Dear Dr. Dawkins,
I was raised in a household where religion wasn’t discussed. My parents came from different religious backgrounds and no longer practiced. I was given an illustrated children’s bible, which I read through several times. No one took me to church or temple. I envied others the community aspect of religious affiliation, but when considering belief in the hocus-pocus aspects: I cannot imagine being lonely enough to go there. Originally, I did not label my belief, or lack thereof. I suppose I had arrived at a sort of pantheism when it came to talking points.
I took a college seminar on Ethics and Philosophy. An atheist came to speak to our class. I was astonished when I realized that all my (otherwise reasonable and intelligent) classmates considered religious belief required for ethical behavior. That day I called myself an atheist. The atheist posed the question (it had always puzzled him) of why belief in god(s) was(is) so universal — I’ve thought it arises as a by-product of our utter dependency as infants; we are born with so much neural development still underway, and the experience of being cared for (or not) by seemingly all-powerful-and-mysterious (parents) remains integral within. We develop perception and understanding, but that original impression remains. It was a wonderful discussion. Since that day, I have been an atheist.
Some years later, I have just begun reading The God Delusion. I did not realize that such blatant discrimination exists against atheists, but I am not surprised.