Posts tagged ‘fear’
Different visitors to this site are at different points of their de-conversion journey. However, I’ve been noticing an increasing number of people at the point where their fear of Hell and eternal condemnation is keeping them from getting any further.
This isn’t a point that everyone reaches. For some, the same arguments which cause them to doubt the existence of a god (problems with scripture, the existence of multiple religions with contrasting views, logical problems with an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent deity creating a world where evil happens, simple lack of evidence, etc.) also keep them from being able to believe in a hell enough to fear it.
For others of us, it was studying the contradictory and confusing Biblical descriptions of Hell and how to avoid it that helped us realize that the hypothesis of God made no sense. By the time we came to doubt God, we already had lost our fear of hell.
But when you wake up at two in the morning from a nightmare inspired by Sunday school depictions of eternal torment, not everyone finds logic and reason to be persuasive enough to chase away fear. Some find, at times like these, a story can bring more ease than a rehearsal of facts.
For de-converting (or even faithfully believing) Christians troubled by thoughts of Hell, I like to recommend two books. Both were written by believing Christians. Both operate on the premise that God exists and is benevolent. I don’t expect either to be of any help or interest to atheists or agnostics (though I could be wrong), but fears need to be faced where you are, not where you’d like to be or where you think you’ll be ending up. I’m writing this post under the premise that some de-converting Christians might need to face their fears about de-converting as Christians before they can let go of their Christianity…
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can completely change the way our brain functions. When an animal is running for its life from a predator, it’s sympathetic nervous system takes over and changes the functioning of its body. The brain hopped up on fear shuts down regular functions such as digestion. It raises the heartbeat, dilates the pupils, and directs blood flow away from other organs and tissues and toward the lungs and limbs. Suffice it to say, it’s difficult to think clearly during fearful situations, let alone rationalize.
When we experience fear, we lean toward automatic reactions. That’s been programmed into our brains thanks to our instinct of self-preservation. Our brains tell us “Don’t think! Just be safe!” and that is why making decisions based on fear is not always a good idea. If your being chased by a mountain lion, then by all means, don’t think–just run away. But what if the thing causing your fear is less concrete, empirically speaking, than a charging cougar? In those instances we have to tell our sympathetic nerves to shut up for a second while we asses the situation. We have to examine the basis for fear before we give in to it.
Many of the arguments for putting faith in God are based on fear. Pascal’s Wager takes advantage of fear by claiming it is better to believe in God just in case, so that we can avoid the punishment of hell if, by some chance it exists…