Posted Oct 16 2006
Written for the thread Fear Of Hell - Let's Talk!
Let's explore what role hell played in your former xtian life:
Eric, thanks for raising this question. It prompts me to sort through some issues--it's a therapeutic exercise.
1) When you were a xtian, did you fear hell a little or a lot?
Moderate but firm and uncompromising. It was a major motivator when I was about 13. As I matured it had a less direct influence on day to day life. I think I got to the place where I just knew that I was a good person, that my heart was right, and that God understood my intentions no matter how people judged me. I was born into the church, baptized at age 17 like my peers.
2) What most contributed to your fear? Family, preaching (which brand), books, the bible or…?
All of the above.
Brand: Pietist. No hellfire and brimstone sermons.
Implication: If you don't repent before you die you'll go to hell.
Sin (from which one had to repent) was left undefined.
Huge emphasis on If you don't accept these things on faith you'll go to hell. God doesn't like people who don't believe. God wants us to accept on faith! It's the faith that counts!
Implication: If you don't have enough faith you'll go to hell.
One could go to hell for not having enough faith. You can guess what that does to the deconversion process.
3) Did you resolve your fear of hell before or after de-conversion?
(According to the dates I worked out below, I guess it was before.)
To answer this question I'd have to establish dates and definitions to determine the line between belief and unbelief. Because our religion emphasizes growing into a relationship with God and growing in the faith rather than getting saved, stages and dates were unimportant and not noted. I'll see what I can pull together from memory.
I stopped believing in the wrathful orthodox christian god long ago. At least twenty years ago. I replaced that god with a mystical, force of the universe kind of God. I stopped believing in Jesus at least that long ago. But I didn't know it; didn't dare say it even to myself.
Clear-cut dates and lines:
- rebellion against christ and everything christianity stands for: in church during a plaintive song about Jesus' suffering for OUR SINS (sin is undefined) on a Good Friday morning, perhaps in the year 1989.
- conscious decision to disobey: about Dec. 1997
- coming out about my decision: approx. Aug. 1, 1999.
- meeting with church and decision to leave the church: approx. Aug. 19, 1999.
- official deconversion: Sept. 9, 2006
According to the above dates, none.
Approximately March 2004 I confided in my pastorly Christian prof about my fear. I knew that he does not believe in hell before this conversation. He said somewhat flippantly, "Oh well, when you die you'll find out." Maybe it showed on my face. In a genuine and sympathetic voice he added, "I guess then it will be too late." Having a devout Christian identify with my fear released what was left of it. I had already worked through the major stuff.
I would say since then I have had no twangs. All the same, I still find myself glomming onto any and all pieces evidence that hell is not real. It's as though I still need to prove I'm right. I guess that speaks for itself.