We met briefly tonight in the manner common now–at a book signing. I mentioned that your books had been a fountain of new knowledge about evolutionary biology since I was raised and taught in a Christian curriculum home schooling environment. You asked me if I attended University, and I think I misunderstood the question (I was excited to be thanking you in person). I hope I can better express my gratitude for your influence here in a letter instead of quickly and nervously responding to a brief question.
I was not only raised and indoctrinated, but I was a true believer. I even preached a sermon or two at my local church, and it was expected that I would be a minister. I attended a community college at the age of sixteen–I had not suffered in my general education though accurate knowledge in science, especially biology, was lacking. I wanted to do something else other than work part-time and go to college. I enlisted in the Army under the impression that it was a good thing to do for God and country, and continued and have been continuing my education through online correspondence courses with accredited universities. But the separation from my upbringing exposed me to new ideas, people, and strong arguments against Old Testament moralism. One time, someone posted on their blog the CONTENTS page of your book, The GOD Delusion, and in the backmatter I saw that there was a section of resources for those who felt they needed outside help for their disbelief. That idea greatly offended me but, to borrow an evangelistic term, it planted a seed.
When I finally decided to turn my analytical skills and critical thinking on my belief in God, I knew The GOD Delusion was the place to start. However, it was not your bold confrontation with common religions that endeared me to your writing, it was your strong basis in biology and your willingness to dictate the underlying science. I enjoyed the biology in The GOD Delusion so much; I bought the Selfish Gene, then the Extended Phenotype, and so on chronologically until The Greatest Show was published. What I was trying to profusely thank you for, Dr. Dawkins, was the original research, the detailed explanations and lengthy digressions into specific evolutionary biological instances and principles which have helped fill a huge gap in my education and has made me an amateur student of Biology (my major is in the arts, though I may someday study biological sciences academically).
I think I sounded as if I were discounting myself and my education tonight, which has really just been born of the particular path I’ve taken. Besides the correspondence courses there are other professional educational institutes I will be attending–but my favorite non-fiction books are the ones on biology and astronomy, something I’ve made my study-hobby of sorts, thanks to your bold professions in the GOD Delusion and your earlier works in evolutionary biology.