I grew up in church. In the Southern U.S. Otherwise known as the Bible Belt. More churches per square mile than you can shake a stick at. The church I grew up in shattered because the pastor (how typical is this) could not keep it in his pants. This was a pastor that baptized me and “saved” me when I was 8. Looking back, I wonder why at age 8 I felt that I had done so much wrong that I need forgiveness, or that my life was empty without the presence of Jesus. The only thing to do now is make sure my future children never feel the way I did, that you can never achieve perfection, but keep trying. In that same vein, all the bad things you do are because you are a human and need to be corrected and punished and all the good things you do you cannot take credit for because it was only god working through you to his greater end.
In high school, I became very interested in biology. At this point, I still believed that the bible is 100% true and literal, because of course it had been drilled into me that to not believe or even to question was to sentence yourself to hell for all eternity. High school biology classes in my public school tended to just shy away from all evolution vs. creationism. Even in the honors biology I class I took freshman year, we just did not get to the last chapter in our text books, which was titled “Evolution”. The only class in my entire high school that even touched on evolution was my Honor’s Biology II class. And of course there had to be a militant Christian in that class also, who became very upset at our teacher for even suggesting that the environmental and social pressures could influence the continuation of some genes while repressing others to the point that the animal was a new species. Because of this one boy, our class never really got a feel for the theory of evolution because our teacher spent the entire class defusing ticking bombs. Not so coincidentally, this same person also chose to “respectfully disagree” with me by standing up in class and telling me that I would never be anything more than a dyke and a faggot.
But still, these high school biology courses taught me enough to get me insanely interested in human biology, especially in human genetics. When I got to college, I was finally confronted head-on with evolution. By this point, I had long since stopped going to church. Not that I was welcome there, being an out lesbian and all. I had seen enough hypocrisy in church and no longer wanted in part of it. At the same time, it is hard to give up on the lessons you learned when you were young, the lessons that everyone around you seems to believe without question. As part of my courses to earn a degree in biology, I took an evolution class. I had only hazy ideas about evolution. Hazy ideas that mostly centered on it being something that only evil people who hate god could possibly believe in. In this class, I began to see that there was a lot more evidence of this than I had ever been told existed. There was more than enough evidence shown to me to push me at least into the “intelligent design” category. Around this time, I also took a a required bible course. I got to choose the Old Testament class. The professor was amazing! He knew that he was teaching at a private college in an area that was nearly 100% bible-believing Christians, but he still taught us the bible like any other teacher would teach from any other book. We looked at all the contradictions, discussed the parts that Christians gloss over (like Lot attempting to give the people of Sodom his daughters so that they would not rape the MALE visitors), and even compared god to a jealous abusive husband. For the first time in my 21 or so years of life, I was told that it was perfectly okay to question. As a matter of fact, you SHOULD question everything you are told. These two classes showed me that there were different views from the ones I had heard. Once I stopped to think about it, I realized I could not believe in a lot of things, such as a virgin birth (which I secretly worried would happen to me when I was a preteen) or people being raised from the dead or even in a god that could be so complex and powerful that he created all of our existence yet is so micro-scale that he truly cares about what goes on in our lives.
Once I decided that I really was quite convinced that there was no god and that he was just an elaborate set-up, I found your book, The God Delusion. To locate any books that were pro-atheism, I had to go to the largest library in our area. When I found the atheism section, I discovered something that saddened me. Your book was the only PRO-atheist book in the small atheism section. The library had only one copy and it had been returned earlier that day. Maybe god was at work there? =) I started reading and then I started taking notes. It was amazing to have someone else logically illustrate the very things I wondered about and give me some basis for what I had considered. Near the beginning of that book, you mention that you hope this book converts everyone who reads it to atheism. Maybe your book did not convert me completely from Christian to atheism, but you have assured that I will never wonder if I made the wrong decision. And you gave me the foundation to finally assert my views when accosted by the ever present mob of Christians who feel it is their duty to convert me, to save me from myself. I can say I am at least a 6.5 or so on your scale and I can say it proudly no matter who asks. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this life changing book. I am very much looking forward to finding a copy of the rest of your writings. Keep up the good fight.