I am a junior in college in the heart of Southern Baptist Texas.
I was not brought up Baptist myself, but Cumberland Presbyterian. I was a Christian poster-child. I believed what I was told; and when told to not question it, didn't. But, as I got older, I began to feel more and more out of place in my parents' church, mine partly by choice, partly by default. You see, I liked to read, and I liked science. My parents made the mistake of letting me read whatever I wanted and that included “encyclopedias” about dinosaurs. So I grew up knowing the different eras of the Earth and that the Earth was a few million years old. I stuck out like a sore thumb. As I'm thinking about it, I still cannot come up with any scientists who attend “my” church.
I met my first atheist when I was in High School. Somehow, against all odds, he and I became fast friends. This friendship has survived four years and college in different states. My major of Chemistry and Mathematics began to weaken my conviction of “The Lord Jesus Christ.” I had begun to understand that theories and opinions needed experimental and mathematical proof, or that theory needed to be trashed.
My friend found these cracks in my so-called faith and exploited them to get me to think about my religion critically and logically. He pointed out flaws that wouldn't have bothered me when we first met, and got me to acknowledge the irrationality of all of it.
He was able to convince me to watch your documentary “Enemies of Reason.” This underscored his point that just because something is believed does not in the least make it true. Once again, I was brought back to the maxim that everything needs evidence to support the theory.
I cannot express how much of a relief it is to not have to hold myself to beliefs that result in permanent failure. My success is no longer based on my involvement with a church but on my own value as a young scientist.
I just finished reading The God Delusion, and it has certainly reinforced my decison to abandon my parents religon, the one I was raised with.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to tell my parents, they've made it clear that they strongly dislike atheists on principle. It doesn't seem matter who the atheist is. It will probably break their hearts that I would “do this to them.”
On the flip side of that coin, even in the American Bible Belt, I have found that many of my classmates and friends are supportive of my decsion, amd a few are agnostics or atheists themselves.