I've been reading through these fascinating deconversion stories and I thought I'd throw mine in. I fall under the already an atheist category, but when I realized I was an atheist is one of my proudest moments and I also think it's pretty funny, so here it is.
I was six years old, the summer before I was to start school. For some reason, well, because my Mom wanted to conform with her church going neighbours, she thought it would be a good idea to uncerimoniously yank me out of my beloved woods with the naturally occuring jungle jim tree trapezes that edged up against our subdivision on Sunday mornings and trot me off to Sunday School. This involved dressing me in a little suit and spitting on her kleenex to rub the remaining dirt off my face before entering the church. On top of that I was required to sit still in a chair for several hours. So far, none of this was to my liking. The Sunday School teacher caught my interest briefly (I was familiar with the basics of Christianity) when I learned that there was supposed to be a Second Coming, I honestly thought there might be a job opening, that if I was really good then I could be the Son of God, but that didn't last long. Maybe fifteen minutes. And then they started singing. Turns out I was a 6 year old music critic. I thought the songs were really sucky and that the caterwauling accompanying them was a form of punishment. And not knowing the lyrics was like standing in front of a crowd in my underwear to me. But I managed to live through it all and returned to the woods, blissfully unaware that they did this EVERY WEEK!
So the next Sunday rolled around, and I was subjected to the same process. The Sunday School teacher didn't appreciate me colouring Jesus green in the colouring book, either. I was getting the picture.
And finally, the third Sunday came along. By this time I had decided that God didn't exist and that all the Jesus talk was complete gibberish. I had the natural world all around me and I sure didn't see any devils or angels popping out of thin air and bothering me like they do to almost everyone in the Bible. My Mom seemed like she was going to make a habit out of sending me every week, so it was time for my first major act of rebellion.
I was stuffed into the hated Sunday School suit as usual. My Mom went to get her coat and car keys. I was getting desparate, and this was my window of opportunity. While she headed for the closet I bolted for the washroom and jumped into the (properly flushed) toilet, fully attired in my stupid suit. I sat there, arms crossed, and waited. My Mom marched in, and being prone to melodrama, she spent some time overacting and waving her arms. But I was not going, and she was not sending me in anything less than my impressive stupid suit. Checkmate. I never went to church again. My Mom eventually became a declared atheist and went back to university with a degree in anthropology. She died last year.
Anyway. I am kicking myself for not reading your books earlier. I was aware of the Selfish Gene when it came out, but I thought it was probably just another trendy self-help best seller so I ignored it at the time. I was a dumb kid. But since I'm currently on a biology kick I picked up the Ancestor's Tale last summer, and read it while sitting on a remote beach on the fabulous West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. Grey whales were migrating close to the shore and a herd(?) of sea lions hunted all day long. It was the proper setting for your profound book. Thank you so much! And then I learned you were publishing The God Delusion! Loved it! Now I have two more of your books lined up for this summer, and I will go through them all, several times.
Finally, I saw that they just had the greatest living Brit contest. I am no hero worshipper, but I didn't see that you were even considered. Oh well, I guess Julie Andrews baring her breasts in the 1970's or the Queen owning some Corgis are much more important achievements than being a pioneer in changing the world for the better, as all these deconversions show. But I thank you for sharing your knowledge and your bravery from the remote colonies in Canada.