The short story is that I grew up a Presbyterian, very heavy into religion and very sure of my faith. I went to college, started meeting people with different beliefs then started questioning mine as well. There were always certain questions that I couldn't figure out, but in good theist fashion I was trained to suppress them as much as possible and pray to have stronger faith. I then stopped going to church, but for years was not able to admit any of my beliefs or doubts to myself because of the whole guilt thing and fear of eternal damnation. Religion became quiescent in me for a long, long time. I then had a son 2 1/2 years ago which prompted a heavy soul searching experience along with many trips to different churches. I felt that I needed to give my son some religious structure and that my confusion would be very detrimental to him. I travelled up and down "church row" visiting all of the various sects of Christianity, but I still was not comfortable with any of these places and clearly all of those doubts and questions remained just below the surface of my brain. But then a funny thing happened…
I saw this guy named Richard Dawkins (maybe you've heard of him :)) on the Colbert Report. I know it sounds like a ridiculous cliché, but that little questioning voice in the back of my head was tazered that day. I mean, I knew that there were people out there who didn't believe in god, but they were either 1) confused, 2) crazy, or 3) both. Could I indeed be one of them??? I immediately bought and read the God Delusion, found that I agreed with almost everything this guy said, and then set out on a quest to learn more. For the next several months I still could not bring myself to use “atheist” as a self-descriptor…you know, that whole religious thing that I grew up with saying that atheists were good for nothing devil worshippers who were all going to hell. So I started describing myself as “an agnostic who is trying to find the strength to be an atheist.” Finally someone asked me if I was an atheist during a debate and I said “yes.” Holy crap, I think I just came out of the closet!
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks to Professor Dawkins since he really gave me the strength to say what I already believed.