Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Fear of Hell

4 'To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
5 I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, he is the one to fear. Luke 12:4,5 (NJB)

The above scriptural passage is just one of several threats to humanity in the bible. And although to a non-believer such as myself and others that read my blog; this threat is both harmless and empty, it is not so for the fundamentalist. As a former believer it was this threat and others like it that kept me in fear for so long, and this was the last and toughest vestige of religious indoctrination that I had to overcome.

My deconversion as some are now calling it took me about six years to be complete simply because of the power of indoctrination and fear. Every day I sought for ways to explain away what I believed to have been supernatural experiences in my ministry that I had not just witnessed but on some occasions was a part of. I looked for every possible alternative explanation in psychology, psychiatry, and even read up on hypnosis and the techniques used by its practitioners.

Many of my atheist friends who have not been on the other side do not understand this irrational fear and cannot even begin to know how real it is for those that are still trapped in mental hell. Religions that debase you and make you despise this world for an imaginary life of eternal bliss if your good or torment if you are bad are nothing but mental institutions/prisons. This is what we are up against when we try to convince some believers of the error of their beliefs.

How was it that with my spoken words or even a simple stare people would be "slain in the spirit" right before my eyes? I later came to realize that this was just a combination of indoctrination and emotionalism. My many subjective experiences during those years in the ministry made my leaving the faith double hard. I couldn't just walk away till I had answers to explain away each and every one of those experiences.

It was these subjective experiences combined with indoctrination that at the same time fueled my fear of the biblical God and what he could do to me for denying he ever existed as I do now. Every single day I wondered to myself "what would happen to me if I was to die today without the Lord?" In those days hell was as real to me as this material world we reside in now and the very thought of going there terrified me for years.

I can honestly say that the doctrine of eternal torment and hell is what kept me chained to the absurdity that is religion, especially my religion of choice; Christianity. All those horrible thoughts and nightmares of what God would do to me for rejecting his so called "gift of life" haunted me for years. Of course I realize now that it was an irrational fear, but at  the time I was still learning how to be truly rational. I still did not understand nor see the concept of free thought or thinking for myself clearly.

I don't think that this situation is unique to myself, I am convinced that the deeper your indoctrination and your convictions regarding your beliefs, then the harder it is for you to get out from under the chains and bondage of religious ideas and beliefs. I see atheism as a sort of liberation of your mind as Morpheus stated in 'The Matrix' regarding being unplugged from the matrix. I don't exactly recall when it happened for me but when it did I do remember the feeling of having a huge burden taken off of my shoulders.

In the book of John 8:32 it say's that "32 you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (NJB) No words have ever been truer but not in the sense that Jesus is made to say but rather objective truth. The truth that comes from educating yourself and facing your fears and pushing forward slowly but surely breaking the chains of bondage and ignorance and freeing your mind. Learning to think reasonably about all things, and as I like to say recognizing and calling bullshit when you see it.


  1. How do you reconcile NDE's?
    Their experiences of heaven and hell are so real they're life-altering.

  2. Thanks for your comment cici459, I used to wonder about that myself till I did some research and read about it. The NDE is usually attributed to reactions of the brain upon dying. Sometimes the deprivation of oxygen could cause certain chemical reactions in the brain to manifest as delusions. There are several theories out on this subject which I don't have the time to get into here. There was an interesting theory that was published in National Geographic in 2010 here is the link to get you started:

  3. cici459, the bottom line is that NDE's are the products of our minds and not some paranormal experience as some would choose to believe.

  4. Chatpilot, have you read a book called "Science and the Near Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death" by Chris Carter? If not, then I invite you to go over to and read some of the reviews for that book. As one reviewer of Carter's book pointed out, "Then come chapters on NDEs that contain veridical perceptions from an out-of-body perspective and NDEs in which those born blind experience sight." It's these types of phenomena that people who attempt to debunk NDEs with various theories can't account for.

    Chatpilot, as you probably already know (having studied this topic), one of the most famous cases of a veridical NDE happened to a person named Pam Reynolds. This case was mentioned in a Time magazine article on NDEs

    "Of the thousands of NDEs reported, none has done more to convince some researchers that the phenomenon's explanation must lie outside the square than the case of Pam Reynolds, an American who underwent brain surgery for an aneurysm in 1991. Preparation for Reynolds' operation included taping her eyes shut, blocking her ears and monitoring her EEG to ensure her brain was functioning at only the most basic level. Yet after coming around, Reynolds described not only a full-blown NDE but the bone saw that had been used to cut her skull."

    And for those people who try to force NDEs to fit a religious dogma, I suggest that they consider comments made by Eric Mayforth, another reviewer of Carter's book:

    "An even bigger question is horrific or hellish NDEs, which Carter briefly discusses. There are stories on the Internet about people most would describe as "bad" having positive NDEs and people most would describe as "good" having negative NDEs, and there are instances of the devoutly religious having hellish NDEs and others who do not believe in the supernatural whatsoever encountering a loving Supreme Being--it is troubling that there seem to be no hard-and-fast factors that lead people to have good or bad NDEs, although it is comforting that the vast majority of NDEs are positive experiences."

    Chatpilot, my own research over the years has led me to the conclusion that NDEs are real, that self (our consciousness, our personalities, our memories) can exist independent of our brains, and that we survive physical death. However, the types of things that we might experience in the afterlife don't necessarily correspond with the dogma of any of the world's religions.

  5. I would also like to add that Chatpilot generally agrees with the scientific community and more and more of them are coming around to the idea of there "being something" to NDE's. It's difficult to dismiss what happens to people when they can see their body, recall conversations and describe events. The blind can see, children come back knowing about a miscarried sibling, etc.

  6. I find nde's fascinating but as stated by anonymous it has nothing to do with religious beliefs. NDE's have been reported all over the world in every culture. I don't typically buy into the stories regarding people seeing even though they have been born blind etc. We could easily do that in a dream state so its nothing amazing to me.

    I also don't like to take someones word for it. For example, in the case of Pam Reynolds being able to describe the bone saw used to open her skull. It's obvious they have to do that and most likely the process was described to her before hand. She could have researched the instruments used to open a skull etc. There are so many ways to debunk that case.

    But this post is about hell and the very real fear most fundamentalist Christians feel about ending up there. I do think that we may exist in some form or other after death but not as a conscious entity such as a ghost. Maybe we go on as some form of energy. Soon I will write some stuff on NDE's but I have to read some since I am a little rusty on the subject.

  7. I will readily admit that when I first came to know Christ, it was out of fear of hell. I did not want to spend eternity where there is "Weeping and gnashing of teeth", but as my faith grew, my love for Christ grew. Now I remain a Christian, not for fear of hell, but for fear of eternal separation from Christ. To some, you would equate this to still being fear of hell, but the fear is not the eternal torment as much as it is being separated from Christ, as in my relationship with Him. I live my life for Christ today and I hope to be able to do this for all eternity.

    I guess what I am trying to say, is that its not hell to be afraid of, but the separation of Christ and His love for eternity. That's why I blog about it, not to poke or make stabs at those in other beliefs, but as an outpouring of love for Jesus Christ and not out of fear.

  8. Lost Blogger, good to see you again. I have to say that I disagree with your views regarding the fear of hell. You said:"as my faith grew, my love for Christ grew." This can be reinterpreted to mean that the more indoctrinated you became the less fearful you became. Essentially what you have done is to take a frown and turn it upside down by focusing on the positive aspects of your faith.

    As far as the fear of being separated from Christ goes, in my opinion this is just part of the result of accepting your indoctrination entirely by faith. No one can honestly say that before they knew of God or of Christ that they were tormented by the fear of being separated from Christ.

    They knew nothing of having a so called "personal relationship" with Christ until they began learning about it from their church leaders and their readings of the scriptures.

    It's similar to primitive man not missing cable television before the existence of television. People miss things they have now that never existed in a previous generation, but that so called missing is only there because they know it exist and have become accustomed to utilizing the technology. It's all in the mind my friend.

  9. My view on the fear of hell is my personal view, and not that of all Christians. I don't think something like this can be generalized in a theist/atheist category since all views on this subject vary widely.

    Also, I was not "indoctrinated" as my beliefs and my study came solely from the bible, not a religious institution, church, group, family, etc.. In fact, I grew up in a family with atheists, not an environment of indoctrination, wouldn't you say? :)

    Also, your concept of indoctrination is a two way street. There are many things that people do every day because they were taught it or told that thats what you're supposed to do. The law says I shouldnt murder, so I follow the law and do not murder. My parents did taxes every year, so I learned from them and do taxes as a result. My dad always took a shower in the morning and when he got home from work and I do the same.

    The indoctrination of the world, or of atheists can be brought back full circle to your beliefs and values as well. The world has rejected Christianity in favor of focusing on yourself rather than each other. That is indoctrination by the world.

    So, we are all indoctrinated in some way or the other. You are not a pioneer in a new field called atheism, as I am not in theism.

  10. Lost Blogger said: "The indoctrination of the world, or of atheists can be brought back full circle to your beliefs and values as well." Seriously! Do you even know what the word indoctrination means? What objective evidence do you have that your beliefs are true? By the way, objective evidence is something that is true whether you believe in it or not. For example if you jump off a building, the law of gravity states that you will fall. You don't have to believe that you will fall, you can believe that you will be taken up by angels but unfortunately that will not happen.

    There is no such thing as the indoctrination of the world. Society has established a system that dictates what is right and what is wrong. If you do wrong most likely you will get arrested and put in jail. It's not a doctrine or religious belief it is an established system that was put in place to maintain order and chaos. Nice try my friend but no cigar on this one.