Dear Mr. Dawkins,
Throughout my life I was raised a Catholic. I wouldn't say I had religion shoved down my throat, per se, but it was a major part of my life. My grandmother had always talked to my cousins and I about God and his benevolence, didn't really speak about hell, only mentioning it's where bad little boys go and it being “unpleasant”. All of my family is Catholic (Exception on my father's side, apparently Catholicism wasn't enough and are now Evangelicals.), but nonetheless they seem to be nit-pickers when it comes to the bible. When I went to Sunday school for my first communion I would drive the teachers crazy with my questions of, “what, where, how, and why” and rather infuriating them by making a comment about the biblical flood, “WOW! GOD IS P****D!” Of course, I was ten at the time and knew about hell, (learned it about six, VERY terrified at just imagining burning alive in eternal hellfire) but never been told and SHOWN how graphic it COULD be. I asked about what heaven was like, thinking, “If it's that bad in hell, heaven MUST be wonderful!” All I got was, “It's a great place in the sky, where you can be with God in everlasting bliss.” I asked for SPECIFICS, I just got a vague description. Now, I kept thinking, what can you do in heaven? They give such scary pictures of hell but almost nothing about heaven!
As I got older my doubts became prevalent. I just couldn't understand some things about religion, I read the bible but was confused apparent contradictions that I've never noticed! One minute Jesus states to love your neighbor the next that he didn't come here for peace but bringing a sword? (I let that one pass at first because frankly any theologian can state it's more a figure a speech, still, quite a head scratcher). The Old Testament was by far WORSE but slightly, only slightly, more consistent than the total bumblings of timeline in the new testament. These questions and self revelations haunted me, I was frightened that if I was wrong I'd pay the ultimate price, later on I had a neutral view on religion. A sort of agnostic leaning towards Catholicism. I knew I couldn't share my opinion about religion to my family (I live in the U.S. and since all of my family is Hispanic and all catholics out of sheer conviction, with the exception of my sister who was about to be a nun, which I helped prevent and is now happily married and with child, you can see how my view is quite a predicament.) they'd literally crucify me on the lawn. Even some of my friends criticized me, even utilizing guilt to prove their point (This guy I know said, “HOW CAN YOU SAY SUCH THINGS! COME ON, YOU THINK YOUR DAD ISN'T IN HEAVEN RIGHT NOW? YOU THINK HE'S JUST DEAD AND ROTTING? WHAT THE F**K IS WRONG WITH YOU!?”)
Today, I can proudly say, albeit to myself and close friends, “I am an atheist!” After reading a combination of books such as Thus Spoke Zarathustra, God is Not Great, and, of course, The God Delusion, I felt enlightened. I felt, as if all my thoughts just poured out of my mind and into the paper, words I have thought but could never speak or formulate into such eloquent and mind opening prose! Just saying, “I am atheist” feels magnificent! I actually feel HAPPIER! I don't feel pitiful, weak, or pathetic, I feel enlightened and happy. I feel as though I had broken free from the chains of servitude to an imaginary God who is just as barbaric as any racist, blood thirsty, jealous, zealot of a man. I feel like my life has more purpose than just being another puppet in some perverse puppet show. I still carry the shackles to remind me of what I had broken free, soon I will gain the courage to say, that I have become an atheist and not be afraid. I am happy and I realize that I only live once and intend to live my life. My purpose in life is just to live and enjoy it. Thank you, thank you so very much.
P.S. Yes my real name IS Christian. Figures, eh?