I have written and deleted versions of this emails many times – reasoning that my (seemingly insatiable!) need for catharsis is really not your problem, and presumably you get zillions of emails like this each day. However, as you go so far as to offer an email address for this very purpose on your website…well, I am going to indulge myself.
So I was brought up in Banbury, Oxfordshire, just up the road from you, to a fanatically (I use the word carefully) Catholic family. When I was about 3 I announced that I wanted to be a priest. That’s a fairly normal thing for a Catholic boy to say trying to please his zealous parents. Unfortunately this was taken to be a ‘sign’ and dictated my life for the next 20 years at least.
Now I am clear: putting children through my childhood is mildly abusive. There are much worse things in life – but it does screw one up somewhat.
Having fervently prayed all my life that I would never become an atheist (what a prescient prayer!) I was finally able to admit that in fact this is what I had become – as I read the God Delusion in my early 30s. The many doubts that had accumulated over the years found their expression as I read. Specifically (and clearly not uniquely!): why were we Catholics right (this, after a visit as a student to the mosque in Regents Park where I was challenged by the fervour of the angry young Muslims I met there)? What does prayer do (as my son lay in Great Ormond St having a bone marrow transplant, with theists of all flavours laying siege, ready to take the credit for their god if he recovered – he did – and offer BS condolences if he didn’t); what is a reasonable method for discerning between different claims? (I knew it couldn’t be intelligence based or that would mean god was discriminating against less intelligent people). etc. There were no answers.
I owe a profound debt of gratitude to you for this book, for spelling it all out so clearly. There are, I know now, many excellent atheist writers out there. However it is the accessibility of your writing which I really value. The act of ‘coming out’ has been deeply cathartic – and it was the God Delusion specifically which helped me to do so.
Thank you. And please do keep it up – despite the constant attacks and horrible tactics of many of the theists. I really believe that your moderate voice is valuable in confronting the spread of nonsense from the Texas school board, to Tony Blair, to Pat Robertson.
Thank you and best regards,