all that.)
Truth be known, I'd been an atheist unknowing for quite a long time. Even as a child, I found more of interest and value in science than I ever did in the Bible, and despite being confirmed in the Methodist church I was always the kid who'd bring up the idea of the Bible as metaphor rather than literal truth, discussing things like theistic evolution and the divine implications of relativity and quantum mechanics. I'm not sure if I made an impression on anyone else or not, but it was only a couple of years later that I realized that God in any sense save the Einsteinian was easily replaced by scientific explanations already derived. From the age of 15 I was what might be called a first-cause or four-constants theist, seeing God only in the titanic blast of the Big Bang, and before my high school graduation I had moved past even that- all owing to my voracious appetite for reading and learning. This led naturally to what I have stated above, and shortly after reading The God Delusion I was able to articulately present my atheism. I am happier as a result, and better still my brother revealed his own atheism shortly thereafter.
I am troubled now only by one thing- my branch of the family is in the minority. One set of relatives are sincere Roman Catholics, another set born-again Baptists, and a third just generically “Christian” (I haven't gotten any more specific information out of them.) I don't trouble myself with converting most of them- the adults are naturally free to observe and decide for themselves- but the Catholic branch has several young children. One in particular looks up to me as a source of wisdom and learning- she shares my passion for biology- and I am troubled by ethical and social concerns. I fully intend to offer her a thorough education in any areas of science her Catholic schooling doesn't cover, but I am torn between simply offering that knowledge and hoping for the best and actually nudging her in the direction of atheism. (Perhaps via a complete set of your excellent books.) The only real issue is that the idea feels quite as unethical as it would if any other adult were guiding her towards religion, and so I have to ask- is that an accurate assessment of the situation, or just some lingering piece of disused religious morality?
Perhaps some other converts could post their thoughts (or similar situations) as well, as this isn't just a bit of philosophical trivia but my very sincere hope that I can make a positive difference in a child's life.