Posted by: ImpendingDawn | February 18, 2013

This is Hell

“…apart from Me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

So many children grow up hearing and accepting this as fact. Without God, you are worthless. If you don’t obey God, you are abhorrent. If you don’t repent, you are damned. We tell our children that if they disobey some invisible Being and His inspired Book of commands, they will burn forever in a pit of fire, separated from everyone and everything they know and love. Hell is not a place to threaten anybody with, much less a young and impressionable child. It is absolutely disgusting to me that spreading such ignorant, bigoted ideas is not only accepted but praised as “teaching good morals”. Call it what it is: threatening children. Absolutely disgusting.

Not only are these children raised with the dread of their own eternity in hell looming over them, they’re told that they are responsible for sharing the Good News with everyone around them. The Great Commission is lorded over these kids in such a convincing manner that I spent the majority of my formative years terrified that my friends and their whole families were going to burn in hell and it was all because I couldn’t communicate my faith in a convincing manner. Every time I would hear of a death, I immediately asked, “Was he a Christian?” If the answer was no, I spent hours crying, envisioning the devil laughing over some poor sinner as his skin burned off. These questions and the resulting guilt began before I was even 10 years old.

Not surprisingly, the guilt increased as I got older, and so did my devotion to this God and His Great Commission. I prayed constantly, seeking repentance and personal improvement. I reveled in any guilt I felt, because it meant I had something to work on tomorrow; if there was no guilt, I had simply missed something and must think harder. My sins were many, and I was just as deserving of hell for thought-crime as someone else would be for murdering a complete stranger.

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty
of all.”
James 2:10

This attitude haunted, tortured, crippled. I was not good enough on my own, I was undeserving of His love, I was supposed to constantly aim for perfection but be aware that – being human – I could never reach it. Guilty, always guilty. And yet I continued to devote every single part of myself to God. And if I couldn’t even have thoughts without worrying whether they were bringing glory to God, I certainly couldn’t have dreams and goals and a life plan without first seeking God’s guidance. And if He didn’t show me the way, I was supposed to figure out my plan by searching through the Bible, but accept that my plan could be changed at any moment by God suddenly blasting some sort of divine vision into my life. Ridiculous.

And now, as a new atheist, I am broken. I am raw. I find the freedom to make my own plans frightening and completely foreign. My previous beliefs have been so ingrained into my life that I find it very difficult to separate true morals from threats of hell; often I cannot see a difference between truth and religious propaganda. Any confidence or security I might have had in myself as a person has been stripped away. Oh, the terrible things I have said and done as a believer. So much hurt inflicted that can never be taken back. As a 12-year-old, I might have been able to cut myself some slack; most people that age still largely follow whatever doctrine their parents have – however lovingly – shoved down their throat. But I should have known my beliefs were flawed at 14, at 16, at 18. I should have known. Why did I not look deeper? Why did I not study, analyze, learn?

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
– A Fake Buddha Quote I Love

Can I ever forget the hell I knew as a child? Can I ever forgive my family for pushing me into it? Can I ever escape the hell I’m suffering as an adult? Can I ever forgive myself for not trying sooner?

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