Dear Professor Dawkins,
I was born Catholic. I know you would probably cringe at that statement, but what I mean is that my father was Catholic and I was baptized as a child, etc. However, I can not even think of a single time my father even mentioned Jesus. This coupled with my mother's dislike of all things religious, gave me what I consider to be as clean a slate as possible growing up. My parents did not have a lot of money, and they had enrolled me into several free Catholic schools for the purpose of babysitting me while they were at work. My mother tried to ensure that they were as un-evangelical as possible and did a pretty good job under those circumstances.
As a child, I was aware of religion and Christianity specifically, but it had never occurred to me that people actually believed in any of it. If other people asked me if I believed in Jesus, I would say “yes” just because I thought it was the right answer to the question. Jesus in my mind was in the same category as the Easter bunny and Santa Clause. When I became older (about 15 or 16) it became clear to me that people really did believe in religion and that I was definitely an atheist. My father told me that only bad things can come from discussing religion or politics with other people. I would feign belief at appropriate times, not because I was afraid of being ostracized, but because I did not want to offend or make other people uncomfortable.
I lived in southern California for most of my life, which is relatively tolerant of different kinds of people and beliefs, but I have come to realize that atheists are an incredibly disliked and mistrusted group in the rest of the United States. Reading the God Delusion was like someone putting into words exactly, all of my beliefs concerning religion. All of the recent controversies that your book has caused has made me realize that there are probably a lot of people like me buying your books. I no longer feel like I am being polite by pretending not to be an atheist. Atheism deserves, at the very least, to be as accepted as Christianity in the United States and the rest of the world. I feel the best way to make this happen is for more atheists to “come out of the closet”. From now on, when people ask me what my religion is, I am not going to say “I was born Catholic”, I am going to say “I am an atheist”.