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.

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Comment by Belle Rose on July 3, 2013 at 9:18pm
It's true Steve that we all have to self-realize and actualize. But women have to self-recognize first. Our culture (and the Christian culture) tells us either directly or indirectly to be the "helpers" of men, and to submit, and to care about everyone and everything - except ourselves. Perhaps Kamela, being married to a Christian man can relate? It makes the burden of escaping the clutches of religion that much greater when you have to overcome a lifetime message that says you are only worth as much as others think of you. Especially when you feel like people are making your decisions for you.
Comment by Kevin Napolillo on July 3, 2013 at 9:48pm

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

Living in the Bible Belt, I'd hide specific books in my car in fear it would get vandalized. But if I'm reading in public, I awkwardly and uncomfortably hold it straight up so the cover is easily viewable. And every so often I'll glance up and make eye contact longer than I should with the person sitting opposite of me, nose deep in whatever theist literature they have. It's a great ice breaker.

Comment by Kairan Nierde on July 4, 2013 at 4:01am

I think being a "full blown" atheist is like "flaunting" your homosexuality.  

Step one: be gay an atheist.

Step two: don't hide who you are.

Step three: repeat as necessary. 

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on July 4, 2013 at 4:44am

Belle, your "...lifetime message that says you are worth only as much as others think of you" reminds me of two ideas that rub against each other in thought-provoking ways:

1) I am what others think of me, and.

2) I do what will result in others' thinking of me as I think of myself.

Comment by Brendan on July 4, 2013 at 5:08am

To me the term Full Blown Atheist makes me think of Super Sayans, basically you get so sick of all the crap being forced upon your shoulders you just jump up to the next level and boom it becomes so much easier (eventually).

Comment by Marc Poulin on July 4, 2013 at 6:40am

If you weren't a "full blown atheist" before, you will be a heck of a lot closer after reading that book. :)

Comment by bongani muthwa on July 4, 2013 at 7:48am

I Salute you Kamela. I am in a simillar but opposite situation. I stumbled upon this knowlegde of free-thinking about five years ago, I stopped going to the sunday submission meeting four years ago, then I decided to embrace fully the free-thinking lifestyle. Now I have been born again for 35 years and been staunch evangelist/apostle  for 10 years and been married for 5( now 8 yrs). Can you imagine the cries, curses, prayers and sympathies towards me and my wife. We are about to call it quits, divorce. She cannot stand me anymore, I only wish she could wake up and smell the coffee. But this is the price  I ma prepared to pay not only for my freedom, but the freedom of my children. I have started to open their eyes. They no longer pray in my presence, they no longer pray over food in my presence. At least when they shall be old enough to swallow the facts as I would be presenting to them, it would not be be something new.

Comment by SteveInCO on July 4, 2013 at 9:39am

Sadly the deconversion of one party to a marriage does often result in divorce and outright shunning by the still religious parts of the family.  Dan Barker (who is now co-chair of the Freedom From Religion Foundation) grew up as someone you'd hate to run into in public, badgering people to try to "save" them.  He went through a slow deconversion, and lost his first marriage.  On the plus side he was able to convince his parents and most of his brothers and sisters that god doesn't actually exist (he jokingly refers to the one still-religious brother as the white sheep of the family).  [He tells this story in two of his books, "Losing Faith in Faith" and "Goddless"--I recommend both books even though they overlap a lot.]

One would think that something which ought to be a mere philosophical question ("did an intelligent entity create the universe?") would be a lot less important to people, but of course it's not the existence of god that's the core of the issue, it's what does this (alleged) god want from me.  There was a fairly common type of believer a couple of centuries ago, who could look around them and see god surely wasn't doing much today, but they couldn't at the time explain the existence of life and the universe... so they posited a god that created things then took a vacation.  Deists.  They were (and are) easy to get along with because they didn't demand you live your life according to arbitrary dictates allegedly from god.  With them the existence of god is truly an academic question.

Unfortunately, you aren't dealing with deists.  No doubt, Kamela, that you have some very tough times ahead of you.  But you will find you can only believe what you truly believe and cannot believe in a god just because it would be convenient if you did (which is one of the many stupidities of "Pascal's wager" as an argument).  You could shut up about the issue, but that's very tough to live with when the people you are shutting up around are those you are closest to.  (I for instance have no trouble not talking about it at work with people I really don't know all that well, but everyone I am close to knows I am atheist and they generally are themselves.)

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on July 4, 2013 at 3:40pm

from The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins:

I (RD) have already mentioned the American comic actor Julia Sweeney and her dogged and endearingly humorous struggle to find some redeeming features in religion and to rescue the God of her childhood from her growing adult doubts. Eventually her quest ended happily, and she is now an admirable role model for young atheists everywhere. The denouement is perhaps the most moving scene of her show Letting Go of God. She had tried everything. And then . . .

. . . as I was walking from my office in my backyard into my house, I realized there was this little teeny-weenie voice whispering in my head. I'm not sure how long it had been there, but it suddenly got just one decibel louder. It whispered, 'There is no god.'

And I tried to ignore it. But it got a teeny bit louder. 'There is no god. There is no god. Oh my god, there is no god:...And I shuddered. I felt I was slipping off the raft.

And then I thought, 'But I can't. I don't know if I can not believe in God. I need God. I mean, we have a history'

. . .'But I don't know how to not believe in God. I don't know how you do it. How do you get up? How do you get through the day?'  I felt unbalanced . . .I thought, 'Okay, calm down. Let's just try on the not-believing-in-God glasses for a moment, just for a second. Just put on the no-God glasses and take a quick look around and then immediately throw them off.' And I put them on and I looked around.

I'm embarrassed to report that I initially felt dizzy. I actually had the thought, 'Well, how does the Earth stay up in the sky? You mean, we're just hurtling through space? That's so vulnerable!' I wanted to run out and catch the Earth as it fell out of space into my hands.

And then I remembered, 'Oh yeah, gravity and angular momentum is gonna keep us revolving around the sun for probably a long, long time.'

When I (Dawkins) saw Letting Go of God in a Los Angeles theatre I was deeply moved by this scene. Especially when Julia went on to tell us of her parents' reaction to a press report of her cure:

My first call from my mother was more of a scream. 'Atheist? ATHEIST?!?!'

My dad called and said, 'You have betrayed your family, your school, your city.' It was like I had sold secrets to the Russians. They both said they weren't going to talk to me anymore. My dad said, 'I don't even want you to come to my funeral.' After I hung up, I thought,

'Just try and stop me.'

Part of Julia Sweeney's gift is to make you cry and laugh at the same time:

I think that my parents had been mildly disappointed when I'd said I didn't believe in God any more, but being an atheist was another thing altogether.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on July 4, 2013 at 3:47pm

Video of Julia Sweeney - TED Talks

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