Dear Dr. Dawkins,
I am so grateful to you, and to others like Sam Harris and Neil DeGrass Tyson, who have done so much to give visibility to atheism (beyond the villianized stereotypes).
I grew up in a Conservative Baptist household. Even though I tried VERY hard to make it work, I had doubts from a very young age about the benevolence of God. The church tells children that “God is love”, and not much more; so when I started learning about the things God had done to hurt people, I coudn't help but feel betrayed. However, out of fear and a sense that this Christian lifestyle was my only option, I worked even harder to fit into the religion.
It has been a long, slow process out of the dark, but I have managed to find some peace at last. Reading about science, and about the history of religion, has been my source of salvation from the fear and hate that religion taught me.
I still feel some fear sometimes about hell, I am ashamed to say. When we are taught to believe something so horrible our whole lives, I believe that it scars us deeply.
I work with survivors of sexual assault, and I see similar patterns in them. If, when they were young, their abusers told them that they would get in trouble if they told, they believed it. As adults, they still feel afraid when they talk about it.
Dr. Dawkins, you are right to say that forcing religion on young children is abusive. It can leave us deeply scarred, and can make the process of “coming out” as atheists an arduous one, to say the least.
Thank you for your work, and especially for facing your critics head-on in debates and interviews. You are a powerful advocates for survivors of religious abuse.