Last night I and my wife were discussing some of the barbaric stories in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible as proof that the Christian god does not exist. At one point my wife asked, “But what if we are wrong?”
I instantaneously could feel a knot in my stomach. There it was again: my intense fear of Hell.
I’ve mentioned this many times on this blog and it is one of the main reasons that I blog: I was raised fundamentalist Baptist. The fear of Hell is deeply ingrained in my psyche. I haven’t gotten rid of it yet, and probably never will. Why is that? Is it the Christian god convicting me of my sin of apostasy? Or, is it the same fear that every “escapee” from every fear-based fundamentalist religion feels? Let’s see.
—I was born and raised a Muslim. My father had no problem with delivering harsh beatings on me for making mistakes when he was teaching me the Quran. Naturally, I spent the first 14 years of my life thinking that this was the true religion, and that I would go to hell. I was always convinced that Islam was true due to the ‘Quran miracle claims’ which were all over the web, which satisfied me into thinking that I was definitely following the true religion.
—The reason I left Islam is mainly Islam’s attitude toward free thinking. I mean, if Islam is a religion standing on a very solid ground, and that it is absolutely convincing and the righteous religion as it claims, then why threaten those who would think of leaving it and scare them with Hell and Fire and blah blah blah?!! It’s like saying “I’m right, I know you would follow me, this is the only logical thing to do,” and then two day later saying “Don’t you EVER think of deserting me or I’ll burn you IN HELL!” This is pathetic and stupid!
—It happened that fast. I had this sudden realization that not only my current unanswered prayer but everything made more sense if God wasn’t really there. The thought came out of nowhere and made me just freeze, out of confusion as much as anything else. What I felt next surprised me too. I felt completely calm, for the first time in months. For some reason, the realization that there was no one who should care or who had the ability to make everything better made it okay that everything wasn’t okay. About 20 minutes later my mother called to check on me and commented on how I sounded better than I had in a long time. Well, that was the end of being Mormon. Some of the fears of hell (especially since Mormons specifically mark those who deny what they knew to be true for damnation) and such still lingered (it took me two years to work up the nerve to have my name removed from the church membership lists). But that didn’t mean I took a single step from Mormon to atheist. The first thing I did was research the holes in Mormon theology and history.
—To say that former Mormons, after having a ‘witness’ to the Holy Ghost are all doomed and should never have been born is, like anything else, a scare tactic for the members so that any thoughts of leaving are quashed and, if all of the other trappings fail, fear will keep them in check.
—Joseph (Smith) was good at balancing fear and hope, pulling out the appropriate card for the given situation. Others would call that emotional manipulation.
—Apostate is simply an ugly word. It is such an ugly word, to me it feels like those who label people with it seem heartless. Googling the word, I came across this “apostate-a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle. Recorded from Middle English, the word comes via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek apostatēs ‘apostate, runaway slave’.” Runaway slave. Certainly puts a different twist on it.
—Arrgh! This (Mormon) post made me paranoid. Even though I no longer believe in any of the foundational or authority claims of the (Mormon) church – suddenly I had a panic attack reading those scriptures and hearing about my possible ultimate end. I am generally agnostic with atheistic leanings and very much even doubt there is an afterlife – nevertheless after a lifetime in the church it is freaking me out how I still respond to those fear tactics! Revealing! On the other hand, maybe outer darkness is actually better than the Celestial Kingdom? At least I don’t have to be eternally pregnant there.
After death, ancient Greeks believed that their spirits, or psyches, traveled to the underworld ruled by the brother of Zeus, Hades. Hades is also sometimes used to refer to the underworld itself. Upon entering the underworld, the spirits had to cross the river Styx on Charon’s ferry to enter their final resting place. Depending on their actions in life, there were three possible places their psyche could end up: Tartarus, Elysium or Asphodel. Tartarus was for those who had committed sins against the gods. Here they received eternal torment for their crimes. Asphodel, where most spirits ended up, was a vast plain covered in flowers were the dead lived aimlessly. Elysium was reserved for heroes and those whom the gods favored, for their spirits would live on in an eternal paradise.
Gary’s Conclusion: It seems like religion has been using the concept of Hell/Hades as a form of “crowd control” for a long time. It’s time to send Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism to the same graveyard of false superstitions as that of the religion of Zeus and Hades.