Oh hell yes. That feeling is normal. I spent three years being christian, then atheist, then christian, then...you get the idea. Sometimes the flips were less than three days apart. Let me ask you a question that helped me immensely. Can you really believe in a god that tortures people for eternity simply for not understanding the nature of things as that very god created them? Seems to me an omniscient being would be a better teacher.
I have to tell you. When I reflect deeply on the question above, I wouldn't worship such a creature even if it did exist.
Good luck, and be rational.
I actually saw a movie just like this once. It's all very foggy and I can't remember any details, but The Rapture does come and a woman is on the run with her daughter in this post-apocalytic landscape, and she does get one last chance to worship God and maybe be saved and she refuses because by that point it is clear that God is this sadistic being.
Even Carl Sagan left open the possibility that there might be a God, going by the plot of his science fiction work:"Contact." But God won't be evil, in the miniscule chance that he does exist. That is just self-contradictory.
Also, most of my Christian friends, as they mellow with old age, have come up with work-arounds such that they manage to get me saved despite myself. ;) That is, contemporary educated Christians can't get themselves to believe this crazy "tossing random unlucky people into the lake of fire" thing either. One Christian friend recently told me, he doesn't think I'm going to hell. That "Hell" is just an idle threat a father makes to scare his children away from a cliff. My husband told me that some people were not meant to be believers: our brains are just not wired for it. And that's OK. God loves us too. Whatever!
Finally we have the words of Jean-Luc Picard regarding Q, the omnipotent being who blinks in out of nowhere to judge humanity: "If we're going to be damned, let's be damned for what we really are." That is, he's just going to go about his business since there is nothing he can do about Q anyway.
The nagging feeling is normal in people who learned fear of 'god' from an early age. Remarkably, Christians continue using 'Pascal's wager' (St. Thomas Aquinas) to argue that divine punishment for non-belief is of such a magnitude that it cannot be risked. No matter how implausible god may be, the penalty for non-belief is so brutal, so final, that it has compelled blind faith and obedience in millions. Pascal's wager is a known fallacy that was demolished long ago by logical analysis. The point: anyone can invent a religion that promises 'hell' for non-believers. We could end up in Norse hell (hellheim), or in the hell of the Ecuadorian headhunters, or in some other hell. So pick one and hope you get lucky. Considerations like these helped me realize that Christianity and monotheism is all nonsense. The Abrahamic religions are really about power, wielded by arrogant men, for controlling weak and feeble-minded people.
Here's a neat video that explodes Pascal's wager with eloquence and humor > http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=v9WRG4...
I became a firm atheist about 40 years ago. I never had any fears about being an atheist. I was a firm believer in science and rational thinking was my route to atheism. So, my experience is that belief in science and rational thinking are enough to give all the courage required to take the jump. Atheism isn't new, its ages old. There is nothing to fear, take the jump and be happy. A man of conviction does not remain unhappy, a doutful person will always remain so. Now you can never go back to your old faith and remain confident. No one can tell you that you should become an atheist or not. You have to come out of your dillema. Take courage, take the plunge.
Yes, it seems to be normal. I still miss going to church once in a while, and sometimes, I still think I wish there was an afterlife. I miss the thought of seeing my dad and others I loved again, but I can live with that. There was never any proof that existed in the first place. And, as for missing church, I think it was just the socialization I missed, and the show....
Good point. I can't prove it, but I suspect a high proportion of church goers are actually social Christians, not devout believers. In the U.S., and, to a lesser degree, Canada, the social stigma of being labeled 'godless' is something people carefully avoid. In the southern U.S., for example, atheists are as welcome as child molesters. My guess is 1/2 or more of church goers fall in the social Christian category.
As for Christian heaven, its nonsense. For anti-theists like myself, a feeling of relief comes from understanding the absurdity of monotheism; the absurdity of a malevolent deity who concerns himself with the fates and actions of humans
K Avony, think about it this way (because some of us think of it this way). The question of whether 'we're wrong' (Pascal's wager, logical fallacy) is sort of silly.
1. You could be Christian and go to church, and the real God could be Allah and he could strike you down just as easily.
2. Isn't it more reasonable, when that nagging doubt hits, to reason that God would instead be humored by earnest disagreement, and that it's more important to live life as a good person than worship some invisible dad in the sky? Wouldn't he just be happy if you don't maim and rape, swindle, lie, or mistreat other people?
I really think that if God did exist, he'd welcome Atheists in just as quickly as religious people. And so I don't worry at all what will 'happen to me' if I'm wrong.
"Isn't it more reasonable that God would be humored by earnest disagreement, and that it's more important to live life as a good person than worship some invisible dad in the sky? Wouldn't he just be happy if you don't maim and rape, swindle, lie, or mistreat other people?"
Agree. But, we're told, that isn't how the Abrahamic skydaddy operates. Frankly I've never understood why millions believe in a god that: sanctions murder and genocide, takes sides in wars, cares what you eat and who you sleep with ..and on it goes. Like all the gods of men, the Abrahamic god has near-zero probability. Thank goodness for that. In fact the mere notion of such an entity gives anti-theists a sense of moral outrage
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.