I've just been reading loads of the stories on converts' corner and I feel compelled to tell you how I went from a half-hearted Christian to an agnostic to an atheist.
I'm 18 years old and I wasn't brought up to be excessively religious; my parents had me and my brother Christened and I've since asked them why they did it as neither of them believe in God (my dad's a vehement atheist like myself and my mum is a kind of pantheist, I think.) Apparently they had us christened to follow social convention, with the intention of making our lives easier. We did go to church when I was a kid, and one of my clearest childhood memories is of sitting in church when I was about 8 as the vicar droned on, and looking at the clock. There were 20 minutes to go until the end, and I tried to comfort myself, “That means that, in ten minutes, there will only be ten minutes more left.” That was pretty much how I felt about Church. I did used to pray, usually for selfish things I wanted or wanted to happen, because, as a kid still ostensibly believing in God, I suppose I saw him as a kind of benevolent all-year-round Father Christmas. But of course I began realising that I didn't always get what I prayed for, and that furthermore if God really existed and was supposed to listen to and answer my prayers, why the hell was he bothering with them when they were so petty and there were so many genuinely needy people he should be sorting out instead? So, through a gradual process, by the age of about 10 I had decided I was “agnostic”, but by the time I was 11 or 13 I was dissatisfied with the fence-sitting refusal to decide that this position entailed, and as I was sure it was more likely God didn't exist, I came down on the side of atheism.
I saw my religious friends doing their religious thing and I kind of felt regretful that I couldn't or wouldn't believe in this God that loved me… so although I was an atheist, I was not exactly a vehement or fulfilled one until I began learning more about religion in GCSE RE. The depths of its flaws and irrationality really shocked me, and the more I became convinced that religion was oppressive and based on nothing of substance, the deeper and happier an atheist I became (as well as an angrier and louder one) and I've never looked back.
Reading the God Delusion was a wonderful and extraordinary experience, a gift in fact, because you seemed to be taking everything that I had in my head as half-formed and inarticulate ideas and turning them into sparkling, beautifully rational, devastating arguments. Your book also coincided with me doing A-Level R.E. (which is more like philosophy really). Studying the arguments for and against God, and the theology of Christianity in depth has really, really reinforced my disbelief in God as well as my abhorrence (a strong word I know, but I mean it) of religion in all its insidious forms. I also discovered that I fall into the category of “Biological Reductionist”, and I feel wonderfully liberated and invigorated knowing that this one life is my only life, and it's such an amazing one- I feel lucky and thankful to be alive, more than I ever could if I was religious. I also get very het up about people not thinking things through and refusing to be rational (many a heated debate in RE class has ended with the creationists calling me “evil” for being an atheist, which is infuriating. I’ve also been told I "shouldn’t question God so much" and should "trust the Bible more". I mean, what kind of thinking is that? It isn’t thinking.) During the A-Level course, one of my Christian friends has become an atheist, a devout Catholic friend has become a sort of pantheist, and another devout Catholic friend has become an agnostic leaning towards atheism. This makes me really happy, but sad at the same time, because it's really thinking about religion that has allowed them to dismiss it as the rubbish it is, but since most religious people never really think about what they believe, I guess they might stay trapped inside this blinkered worldview forever. Religion scares me, but I get a lot of comfort from coming to these websites and realising how many atheists there are and that we're not going to just get downtrodden or go away. Your book has gone such a long way towards helping me be a happy, fulfilled and proud atheist. Thankyou so much.
Josie, Essex, UK.