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"i Don't Believe In God, But I'm Afraid Of Him."


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Let me start off by saying that Ex-Christian.Net has been very encouraging since I dropped my "Christian" label just over a month ago. But the problem is, a month is all it has been, and although the belief is [mostly] gone, the fear remains (if that makes sense) - hence the Usual Suspects quote.

 

I am lucky enough not to have been raised in an even remotely religious household. In fact, religion seems to make my atheistic family downright angry at times, so it's not like I'm having to deal with horrified parents or betrayed siblings. (Incidentally, I would often pray to God with all my heart that my parents wouldn't split up, often to the point of tears. Several weeks later, my mum ran off with one of my dad's best friends. That was two years ago now.)

 

My "conversion" began 8-9 years ago around the age of 12 when I was essentially "scared" into it by a school teacher during an R.E. lesson. I spent the next few years quite happily jogging along in my "belief", never really thinking to question it. But as I got older, I developed symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD and was even having occasional panic attacks. I hated myself. I felt utterly hopeless, like I was this horrible, sinful person who was totally unworthy of love or happiness, when really, I was not a "bad" person at all. I'm not perfect, but who is? But I have always been kind, thoughtful, loving, compassionate, generous, considerate, tolerant... But I was, at best, what some might call a "lukewarm" Christian. I didn't even own a Bible until I started university at 18, and even then, reading it felt like a chore. I suppose I was just born a sceptic.

 

Over the Christmas period last year, I started having these obsessive thoughts about sin. I don't know where these came from, but they terrified me. It got to the point where I actually did an internet search for a "list of sins" to see precisely what I was doing wrong... It didn't help. All this talk of hell, raptures and whatnot... I was a nervous wreck. Crying, screaming my lungs out, honestly wishing I could just blow my worried little brains out right there and then. I knew something had to change, but abandoning my faith (or what I had of it) seemed completely out of the question. I didn't understand, then, how anyone could not believe, or be scared of the threat of eternal punishment.

 

But then, just out of curiosity, I started invesigating stories of people who had left their faith - fundamentalists, evangelists, ministers, nuns etc - which is how I stumbled across this site, along with John W. Loftus' blog. This mere curiosity grew into questioning and eventually, severe doubting and examination of my "beliefs."

 

The week before my 21st birthday, I decided I simply could not carry on living in fear and guilt. It was destroying me. I'm still not comfortable with the term "atheist", and so I've settled on "agnostic" - for now, at least.

 

This was just over a month ago now, and ironically, I know more of Christianity now as a non-believer than I ever did before. It's funny: The more I thought about Christianity and the more I learned, the more I doubted and questioned it.

 

 

But I still can't let go of the nagging thoughts in the back of my mind. You know the ones: "What if I'm wrong?", "Is it really worth the risk?" etc. It's the idea of having no possible chance of knowing that scares me. To be honest though, I don't even want to believe in God. Having faith made me feel like a prisoner in my own mind. I may even go so far as to say that having faith was the cause of my depression. I certainly felt a lot happier when I realised I didn't believe. Still, despite all the compelling arguments I have read contradicting Christianity, every so often, I come across some fundie who literally puts the fear of God right back into me. I have these little "flashes" of worry, fear for my "soul".

 

Deep down, I know I don't believe, and I'm not sure I ever really did, or whether I was just scared into trying to convince myself that I did... Either way, I could do with some encouragement from fellow ex-Christians.

 

 

 

Thank you,

Hannah

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Welcome to the site, Hannah.

 

Fear is the church's strongest weapon, and is especially vicious when used on children. Many of us (myself included) were scared to death early by the "loving" christian church. But that's all it is. BS stories to keep the sheeple in line.

 

There isn't a vengeful god anymore than there's monsters under your bed, and I'm in the process of proving that to grandkids now.

Relax and enjoy the freedom to be you for a change.FrogsToadBigGrin.gif

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I can certainly understand the fear. Maybe it would help you to realize there are many tens of thousands of religions and gods, and you're necessarily "taking a chance" with all of them by not believing. This "why take the chance" question is called Pascal's Wager - if you google it you can find some good ideas for thinking this through. At one point I asked god to forgive me for questioning and seeking answers because if he exists and he made me then he would understand my questioning mind. I am now convinced that there are probably no gods, and if there are, they/it/he whatever certainly can't be the god of the bible.

 

So, feel the fear but deal with it as rationally as you can. Get help if you need it, because some people really do. I hope this site will be a help to you. Keep reading, and don't panic. :)

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Welcome to Ex-C, Hannah!

 

Much of what you described is very familiar to me. I too came from an atheist family, but my parents divorced when I was a kid and my father "found God" and converted to Xtianity and I converted too when I was about 12, because he told me it was the right thing to do. But it never made me happy. All it did to me was striking fear and guilt in me and like you, I felt trapped and I too think it made me depressed and develop OCD tendencies. In the hindsight I realize that I only held on for so long (20 years) because of a fear of Hell and punishment - only that's what kept me in and not really that I found a spiritual satisfaction in it.

 

The thing that helped me decide and leave the fold was when I started to study science (cosmology and astronomy first - because that's my main interest, but also evolution). Through that I soon realized the Bible cannot be true. And that helped me get rid of my fears. I think it may also help if you study the historical origins of Xtianity and the Bible. At least these helped me.

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Hi, Hannah. Welcome to ExC.

 

As others have suggested to you, you are not alone with the fears you described. Many others have had to face these fears either while they were Christians or, for people on this site, sometimes after they renounce Christianity as the false religion it is.

 

People on this site have dealt with the fears in many different ways and as you read more of the posts on here you will learn that there are quite few of our members who are exactly where you are in terms of their fears. You must confront your fears and deal with them. And also has been suggested to you, sometimes the fear issue may require some professional help.

 

Do you have any specific questions that you need help with? If so, don't be shy about asking. There are many very knowledgable people on this site who are always willing to offer you the insight they have gained.

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Welcome.

 

"What if I'm wrong?"

Wrong about what? Jehovah? Jesus? Allah? Zeus? Joseph Smith? David Koresh? L. Ron Hubbard?

 

The Bible, its God, and the religions it has spawned are just what you're familiar with. There are thousands of gods and religions to be wrong about. By the way, you're not wrong about any of them.

 

The religion has used fear to brainwash you, and that's not always easy to get over. Give it time, and if you are really suffering from emotional doubt about what you rationally know is true, don't be afraid to get some secular counseling to overcome the irrational fear.

 

You are normal, silly threats of sins and eternal damnation are not.

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Hannah,

 

I would just say that you have taken the biggest step towards overcoming your fears purely by admitting them. Often we like to hold to an idealised picture of ourselves, then we try to live up to the picture. So maybe many tell themselves the fear is gone, that their mind is strong - and their "strength" becomes a weakness. By being honest, facing our fears, we learn to trust ourselves.............and if we cannot trust ourselves the game is up.

 

Others have said it. There are lots of "truths" out there, most held by dishonest (to themselves) people who are all too eager to convince you of THEIR particular variety so as to help convince themselves. These are people without love, or very little.

 

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

 

Instead of love there is just the basic dishonesty - those prepared to live only by hiding from their doubts, and making others suffer, wanting to see their own reflection in those around them. So tell the fundamentalists and those with a God of wrath to get knotted and take their God back where "he" came from. Trust your own honesty and your own capacity for love.

 

Perfect love cast out fear! (as the Good Book says....:grin: )

 

Personally I have learned to look fear straight in the face and not run away. When you stay with it, look at it, often it is reduced to the mental gymnastics that it is. A littl ebit of meditation helps with this, just simple breathing meditation, concentrating on watching the breath and when the mind wanders, keep coming back to the breath. Yet, now and again, when fear arises, from the latest threat from the idiots who can't see that there is already enough suffering in the world without adding to it in eternity, just see it, acknowledge it, and let it pass.

 

Genuine best wishes to you

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Fear is a prick of a thing, it will own you your whole if you let it. Religion is one of the hardest things to let go of, because it is so uncertain, too many what ifs?

 

For a start, if there is a god and you were to stay a christian out of fear instead of love,as some kind of im not going to hell insurance policy, god would KNOW, so it would be pointless anyway.

 

I am not scared of god if he is there, I am angry. Angry at the promises made inthe bible that turned out not to be true. Once he can justify THAT, maybe we can talk about my behaviour.

 

Having any kind of anxiety, depression, OCD and obsessive thoughts needs as much professional help as you can throw at it. Look after you Hannah, and stay away from fundies. They are not happy unless they throw you into a tailspin of despair and doubt. Miles from what jesus said, learn from me for i am gentle and humble in heart. They are pretty well all batshit crazy and could benefit from a bit of therapy themselves :)

 

 

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What helped me break the fear is education. Mainly finding out more and more of the problems with the Bible, and the common sense of it all.

 

For instance, I grew up in a fundamental group that is pre-trib rapture all the way. I believed it 100%, and they always showed those rapture movies to scare people into getting 'saved' again. Due to the amount of christians that didn't believe the rapture, I decided to research the scriptural support for the subject. The 'proof' of the rapture in the bible is very sketchy at best, and the scriptures used are interpreted different ways by different christian groups. At the end of the day there simply isn't enough evidence for it without convoluting scriptures and making sure they're interpreted in a specific way. And even then the details are so vague (just like every other prophecy in the bible).

 

Then there's the common sense side of it all. Let's say we die and find out that the true god was Amun, the egyptian God. I'd be like, "Gee thanks Amun for actually making yourself known to the rest of us in the modern world. All we had were some old records of you in an ancient language, with no way to prove you divinely inspired those writings or whether man just made them up. Aside from that, you did nothing to supernaturally show that you were the one true God, plus your personality and even your name changed a bit over the years (Amun-Ra). You certainly didn't give us a fair chance to intelligently acknowledge that you exist, and from there use our free will to decide whether to serve you or reject you."

 

Sounds pretty much the same as the Bible God. The only difference being that Yahweh is the flavour of the month, not Amun. And the common sense of eternal hell doesn't add up either. Outside of the gospels, there's rarely a mention of hell. There's nothing in Acts about hell, which is a huge problem for me, because that's the drawing card of christianity - being saved from hell. Yet none of the early christians in Acts ever warns anyone about eternal hell. It's like they never knew it existed.

 

So that's some of the thoughts that helped me overcome the stranglehold that christianity had on me.

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Hi, Hannah and welcome to Ex-C. I had what I think of as an "Ananias and Sapphira" complex where I was afraid if I did something wrong, God would just up and kill me. Went through a pretty bad dose of it about two months ago when I quit attending church. I'm not trivializing what you are feeling now, but will tell you that the fear diminishes with time. Fear is definitely the way that God and church control their people. Best wishes.

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But I still can't let go of the nagging thoughts in the back of my mind. You know the ones: "What if I'm wrong?", "Is it really worth the risk?" etc. It's the idea of having no possible chance of knowing that scares me. To be honest though, I don't even want to believe in God. Having faith made me feel like a prisoner in my own mind. I may even go so far as to say that having faith was the cause of my depression. I certainly felt a lot happier when I realised I didn't believe. Still, despite all the compelling arguments I have read contradicting Christianity, every so often, I come across some fundie who literally puts the fear of God right back into me. I have these little "flashes" of worry, fear for my "soul".

 

Hannah,

 

Superstitious fear is insidious and that is what the fundies put into your head. You're only a month in, if I read you correctly. Give it time, but during that time get busy studying science, reading posts on ex-christian.net, finding more secular social outlets, etc. If the fear and anxiety are interfering with your life, seek secular counseling to help you put your superstition training into perspective.

 

You don't have to expect to be saddled by all these "nagging thoughts" for the rest of you life. But, don't expect to be rid of them over night or even entirely.

 

I wish you the best in your struggle to overcome magical thinking and boogie monster fear tactics.

 

OB '63

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I'd say the level of fear that remains represents the amount of belief that remains. You don't fear Islamic hell or Allah, right? Do you fear Zeus? No, you fear the xian god because that's the one you have been indoctrinated with. As time goes by and as you learn and study more, the fear will whither away. It took me years to work through this process so don't feel bad. But sometimes it just helps getting some perspective from someone who has been in your shoes and has now come out the other side without any more fear. :D

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This was just over a month ago now, and ironically, I know more of Christianity now as a non-believer than I ever did before. It's funny: The more I thought about Christianity and the more I learned, the more I doubted and questioned it.

This is such a repeated statement by members, it always gives me this knowing smile. :) It's my story as well.

 

But I still can't let go of the nagging thoughts in the back of my mind. You know the ones: "What if I'm wrong?", "Is it really worth the risk?" etc. It's the idea of having no possible chance of knowing that scares me.

Frankly, that sort of fear tactic is the only thing of 'manufactured' substance the fundi's have to offer. When they can't satisfy on either an intellectual, or a spiritual level, they pull out the "God will kill you with fire!!" idiocy. They betray their own utter lack of depth.

 

Deep down, I know I don't believe, and I'm not sure I ever really did, or whether I was just scared into trying to convince myself that I did... Either way, I could do with some encouragement from fellow ex-Christians.

For what's it's worth to you, today I don't identify as atheist for myself as I've always had a spiritual sense to me, but could not process the whole deity of fire and death and anger and jealousy nonsense. I did identify that way before as it was in fact legitimate to say I reject that image, that particular symbol "God" that is defined by your traditional Orthodox Christian Bureaucracy (be that Catholic or their biological offspring, the Protestants, in all their many flavors and varieties).

 

It is possible to embrace spirituality without the dogma of any anthropomorphic, pre-rational deities, but that is a personal thing that someone comes to from inside themselves. I also accept a non-theistic approach, but for me the important thing is to not base your new direction on a negative - what you are not, but rather on what you see, or aspire to. Really, it's about Freedom.

 

There are a lot of possibilities for you, post-Dogma/Christian. Fear, is not to be acknowledged. There is no fear here.

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Hi, Hannah, this will take a little time. You can say you believe or don't believe this or that, but it takes a while to retrain the thought processes. I think we're talking about several years. Those thought processes were several years in the learning, and they will be several years in the unlearning. Take encouragement though, they will be gone. I was about 34 years silent, and anytime something bad happened I was saying, "oh, no, God's out to get me." My biggest thing was, I have, thru knowledge and research, taken in information which totally refutes fundamentalist Christianity. I cannot unlearn the things that I know. So, I am not susceptible to the same traps and weaknesses. So, hang in there, you'll realize one day that you literally have nothing to fear!

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But I still can't let go of the nagging thoughts in the back of my mind. You know the ones: "What if I'm wrong?", "Is it really worth the risk?" etc. It's the idea of having no possible chance of knowing that scares me. To be honest though, I don't even want to believe in God. Having faith made me feel like a prisoner in my own mind. I may even go so far as to say that having faith was the cause of my depression. I certainly felt a lot happier when I realised I didn't believe. Still, despite all the compelling arguments I have read contradicting Christianity, every so often, I come across some fundie who literally puts the fear of God right back into me. I have these little "flashes" of worry, fear for my "soul".

 

Deep down, I know I don't believe, and I'm not sure I ever really did, or whether I was just scared into trying to convince myself that I did... Either way, I could do with some encouragement from fellow ex-Christians.

 

 

 

Thank you,

Hannah

Hi Hannah, I just joined up here and saw your post. I was a Christian for 20+ years but did not come from a religious household. For me it was always about seeking truth, I looked into various things and thought Christianity was the right answer. But even then I kept searching and read many books, long before the internet or much was available. It was a tough solitary road, I was on my own. Certainly no one in Christianity would or could help.

 

For me it isn't a numbers game or a matter of percentages. It's about being honest with yourself. Most of what I believed was by faith, even though there was some reasoning behind the basic principles it was a system of beliefs based on what I or someone else wanted to believe. The more history and reasoning I gained, the more faith it required. Finally, I had to admit that there wasn't sufficient faith to believe anymore.

 

I can't say for sure if God is or is not there or what that even means, but I can no longer believe in an entity that would require me to suspend my powers of reasoning in order to fit in with religious dogma, much of which doesn't really make sense and tends to turn people into dual/split personalities that struggle with each other.

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Thanks everybody. And I do realise this will take time. I still get edgy whenever people start talking about "end times" and the like.

 

I think a severe lack of general self-confidence has a lot to do with it. I'm the youngest in my family and I've always been shy, quiet and of a slightly nervous disposition - I guess I'm just used to being told what to do because I never had the confidence to trust my own thinking, and I was quite impressionable as a kid.

 

I just wish I could be one of those people who doesn't even give religion a thought and not allow it to dominate my life. At the moment, it's all I think about. My "deconversion" couldn't have come at a worse time. I'm in my final year of university and I need to be thinking about a career, as well as focusing on my work :-/

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The end times has always been a good seller. In fact Paul got the Thessalonians so worked up over it that they quit working. He had to go back and tell them that is could be much later, there's no telling. The story has remained the same and has often been used to fill the pews and church coffers in troubled times.

 

Self confidence comes from making up your own mind. The more you do it, the better you get.

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