The memories from my early childhood to my teens are of church, drums and guitars and arms raised in worship, Sunday school, prayer meetings, bible study, my fanatical mother's unceasing rants and acts of lunacy, annual bible camp, street evangelism, trying to convert my schoolfriends, you get the picture. And guilt. Terrible guilt and no way to escape it but to ask God for forgiveness every night in the hope I would be cleansed. I was terrified of going to hell. It never worked, I never had a single prayer answered, but I continued to believe and put my trust in God (I had no choice, i didn't want to suffer for eternity). It was all I knew. When I was eleven I was sexually abused by my school chapel choir master (this continued for many months). When I eventually blabbed to my mother she told the headmaster. I was told to forget about it and nothing was done by anyone – family, church or school. Life continued until about the age of 17. I was in my second year of A-levels, with straight A's at GCSE and a prediction of 4 A's in chemistry, physics and double maths. I was an Oxbridge candidate and a star student. Then something happened. I went a bit funny. I started to drink heavily and take drugs, I became deeply depressed and was hospitalised. Frankly I was barking mad. I returned to school to take exams and managed to pass everything but with low grades. The following years saw me in and out of hospitals and hostels and I couldn't hold down a job. One day my father received a phone call from a WPC with the child protection unit. They had caught the man who had abused me (about 7 years previously) in Germany, doing similar things to a young boy there. I gave testimony to the police, which dragged up a lot of painful memories, on the understanding that some justice would be done. My testimony was not allowed in court as the events had not been reported at the time and could not be verified (my school refused to release the relevant records). Nonetheless he did receive a few months in jail for charges relating to other children. I felt let down by my church, my family, my school, the justice system, everything a person could or should be able to trust. Eventually I managed to stick to a job stacking shelves, then I got a job doing data admin in an office and regained some self confidence. With this I applied to university and got a BSc in a mickey mouse subject from a godforsaken backwater university, but it was something. With it I travelled Asia teaching English, currently I'm in China studying Mandarin and teaching at a high school.
Throughout all this time I had nothing to hold on to apart from hope that God had a plan, a reason why all this was happening and that I would be vindicated and healed one day. Then, whilst travelling in New Zealand about a year ago I came upon Richard Dawkin's book “The God Delusion”. One might think this book could have destroyed my last grasp on sanity. In fact it had the opposite effect. I have realised that I had been indoctrinated into a belief system that controlled me through guilt. I had believed that because of the original sin of Adam and Eve I was a sinner from birth and my only salvation from everlasting hell was through Jesus. With hindsight Christianity did far more damage to me than the abuse I suffered. Richard's book has helped me begin to put my fragmented mind back together. Thankyou Professor Dawkins. I can read scientific and classical literature that meant nothing to me before. Through science and reason I have now found peace.
I realise this letter is long and parts of it are just my sob story, irrelevant to the issues in the book, but I have never told my full story to anyone. If it doesn't go up on the website that's OK, treat it as catharsis for me.