Converts, Wed, Jan 30 2013 #(778)

Jan 30, 2013

Dear Professor Dawkins,

My deconversion from Catholicism was a long process. I wasn't baptized when I was born because my mom wasn't religious and my dad was a non-practicing catholic. It wasn't until after my parents divorced and my dad married a catholic that I began attending church every other Sunday with them. Shortly after that, I was enrolled in a catholic elementary school. (I don't blame my mother at all for doing this. The public schools in my town are some of the worst in the country, and the private secular schools are ridiculously expensive. I ended up with a really good education, despite the religious indoctrination.) All the kids in my first grade class were catholic. In the second grade, they were supposed to get their first communions. My teacher talked about it with us in class, and I knew that I hadn't been baptized. My teacher told me that if I didn't get baptized right away, I'd be excluded from all of their preparation activities. As an 8 year old, this was basically a way of saying that I'd be the outcast, and I didn't want that. I begged my mom to let me get baptized. I knew all the motions of church and just wanted to be like everyone else. I got baptized and I got my first communion. For a while, between the ages of 8 and 11, I prayed a lot. I believed in god, and was afraid to doubt. People talk about catholic guilt…I was weighed down by it heavily.

Along my journey through the rest of grade school, it was repeated over and over that gays, divorce, co-habitation, and a litany of other things were bad bad bad! God didn't like those things. I noticed that religion had a way of controlling what people did…and I began to think that my priest and the nuns at my school probably lived depraved, sad lives since they had to obey so many rules. My mom was very liberal and told me that what matters most is that we are good people and don't hurt or kill anyone. That was cool with me. I didn't want to kill anyone, and I didn't want to spend my life micro-managing my actions.

I became agnostic in my pre-teen years and stayed there for almost 10 years. I wanted so badly for someone to either convince me that god was real, or convince me that he wasn't. I hated being in the middle. Last year, when I was 20, I stumbled upon an internet review of The God Delusion, and that's where it started. I specifically remember googling “Richard Dawkins”, and finding a person who had been saying what I wanted to hear, and who wasn't just a rebellious kid who wanted to say he was an atheist to make his parents mad. This was a respectable, intelligent, grown man who had thought everything out…I knew then that it was okay for me to let all the fairy tales of my childhood go with the wind. I read the God Delusion, and then in a huge wave, I read the rest of your books. My view of the world has been turned upside down. I can now co-habitate with my boyfriend who I love (and who also doesn't believe in god) without feeling like there's a grumpy old man staring at me from the sky, planning my demise. I feel an overwhelming sense of freedom, and a new appreciation for the world. If it weren't for your books, I'd still be teetering between delusion and reason. I cannot thank you for helping me find the answer.

Ashley W.
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