*The Skeptical Review*, From the Mailbag, 1996 / November-December:
You recently sent me the first three issues for 1996, and I can hardly believe my eyes. It is so comforting to know that there are so many other people out there who have beliefs similar to my own. Thank you!
I am 21 years old and was raised Catholic. I live in a small religious town in the middle of the bible belt. People my age go to church functions for fun, families give a percentage of each paycheck to their churches, and even go to church to vote! About five years ago, I decided the Catholic religion was a joke and set out to find the truth about God and the "right" religion for me. After reading the bible and applying some common sense, I came to the conclusion that all religions are basically the same and God does not exist. This was a great relief to me, and I have been (happily) an atheist ever since. In fact, I am kind of embarrassed that I believed in something for so long just because other people told me to.
When I told my family that I no longer believed in God, they said I was going through a phase, rebelling, etc. and assured me that I would snap out of it when I grew up. I hope they're not holding their breaths.
Thanks again for The Skeptical Review. I thought I was alone for so long and you have shown me differently. Enclosed is a check for a 2-year subscription.
(Name and address removed, kwh)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Letters like this are a delight to receive, and they confirm something that I have said many times: the Bible is its own worst enemy. If people would just read it and learn what is in it, more and more people would be doing exactly what Ms.--- did. At the end of my public debates, I usually say to the audiences that I hope my presence in the community has at least created an interest in reading the Bible. I then urge the people to go home and read it, because if the day ever comes when people actually read their Bibles rather than letting them be dust-collectors in their homes, there will be many more departures from the faith.
In people like Ms.---, I also see hope for the future. If any substantial change is to happen in religious thinking, it will have to come through her generation. Those who are my age are usually too set in their ways to change, but the young are almost always the ones responsible for changes in society. I really can't imagine people her age and younger growing up in a highly technological society and yet continuing to believe primitive superstition and nonsense. The Internet Infidels is an organization made up primarily of people who went through high school and college during the computer age, and their work on behalf of freethought on the internet will surely bring about profound changes in religious thinking.
I can certainly understand Ms.---'s embarrassment when she reflects on what she used to believe. That is a perfectly normal reaction, which everyone who has been down that road experiences. How would she like to know that she spent 12 years of her life preaching religious nonsense, as I did? Now, that's really embarrassing!