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How Can I Ever Overcome This Fear Of Hell? And How Can I Stop Having These Panic Attacks?


Arcane Lullabye
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Note: For those of you who don't believe in souls, feel free to replace the word with "mind" or your word of choice.

 

Before I became a Christian I had this sense of inner peace, like everything would be alright in the end, no matter what. I felt like people were inherently good (or at least, neutral), but often very misguided and ignorant (and that this ignorance became what we know as "evil"). I didn't believe that people were truly bad, but then Christianity started telling me that people are dirty, rotten sinners from the time of birth. It was people who made me fear, with their "holy" book and their words of hellfire and eternal torment...even though my soul seemed to be telling me something different before then. Before I became a Christian, my soul felt at ease. I strongly believed in a loving, powerful creator of the universe and I didn't believe in Hell. I want that feeling back. I want that inner peace back.

 

I get panic attacks when I unexpectedly come across things that are related to Christianity. This is very much related to my fear of Hell.

 

The thing is, no matter how I tell myself Christianity doesn't make sense, no matter how much I educate myself, I just can't stop this fear from taking me over.

 

I can't be a Christian anymore...even if I try, I just don't think I'll be able to do it. You can't force yourself into something like that. You can't force yourself to believe a certain way.

 

Besides, I just recoil from things related to Christianity. For example, when people post random religious comments on youtube, I think "What if it's some kind of sign?" even though I know that Christianity is the religion with the most followers, and of course there will be things related to Christianity everywhere.

 

I just feel so afraid. I have come to the same conclusions about the religion that most of you have, but I just can't push the fear away.

 

I keep thinking "What if there is some kind of truth to the Bible? How will I know which parts are true? I get this very dark, evil feeling about Christianity somehow. When I was a Christian, I felt like Christianity was full of light, but now it just seems so full of darkness...it seems sinister to me. I can't help it.

 

And lately I've come across accounts of people who had Christianity-related near-death experiences, including two that were experienced by ex-atheists. The thing is, I believe in that stuff. I've had out-of-body experiences myself.

 

What can I do to stop this paralyzing fear? If anyone has any suggestions (other than "accept Jesus as your saviour and go back to being a Christian), they'll be greatly appreciated.

 

I'm feeling terribly anxious as I write this. If only there were some kind of ex-Christian support group somewhere nearby. I certainly could use it.

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Hello, Arcane.

 

The fear of Hell is an irrational one. The cult uses fear as a control device, but not even all Christians believe in a literal Hell.

 

There are many threads here and lots of other resources available about this problem, but maybe you can start with this link and find your way out of the brainwashing. It isn't your fault you feel this way.

 

http://www.daylightatheism.org/2008/10/ext...ar-of-hell.html

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Thank you so much for your support and encouragement, and thanks for the link - I'll check it out.

 

This fear is so deep in my psyche that I just don't know how I'll overcome it. Hell is the most terrifying thing I can imagine, so even if most of the religion falls apart under close examination, I keep having this fear because it's both terrifying and unfalsifiable. So I keep swinging back and forth from "it can't be true" to "what if this is somehow true, even though it doesn't make sense?"

 

I suppose it doesn't help that I watched parts of this:

http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2008/02...ils-domain.html

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I agree that the fear of hell is irrational. In order to get over it, you have to convince yourself both intellectually and emotionally that hell is not real and never can be. If you think about it rationally, hell is an eternal punishment for a finite crime. How is that in any way just? If you believe what the bible says about god being just AND believe in hell, that is a contradiction. Think about all of the people on death row who will be going to heaven after their executions because they found god and repented in prison and all of the people who do good in their communities who will be going to hell just because they haven't claimed jesus as their saviors. Hell is a very recent invention. I'm not as good at the history of it so maybe someone else can explain it, but the words that were translated as hell in the English versions of the bible actually mean grave in the original language. What helped me deal with the fear on an emotional level was thinking about if my son became a xian and went up to heaven and had to see his atheist relatives, including myself, burn in hell for all eternity. Even if there was a god and there was a hell, I wouldn't want to go to heaven to kiss god's despicable ass for all eternity. I would rather that my soul be tormented. Here's another point: how would hellfire affect us and hurt us if all that's there is the soul? You need a central nervous system to feel pain. The more you look at it, the more apparent it becomes that hell is a human invention, just like the rest of it.

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Hey, thanks again for the for the wonderful link, florduh - I'm still reading through the comments. It's such a relief to read about the experiences of those in situations like my own.

 

Yeah, I know it's irrational, Skeptic but it's just one of those things that I can't help. It's a fear so deeply rooted that I think I may require some form of counselling. Thanks for the advice. I agree that infinite punishment for a finite crime is anything but just. I appreciate your insight on the "hellfire" thing. Somehow, I'd never thought of it that way before, but it seems obvious, now that you mention it. How can non-physical bodies feel the flames? The Bible didn't mention any type of "soul-fire" that can be felt with the soul.

 

Thank you for snapping me out of my irrational fear (if only temporarily) with rationality.

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I think all ex-Cs go through the "what if I'm wrong" phase. I'm very lucky in that I've always questioned it but didn't have the knowledge required to be able to fully reject these beliefs. http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?showtopic=21830 Here's a thread outlining the phases of deconversion. Not everyone goes through these phases in the same order and some people may skip a phase or two, but reading that thread helped me to understand that what I was feeling at the time was normal, and that I'll eventually get past it.

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There is one thing that makes Hell impossible: Fire.

 

Hell is a place for our supposed soul which is "spiritual" and Hell itself is a place that is also "spiritual". Yet, fire is a completely PHYSICAL thing. It requires chemical reactions and fuel in order to continue to burn. So, when Jesus tells us in the gospels that there is this place of "eternal fire" for the damned, what he is doing is creating an impossibility UNLESS God also gives the damned new physical bodies and hell is somewhere inside of a volcano or a star.

 

Not to mention, if God is so loving and so merciful, why fire? I mean, why not just let us pout in the corner because we missed that big eternal gospel-sing in the sky? Why are flames important? They are for the following reasons:

A) Fear - "Don't care about an eternity without God? Fine. What about an eternity being burned alive? Will you love God now?" and fear leads to ...

B) Urgency - Once you fear Satan's eternal BBQ, you will believe and overlook almost anything to not go there.

 

So, while eternal fire and torment were a convenient addition to the Christian theology of Hell, it does not remove the physical impossibility and outright contradiction of their claim that God is loving. What a sad pitiful little God who would light his enemies aflame because they did not find him worthy of love.

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Another irrational thing about hell is that it was created for satan and the demons, but satan isn't mentioned ONCE in the pentateuch. Satan first shows up in 1 Chronicles 21:1. That's right, TWELVE books of the bible go by with no satan, then he shows up. And the first time he appears, he's given credit for causing David to take a census. Yet, previously in 2 Samuel 24:1, guess who caused David to take the census? "The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, 'Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.'"

 

So, the first time satan shows up, the bible writers are clearly trying to take the blame away from god and assign blame to a new being so their god doesn't have to get his hands dirty doing anything evil. Satan is clearly a literary invention that makes the whole plot of the bible work. Since hell was supposedly created for satan and satan is clearly a human invention, what do you think hell is? Yep! Invented!

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Finding ancient souces that admit it was made up to try and control people helped me over this irrational fear.

 

here's one

 

Polybius (c.200-after 118 BCE):

 

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/polybius6.html

 

5th paragraph from the bottom

But among all the useful institutions, that demonstrate the superior excellence of the Roman government, the most considerable perhaps is the opinion which the people are taught to hold concerning the gods: and that, which other men regard as an object of disgrace, appears in my judgment to be the very thing by which this republic chiefly is sustained. I mean, superstition: which is impressed with all it terrors; and influences both the private actions of the citizens, and the public administration also of the state, in a degree that can scarcely be exceeded. This may appear astonishing to many. To me it is evident, that this contrivance was at first adopted for the sake of the multitude. For if it were possible that a state could be composed of wise men only, there would be no need, perhaps, of any such invention. But as the people universally are fickle and inconstant, filled with irregular desires, too precipitate in their passions, and prone to violence; there is no way left to restrain them, but by the dread of things unseen, and by the pageantry of terrifying fiction. The ancients, therefore, acted not absurdedly, nor without good reason, when they inculcated the notions concerning the gods, and the belief of infernal punishments; but much more those of the present age are to be charged with rashness and absurdity, in endeavoring to extirpate these opinions. For, not to mention effects that flow from such an institution, if, among the Greeks, for example, a single talent only be entrusted to those who have the management of any of the public money; though they give ten written sureties, with as many seals and twice as many witnesses, they are unable to discharge the trusts reposed in them with integrity. But the Romans, on the other hand, who in the course of their magistracies, and in embassies, disperse the greatest sums, are prevailed on by the single obligation of an oath to perform their duties with inviolable honesty. And as, in other states, a man is rarely found whose hands are pure from public robbery; so, among the Romans, it is no less rare to discover one that is tainted with this crime. But all things are subject to decay and change. This is a truth so evident, and so demonstrated by the perpetual and the necessary force of nature, that it needs no other proof.

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Example #2:

 

Also linked at:

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roma...bius/6*.html#56

 

 

Strabo

 

“The Geography” Book 1, chapter 2 …8, 54

 

Most of those who live in the cities are incited to emulation by the myths that are pleasing, when they hear the poets narrate mythical deeds of heroism, such as the Labours of Heracles of Theseus, or hear of honours bestowed by gods, or, indeed, when they see paintings or primitive images or works of sculpture which suggest any similar happy issue of fortune in mythology; but they are deterred from evil courses when, either through descriptions or through typical representations of objects unseen, they learn of divine punishments, terrors, and threats — or even p71when they merely believe that men have met with such experiences. For in dealing with a crowd of women, at least, or with any promiscuous mob, a philosopher cannot influence them by reason or exhort them to reverence, piety and faith; nay, there is need of religious fear also, and this cannot be aroused without myths and marvels. For thunderbolt, aegis, trident, torches, snakes, thyrsus-lances,— arms of the gods — are myths, and so is the entire ancient theology. But the founders of states gave their sanction to these things as bugbears wherewith to scare the simple-minded. Now since this is the nature of mythology, and since it has come to have its place in the social and civil scheme of life as well as in the history of actual facts, the ancients clung to their system of education for children and applied it up to the age of maturity; and by means of poetry they believed that they could satisfactorily discipline every period of life. But now, after a long time, the writing of history and the present-day philosophy have come to the front. Philosophy, however, is for the few, whereas poetry is more useful to the people at large and can draw full houses — and this is exceptionally true of the poetry of Homer. And the early historians and physicists were also writers of myths.

 

 

 

Hope that helps.

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I've been a member here now for over 5 years ( Under different names ) and I've seen many members go through this. The fact is, nothing we tell you can really help you with this because those fears are completely irrational and you know it. The real way to get over them is just time. The more time you spend on the outside looking in on Xianity, the more obviously false it will seem. In time, the fear of hell will fade and be replaced by just worrying about how to best live the one life you have got.

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If you are actually having panic attacks that are impeding on your normally daily functions, then you should seek a psychologist. The fear itself fades over time, but what did it for me was that I accepted my fate in hell if the Christian god were true. Hell is supposed to be a somewhat physical place, but the body will become numb to certain pains (especially if you have your nerve endings burned off).

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I can totally relate to this. I didn't fully get passed the fear of hell until 2 years after I deconverted.

 

For me, what facilitated the process of getting past fear of hell was learning about just where the doctrine came from in the first place. The beliefs of first century christians are radically different from what you see today.

 

Do some research on the origins of "hell", and you'll probably feel a lot better

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I can totally relate to this. I didn't fully get passed the fear of hell until 2 years after I deconverted.

 

For me, what facilitated the process of getting past fear of hell was learning about just where the doctrine came from in the first place. The beliefs of first century christians are radically different from what you see today.

 

Do some research on the origins of "hell", and you'll probably feel a lot better

 

Oh also, consider this.

 

In hell, what burns? if christianity is to be believed, once you die....your soul separates from your body. This is something of a sticking point for christians. Basic neuroscience, as well as a smattering of common sense would tell us that if we indeed have a "soul" and if it is indeed separate from the body, that it wouldn't feel bodily pain. Pain is a product of our nerve endings.

 

Bring this point up when talking with a christian. I'm really curious as to how they'll respond

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I can relate to this. My anxiety level was very high after I left.

 

It does eventually get better, but it takes time.

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...in 2 Samuel 24:1, guess who caused David to take the census? "The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, 'Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.'"

 

Another way I like to deal with God and hell is to put his actions and attitude onto a human and see if they make any sense. In the case of 2 Sam 24, imagine a daddy whose son offends him. The daddy then tells his son, "What you did really bugs me, but I'll give you a choice of punishment. I can either starve you and your sister for the next 3 years; I'll tell the neighborhood bullies and sex offenders that they can do whatever they want to with you and your sister for the next 3 years; or I can inject you and your sister with some dirty needles I found in the alley. You choose."

 

A daddy like that is called a psychopath. He isn't good, he is evil, cruel, and undeserving of love. Do you really believe for one second that such a being created the world, animals, and human beings? If not, then why fear anything else that the book has to say about reality? If you still believe that there is a God, look around at nature and the beauty of it, and try to feel what God must be like.

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How can non-physical bodies feel the flames? The Bible didn't mention any type of "soul-fire" that can be felt with the soul.

 

 

Without reading the rest of this thread yet, let me make an observation. I long ago learned to think of this whole issue of hell from a little bit different perspective. Try thinking of the story logic------------------an eternal and all powerful being created the universe and everything in it. Including flawed human beings. He (or it) did so knowingly and deliberately. Yes? I mean since he was also all knowing, he had to know exactly how each and every human did or will turn out---right?

 

Now since he created everyone knowing all this, it begs the question of what possible purpose there could be in figuring out some way to torture a dead person for eternity, when you already know that they are going there before they are even created? And just what the expected outcome should be of all this cosmic effort at producing a universe sized version of the little shop of horrors. Since there is no chance for further redemption, it follows that there can be only one logical answer to the question----------------the purpose is to satisfy the whims of a sick, twisted fuck of a monster that cannot possibly exist in reality. Hell was created by very sick and very real humans who had an agenda.

 

I have not once in my life ever heard a coherent explanation of just what the mechanics are of torturing dead people, much less any kind of sensible reason for doing so. I mean just how does that work? Here in this life people are punished, ostensibly anyway, with a view to correcting their behavior, whatever it was that drew the punishment in the first place. Then when the desired results are achieved, you stop the punishment. However in the celestial mathematics this logic apparently doesn't apply. In this life when you punish someone for no reason you are considered an amoral piece of shit. In the afterlife it seems to have some merit that no one has ever discovered, nor even been able to explain in any way that resembles sanity.

 

In order to make the hell concept as absurd for you as I can, think of this--------------let's say that the usual version is the burning lake of fire. What is to be burned? A box full of bones that can't feel anything? A rotting corpse in a cemetery? An urn full of ashes that have already been burned? I don't think there is any way to burn a soul even if such a thing could possibly exist. I mean it's invisible, immaterial, and all that. But according to Christians it still exists somehow. No one has ever reported seeing a soul, so how can something that is immaterial feel pain?

 

That only really leaves one option I can think of-----------this god would need to create a new body to torture because the old one is gone. He would have to reassemble all your thoughts, memories, personality traits, likes and dislikes, I mean just everything that made you the person you were. Then he would have to manufacture a new body to torture after reinserting all your bits into it. So lets see------do you get a clone of the body you had before? Exactly as it was when you died? How about a toddler who was never baptized----------does he/she get another 3 year old body for this god monster to play with? To watch as the child screams in agony? Or maybe he thinks standardization is really cool and just gives everyone the exact same body. I mean it would be much more efficient don't you think?

 

The concept of hell and eternal torture of finite beings for finite offenses, either real or imagined is the sickest, most twisted concept imaginable. I once read that anyone who would teach an innocent child the dogma of eternal pain should be arrested for child abuse, and charged with intellectual rape.

 

Think about the idea of Hell from those angles and it should go a long way to easing the problem for you. Also remember that time is your friend in this. The farther out you get from that freak show the less and less of a problem you will have with it. You can do it. And you will. I did it, and if I can anyone can.

 

Welcome to the club.

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Hi, Arcane... I second Phanta's recommendation that you use meditation as one of the tools in your toolbox. I also practice mindfulness meditation, which is particularly good for dealing with repetitive and unproductive thought patterns.

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Plenty of good arguments to reject a place called Hell. One of the ones that I fine convincing about the crock of shit that is Hell is that even Christians can't agree on it's nature. If they can't agree, then what have any of us got to worry about?

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's back again...this awful terror. It's the most terrifying thing.

 

Recently I tried meditating to help to ease the anxiety, and I started feeling this cool breeze in my hands and the top of my head. After a couple of days, it was still there, so I decided to look up on the Internet to see what it was. Well, it turns out that this sometimes happens after people meditate. Most people seem to believe this cool breeze feeling is the Holy Spirit, and there is mention of it in almost all religious texts (even in Christianity, in one of the parts that never made it into the Bible we have today). Well, I came across this religious article on a website in my searches (I wasn't aware that it was a religous article until I'd already read enough to scare the crap out of me) and it basically said that when this happens, the cool breeze of the Holy Spirit is bearing witness against the sins of that person. I got into a panic, telling the cool breeze (in my mind) "Please go away," and trying to think up all sorts of rationalizations for it because I didn't want it to be something related to religion. I don't want to be judged. I consider myself to be a good person. I don't harm others, I empathize with others, I forgive those who have wronged me, etc. This isn't fair. I don't know why this is happening to me. Anyway, I thought some pretty negative thoughts about this cool breeze, and now I'm thinking, "What if it really is the Holy Spirit and I've commited the unforgivable sin?"

 

The breeze went away for a few days but now it's back again.

 

I'm so afraid I'm going to Hell. I keep thinking angry thoughts at God, like "Why did you let this happen to me? Why couldn't you have prepared me?"

 

Please, help...anyone. I don't know what to do.

 

This has been the lowest point of my life. I think that if fear of the afterlife wasn't in the equation, and I felt this miserable over some other problem, I might have made the decision to commit suicide.

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Extrapolating from my own experiences with anxiety attacks, I don't think they're really about what they feel like they're about. They happen on their own, and you wind up attaching them to whatever fears you have. The real trigger is something more like stress or hormones or other internal upheavals. I used to get them about hell, but now they come about other health or money or whatever political weirdness is going on. Just whatever's there for your fears to grab ahold of.

 

This realization doesn't make them go away, but I think it helps you keep from making any big decisions or actions based on the feelings, so you can hang on until they pass.

 

So don't focus so much on your fear of hell, but on relaxing and taking care of yourself (trying to anyhow, I know it's hard). Try to come up with something to look forward to. Find a cat to hug. Longer term, I suggest you seek out some counseling to help you find ways to cope.

 

This doesn't have anything to do with hell. It just has to do with your feeling bad.

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I appreciate your trying to comfort me, Max. Still, I don't know how to explain this weird thing that's happened to me. I don't know what to believe anymore and I fear that I'm going to be sent to Hell for committing sins that won't be forgiven. I just feel so hopeless, so alone. I feel more alone than I ever thought I'd feel. I feel like there's just no way out.

 

To make it even worse, I just found out my mother has been sent to the hospital in an ambulance and she's having chest pains. I love my mother so much and I don't know what to do now. And she's the one I can talk to about stuff like this. I just don't know why this is happening to me. I can't sleep, I can't eat. All I can do is sit here and contemplate the horrors I fear will be brought down upon me. Right now, all that I feel is despair.

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