I hope you one day read this. I owe so much to you. I'm 17 and I have the rest of my life to dedicate to science, tolerance, and love, and I'm sad to say that if it wasn't for people like you I would have spent too many of my days spreading lies and hate.
My family is Christian and goes to church multiple times a week (unfortunately I'm still forced to go with them.) They have always taught me to love Jesus Christ and not to question, and although I was the smartest child in all my classes, I did not know my parents could be wrong. I read the Bible three times and I memorized whole books of it. I went to church camps all the time, often thinly disguised hell houses where I would feel the need to “rededicate my life to Christ” because I was always in fear of hellfire. All my friends were always from my church or christian school and so I never heard any other side to the story– all I watched were censored movies and all I read were Christian books. My ideas were so warped I cannot even fathom the depths of human stupidity it takes for America to claim this as majority opinion: I thought that homosexuals, Jews, atheists, et cetera were all destined to hell, and all deserved it. I'm sorry to say that I also thought evolutionists were deluded rebels deserving of the worst chamber in hell; my father is a scientist but he has told us that evolution is a lie, often dismissing it with irrelevant distractions like “Then why have monkeys survived?” Only in my senior year of high school did I do a book report on Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials; the research paper required me to pick a topic and find sources on it, and I did a paper on religious intolerance. That's how I first discovered The God Delusion, sitting on the library shelf next to Bertrand Russell. I had already fallen out of love with Jesus, who never answered my prayers, and had grown weary of the Bible after exhausting all the sides of the predestination argument and concluding that there was no reason for suffering. But I held all my thoughts, protests, and logic inside, for fear of hell, and for fear of rejection: I knew my parents and friends could never accept me if I was not a Christian.
Reading your book opened my eyes to the possibility that others had come to the same conclusions I was unwillingly drawn to, and religion was hurting others lives as much as it hurt my own. I had insomnia from fear of my own hatred of God, but I realized I couldn't even imagine what it might be like to be raised in a Muslim country, or to grow up homosexual in America's backwards society, or to believe in evolution in a family like mine. Evolution was not taught to me in my public high school biology class, and until I read your “Ancestor's Tale” (amazing book) I had thought that Intelligent Design had an argument. I realized from your writings that I could no longer hide my knowledge because I was allowing for the intolerance of others with my acquiescence to Christianity's lies. Without you I would have had a much harder time coming out of my religious closet.
Unfortunately, religion is still a large part of my life, as my parents are still evangelical and have condemned what little questioning I tried to bring up to them as blasphemy, making me “a major disappointment” despite my great life. My sister is going to be a fundamentalist missionary to Papau New Guinea and I try to be happy for her but I'm constantly sickened by the thought of all the people who will have to fear a nonbeing burning them alive because of the dangerous ideas that have been pressed on her. My brother is an ardent opponent of the teaching of evolution in schools and has become part of the “cult” of Ken Ham and Kirk Cameron, also becoming militantly evangelistic as he discovers “The Way of the Master.” My favorite teacher thinks my atheism is a rebellious phase and not a logical conclusion. My best friends are no longer my friends because they believe that I'm destined for hell. But I'm still determined to be a good person in the face of everyone believing that I'm not. I'm going to college next year, and I plan to be a doctor, but more importantly I plan to be wholly me, not confined to the slavery of a deluded dogma.
Thank you for everything you've done.