I am so very lucky. I didn't need anyone's help, didn't read any book. My father, although faithful, was intellectually honest so when I asked him questions he couldn't answer, he said “I don't know.” We looked for the answers together, and finding none that worked, we became atheists together. Or rather we discovered that we had always been atheists, really. I was fully comfortable identifying atheist by age 14 (I am now 34). I credit my Dad for being more interested in finding the truth than passing on tradition to me. He credited me for asking those questions so persistently. His last gift to me was to demonstrate that an atheist dies with just as much dignity – and ten times the sense of humor – as anyone who believes in heaven.
I know how fortunate I am to have had a Dad like that. Everyone isn't so “blessed,” as these testimonies make clear.
I laud Mr. Dawkins for being that voice in the wilderness for so many people who didn't have my luck. I've often thought he can be a bit of a blowhard, but then it's easy for someone like me to forget that we need publicity, desperately. And you know what they say: there's no such thing as bad publicity. There are so many people out there who are ready for their reality check they just need a bit of help, or some honest answers. Some just need to meet an atheist for a final confirmation that we don't have horns and our breath doesn't smell of Christian babies.
If Dawkins' tactics bring attention to his books, and his books are able to clinch the argument for some people, then I laud him for his efforts. Reading these testimonials has warmed my heart.
I guess you could say I'm a long-time atheist, but a recent convert of Dawkins'.
P.S.: Richard, do you think you could perhaps try to seem a *little bit* less smug? It would really help our PR efforts down here in the American South.