Right. and why wouldn't such a god clearly announce what to think, why, etc. rather than allowing ambiguity to lead billions of people to eternal torment. That's truly foolish and a figment of human fear.
Your nagging feeling sounds perfectly normal. It's probably the main reason that many people, who know that religion is bogus, hang on. "Just in case". You are being honest with yourself, and there is nothing wrong with that.
As for myself, I look at it a little different now. Live is too short to waste it on religious hokus pokus. With all of the religions jockying for "I'm right and you're wrong" status, there is no way to choose among them. As an atheist, I am true to myself, I live life as best I can, I don't let religion get in the way of what I think is right or what I enjoy, and I am not wasting my life on myths.
Think of it this way - Before you were even created, due to its omniscience, God knows the future - i.e. you are predestined to do whatever you do. When God created the universe, it would have known your destiny and thus, if it punishes you for creating you with the pre-knowledge that you're going to sin, then said God is unjust and evil. The God of the main religions is supposedly benevolent - ergo, the God of the main religions either doesn't exist, or won't punish you for not believing in it.
Yes, it is perfectly normal to feel this way. I've gone through deconversion with my brother and two close friends I have known since childhood. It seems that there is a direct correlation of these recurrent feelings to the strength and during of the indoctrination efforts we were subjected to. This knowledge is comforting in its own way, but there are other approaches that might be more effective at reducing the emotional anxiety you are feeling:
1) Consider EMDR therapy. It's very effective at reducing specific fears and traumatic responses.
2) Read and watch the deconversion stories of at least half a dozen other people. One of the most powerful binding effects of religion is the shared, common experience. This works just as effectively the other way. I recommend youtuber Evid3nc3 and the authors Dan Barker, Richard Carrier, John Loftus and Darrel Ray.
3) Once you feel comfortable, go back and peruse the Bible and your old religious books with a skeptical eye. I avoided this for a long time, but I am glad I went back and did it. I went in the "company" of some very lucid lecturers and authors such as Bart Ehrman, Richard Elliot Friedman and David Fitzgerald. The more human and ordinary the Bible becomes to you, the less fearful it will seem.
4) As other here have mentioned, it will take time. It's taken me the better part of a decade to get a really solid grip on things.
Good luck on your Journey.
Excellent reply, Eric. Several constructive steps!
Even IF there was a super-entity that created the whole universe and everything in it. Any such entity would in incomprehensible to us. I always thought why would it care what you think and punish you for thoughtcrime. As the late Carl Sagan said it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.
"So here I am, ready to take a step and say I'm an atheist. I guess my question is: Is this nagging feeling normal? Have other people dealt with this, and if so, what did you do? Or is this even an issue?"
The nagging feeling is perfectly normal. I don't presume to offer new atheists advice on how to deal with it, except to enrich themselves with science. I believe that most who are willing to do that will soon find the sheer nonsense of religion and the arrogance ..especially that of mainstream religions ..becoming obvious. Belief in 'god' is Not a requirement for living a happy, moral and productive life.
My respect for your intellect and courage
I know this is an old post, but I have to say that I, very recently, went through the exact same thing. The old saying is totally true!: "Watch that last step 'cause it's a doozy!" It took me a long time to get over the phobia...and that's exactly what it is; an irrational fear. I felt physically sick when I thought about taking the final step and saying, out loud, "There is no god". Have you seen the movie The God Who Wasn't There? I referenced it in a blog I posted on my own conversion and it's got one of the most powerful ending scenes I've ever seen in a movie. I'm betting there are some other former christians out there who would agree with me. He stood in the very same church he was saved in and said "I deny the holy spirit." and that was the end of the movie. Gives me butterflies thinking about it. I don't think people who were fortunate enough to not be indoctrinated will have a hard time seeing it as such, but it was a scary moment for me.
Hope all has gone well in your "coming out"!
I think most of us coming out of religion experience the same concerns, however based on my experience the atheistic logic becomes obvious as you naturally move forward and you can't understand how you actually believed that biblical stuff in the first place. It doesn't make any sense and it is rotten with contradictions. Having said all that and claiming to be atheist I will say though that in my opinion we haven't ruled out the possibility of an ultimate creator larger than the universe technically speaking, But one thing is for sure. Religionists need a reality check and get back to the drawing board. They claim to respect science but only choose what suites them.
I believe the nagging feeling is normal for anyone who is trying to overcome years of indoctrination by a religion. To me, Its similar to a person addicted to alcohol or drugs and suddenly going "cold turkey" it's scary and can be painful but its worth it.
"Faith means not wanting to know what is true".