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I still struggle with fear of hell

By Gladys ~

I was raised in a deeply religious home in the bible belt. Let me first start off by saying that when I was little I genuinely enjoyed church. But as I got older, I began to dislike church. When you're a child, concepts like hell and eternal damnation don't scare you, because you're so young that they go over your head (or at least that's how it was for me). As time passed the concepts of hell became real and I was very scared. I can remember being about 10 and having nightmares about dying and going to hell. By the time I was 12 I knew I didn't want to be Christian anymore. I was also beginning to question a lot of things. For example:

If Jesus is so loving why should a person who's lived a good life, been a good person have to worry about going to hell? Its almost like being a good person isn't what matters, it's believing in Jesus that does.

Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one gets to the Father except through me". That made me wonder what happened to the millions of people who died before Jesus was ever born? I was completely mystified. Not only that, but Jesus comes off as a vindictive jerk. A lot of what he said really wasn't very loving when you think about it. Its like, "follow me, do as I say, or else" Yeah, that doesn't sound very loving does it? And then there's the fact that your lead to believe that your always walking a tightrope and can be damned to hell for all eternity for the slightest misstep.

I was baptized at 14, and looking back it was one of the worst decisions I've ever made. What made it such a bad decision was my reason for doing it. I didn't get baptized because it felt good; I did it solely to avoid going to hell. And were my parents responsible for sewing the seeds of fear? No, they never once told me I was going to hell or held it over my head as a threat. It was more than a decade of listening to sermons that taught the reality of hell and how easy it is to end up there that did it.

I still struggle with fear of hell simply because it was drilled into me for so long.I "came out" to my parents about how I was feeling, and it wasn't easy. They were saddened and confused to learn that I didn't want to be Christian anymore, but they were heartbroken to learn that what they had done with only the best of intentions had had the polar opposite affect of what they'd intended. My parents had absolutely no idea that I was feeling the way I was or that church had scared me. I remember my dad when I told him my feelings saying, "We didn't do this to scare you". But that's exactly why it took me so long to tell them. I didn't know how to tell them. I still struggle with fear of hell simply because it was drilled into me for so long.

The thing about those kind of beliefs is it doesn't take long for them to become implanted in your mind, but its nearly impossible to get rid of them. I hope to start therapy soon to help me totally dislodge these frightening beliefs from my psyche once and for all. But I'm doing better being away from the church and Christianity. I've actually found more peace not being Christian than I did when I was. And that's perhaps the greatest irony. A persons' faith, their relationship with God is supposed to be the best form of therapy; not what puts them in therapy.


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