If I had put my expectations into words I would have said "Life can't get any worse!" (I was before college a Catholic.)
Life couldn't get any worse than that of the only Catholic I knew well: my dad's. His parents didn't have the money to send three kids to Catholic schools but wanted their two daughters to finish high school so they could marry better.
It had to have been a hard lesson and my dad remembered it. When a two-year-younger brother spoke of wanting to quit high school, our dad told him "The day you quit is the day you move out!"
BTW, one of my dad's two sisters did marry better. My brother finished high school; his son is an MD and his two daughters an RN and a CPA.
I finished college an agnostic, found work I liked, and life after religion has been VASTLY better than I expected.
Is your life after religion what you expected?
Replies here might help newbies at A/N in their searches.
* I paraphrased slightly a question asked of retired folk: "Is life after 50 what you expected?"
I've thought about this often, and haven't yet been able to come up with anything more meaningful than Ingersoll's vow was to me the very first time I read it:
"When I became convinced that the Universe is natural--that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light, and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world--not even in infinite space. I was free--free to think, to express my thoughts--free to live to my own ideal--free to live for myself and those I loved--free to use all my faculties, all my senses--free to spread imagination's wings--free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope--free to judge and determine for myself--free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past--free from popes and priests--free from all the "called" and "set apart"--free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies--free from the fear of eternal pain--free from the winged monsters of the night--free from devils, ghosts, and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought--no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings--no chains for my limbs--no lashes for my back--no fires for my flesh--no master's frown or threat--no following another's steps- -no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.
And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain--for the freedom of labor and thought--to those who fell in the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains--to those who proudly mounted scaffold's stairs--to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn--to those by fire consumed--to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still."
I need not expound on that, I think - it's as poetically beautifully as anything I could even hope to compose, and was very uplifting when I was still going through the shock and awe of losing my faith.
This expresses my feelings exactly and then some.
WOW!!! Thank you, Mathew.
I heard of Ingersol after existentialism aided my leap into uncertainty but years passed before I saw his books. I had time for only a few pages and didn't see the above.
Again words fail me: WOW!!!!
You are most welcome, my friend. I find much of Ingersoll's work repetitive after a time (for example many of his essays discuss skepticism towards everything afterlife), but he also has a large collection of gems such as this scattered about within them.
I feel free. I am much happier and now I don't have to believe in fairy tales and nonsense.
It's a relief.
Frankly my transition from theism through apatheism to atheism has largely been without a ruffle. Religion was never that important an element to my life as it was. Being that the branch I was brought up in - Protestant Congregationalism - is about as watered down a christian denomination as you can get, there wasn't much to leave behind, other than a congregation which wasn't where I settled after I graduated from college.
Truth be told, I might have prayed here and there during my apathetic phase, but I never thought much of my prayers or their likelihood of being recognized or acted on by some putative deity. Now that I'm an atheist, they're just one more piece of detritus to be shut of.
Maybe I'm atypical. So what? There it is.
ONE area where religion did have an impact was on my sexual orientation, particularly in coming to terms with my bisexuality. After my first experience outside the conventional sexual realm, I was roughly a year struggling with what had happened, that it was condemned by the bible and by society (at least back then), and the conflict between that and the fact that it had been a harmless and largely enjoyable encounter between two people who happened to share the same gender.
Once I was past that, though, I'm not certain that religion had any appreciable impact on my actions. I suppose if I were to look back at those times, I might find something, but its importance at this point strikes me as being minimal at best.
I'm bisexual. I'm an atheist. I'm down with that.
Loren, I'm envious. Bi's are twice as likely to meet someone.
Looking back, I can't remember having any expectations. I just woke up one day and realized I hadn't really believed in god for a few years. My process was internally driven, and I had already removed myself from Xian congregations, so there were no apron strings. I attended a few Unitarian/Universalist services in the college town for a while, where belief was optional. The Christian college I attended didn't shove anything down student throats. My process felt so natural, gradual, and reasonable it was more like personal enlightenment than deconversion.
I did not have expectations regarding loss of religious belief. It was a rocky road. It took a long time to go from fundamentalist Baptist to agnostic to Unitarian to atheist.
I don't see that there was any other path for me. My temperament is to think for myself, be as informed as I can be, analyse and think critically.
I am introverted, but I do miss face to face contact with at least one other person who thinks like I do. Not that I want a twin or sibling, but that it would be nice to have the in-person comaraderie. Nexus is great for that, grateful to have this and the friends I know or are getting to know here.
Freedom from religious lock-step and mind-warp is essential. Life as a fundyBaptist would have been miserable. Life has had its ups and downs, but I'm glad I didn't let fear of hell and religious indoctrination control my life. Most of the joy that my life has had, is because I am free of the religious intolerance, mind control, hatred, racism, scapegoating, smug, anti-intellectualism, clique, cliche, xenophobia, homophobia, hypocrisy, quagmire of the mind, of religion.
Thanks, Sentient, my path was much like yours except it was from Catholic to agnostic to Unitarian to atheist.
When I began to understand fundamentalism I started describing Catholicism as a kind of fundamentalism.
Though I was one of five kids I usually had my face in books and was introverted until I gained self confidence via college, a job I liked that paid well, marriage, and thanks to my wife's more public kind of work some public speaking skills.
I had all the stuff you mention above, except soon after I finished high school I said something probably racist. I don't remember what I said but have a crystal clear memory of my dad's looking me right in my eyes and saying "We don't dislike people because they're different!!!" He owned a small grocery store and one day ordered a customer who'd said something racist to get out of his store and not come back.
Freedom from Catholic guilt over original sin and all that fear-based other crap feels WONDERFUL!!!!!!