Dear Dr Dawkins,
I begin my story by saying that I was very pleasantly surprised having read so many conversion stories on your site.
I didn't know there were so many!!
I am a 22 year old woman who works as a software developer and lives somewhere in Europe. Fortunately for me, I could not complain that I had fundamentalist parents or something like this. My parents were rational persons, my mother was a believer indeed, but not the type who will force or indoctrinate the child with something like that and my father was an agnostic. They never went to church (only when they had to), never told me to go to church and educated and showed me how beautiful science can be. But unfortunately, my parents had the classical “respect for religion” and I had relatives who were religious fanatics (Penticostals, Jehovah's witnesses), my parents being far too tolerant with them. They, along with my grandma (who was also a religious fanatic) would tell me stories about
how I am going to hell if I do not believe in God and all these types of threatening and intimidating nonsense you hear every day from fanatics. Of course, I would ignore them completely now, but then I was only a child with the superstitious and scared mind of a child. I happened also to be a very scared child, more scared than others maybe. They would also show me pictures with children or grown-ups being thrown by the devil in a lake of fire and all these kinds of atrocities. Of course, in the end God was actually loving and merciful. I can't tell how scared to death I was. Sometimes I had nightmares that the devil would come and take me and torture me forever just because for example during the day I didn't listen to my mother when she told me to eat. Needless to say that I was a believer, like any other child under the same circumstances.
Maybe you wonder that also in Europe something like that happens. I might add in order to risk confusion that I come from the country proven by statistics to be the most religious in the European Union. And I also happened to have bad luck, indeed :).
I remained a believer a lot of time, also when I was a teenager and my fears started to fade away. I think it was only inertia, but it still was strong. Another reason was also that I became very interested in Maths, then in Computer programming and I thought I knew it all, that if I believe in God , I wouldn't lose anything (the famous Pascal's wager).
As I have always been a passionate reader, I often came across issues that questioned the religion and the existence of God. I think at about 18-19, I began to be more and more interested in this subject. Only then I really threw my fears away (unfortunately, it took me very long to do it). Gradually I realized how things don't work in any religion and became an agnostic. I stayed so for a while, because there were a lot of things who weren't clear in my head and also because, as you said it so many times, I really didn't think it was ok to be an atheist (because nobody around me was).
Until I began (about 1 year and a half ago) to do some kind of research on the Internet on the subject and I came across you so many times. I watched your videos first from different events and conferences and I was really shocked to see how much I identified my thoughts with what you were saying. I realized then I had been hiding my thoughts from my very self!! I watched a lot of your discussions and I was impressed by your accuracy and your logic. Also, I learned a lot of evolutionary biology I admit I didn't know. I began to see there is no shame in being an atheist and that it is greater to be happy about life as it is. Then I read your book, The God Delusion and I enjoyed it very much and that was the last step of my conversion.
I am so glad I no longer suffer from delusion and fear and can have a happy and fulfilled life. Thank you so much for helping me! You actually opened a door when I needed it most and showed me the way.