I'm so SO grateful to everyone who welcomed me & posted their own thoughts. I thought I might respond with another blog post because of something Sagacious Hawk mentioned in the comments:
The first time I checked out an atheist book, God is Not Great by the late and great Hitchens, from the library I went to the self check-out, held it cover side down walking out the door so no one would see it, and casually hid it in my car during the ride home. And this was about 3 months after I decided I was an atheist.
I had a similar experience last week, although I decided to start with The God Delusion. Only the self checkout was, to my horror, not working. The librarian actually tsked & sighed (audibly) at me when I went to check it out. I mean, who even tsks anymore?!
I took The God Delusion home & operated under the delusion that if I put a couple magazines over it, the shiny silver cover would somehow magically disappear. Obviously, I am the smartest person in the world.
This lasted a day. Then my husband saw The Book (I am firmly in the Dawkins fan club, btw) & said, "So what, you're going full-blown atheist now?"
He's told me in the past that he's had nightmares in which I told him I'd stopped believing in God. Nightmares.
So, you know, no pressure or anything. I'm probably going to have to deal with this at some point.
But I can't get that phrase "going full-blown atheist" out of my mind. It carries a mildly sinister connotation to it that, in my heart of hearts, I actually identify with. (Probably because I'm a noob and still angry with religion and religious people.)
Like someone who contracts a disease that takes its victim in stages, I feel skepticism blossoming throughout my mind, demanding to be felt and recognized with an ever-increasing urgency. But unlike a disease, this is most definitely not a bad thing. I'm feeling something vastly more profound than any conversion or Holy Spirit baptism I felt in the past.
I'm reminded of a worship song that I used to sing (and thought that if I sang it loud enough, maybe raised my hands, it would actually feel true) that goes, "I am free to run/I am free to dance/I am free to live for you/I am free".
I know I'm going to face many challenges as I figure out my life apart from faith. I know that I'm going to have to gently break it to my husband that he's no longer married to a zealot. But for right now, I'm singing that song again. And this time I'm singing it to myself and for myself.
And it's kind of amazing.