I am a 33-year-old brazilian male. Even though I am in the middle of your fantastic “The God Delusion Book”, I confess that you've made me “lose my religion” several years ago – 6 years, to be exact – when I have read “The Selfish Gene”. This really “raised my consciousness” and made me see things differently. From then on, I have read not only all your books, but also a lot of related books and authors, like books from Matt and Mark Ridley, Daniel Dennett and Steven Pinker. Ok, Douglas Adams also! 🙂
My story may seem a little bit different because I was a questioning person since childhood. At 7 I converted from catolicism to “spiritism”, a supposedly “scientific” religion. “Spiritism”, a very popular religion in Brazil, comes from an individual named Hyppolite Léon Dénizard, aka Allan Kardec, that lived in the mid-1800's France. It autodeclares itself a doctrine – the mix of “religion, philosophy and science”.
Yes, you read right: science.
In theory, it motivates questioning and the “Scientific Method”; in practice, it is a religion like any other, with closed “psychic” sessions where a questioning person can't go and complete hostility in spiritist houses and conferences to that kind of inquiry.
I didn't know better until in 2001 I started a personal quest (after reading your “Selfish Gene” book) to see if there's a god or not, if we have a spirit or not. I have read 11 pro-religion books and have gone to a lot of religious temples and “scientific centers”, only to be frustrated with deception, closeness and fraud.
My transition from a god-believing person to a full-blown atheist was not happy, it was painful and difficult. It is not easy to suddenly drop 28 years of religious convictions and cosmogony.
Strangely enough, the god part was not difficult since the spiritist “god” is almost the einstenian god, but the “spirit” part was terrible – I wouldn't exist after my death.
My cosmogony and my ethics had to be rebuilt from scratch. Today I find myself better this way, but it was a long way to there.
Nowadays I have a new dilemma. I have found the girl of my life. She's my fiancée. She's very intelligent – a scientist in genetics and protein crystallography! – but she's also very religious and insists that I go to church with her. She's offended personally with non-religious arguments and does not even call me an “atheist” but a “questioner” – it seems that to her this is a “dark side” of mine.
How can I deal with this kind of situation? Do you have any special advice for it?