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SeaJay

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Hi all :)

 

I'm a Christian with very shaky belief. My story is a bit complicated and involves mental health, a traumatising fear of hell, and 7 years of therapy (still ongoing). I'll post my story here because I cannot call myself an ex-Christian, so I do not feel I can post in Rants or the Coliseum.

 

That said, before I get into the heavy, I would really like to participate in the Ex-Christian Spirituality forum but as I say, I'm not exactly an Ex-Christian. That said, I do meditate (I'm up to 16 minutes per sitting and a few years ago I did 45 minutes), and I am very interested in Buddhism. I'm also interested in Paganism; there's something about the raw energy of a storm or the liberating feeling of being on a mountain top or the earthy connection I feel in a forest that calls to me. 

 

One last thing, I promise you, in all honesty, I have no intention of preaching here. I am not here to do anything other than to test my faith to the limit. The reason why is detailed below. 

 

--------

 

I have a real phobia about going to hell. I've been traumatised by it (still in therapy and the 'traumatising' is clinically diagnosed). I do have a very shaky belief, but I'm too terrified to admit anything to myself because of the fear of hell.

I have major cognitive dissonance with what's in the bible; slavery, brutality, misogynistic practices, the need for a human sacrifice, the threat of an eternal agonising afterlife for some and so on. But I am scared of walking away due to my fear of hellfire. I feel trapped and as I see it, there are only two ways out for me.

1. Be convinced there is no hell (not really possible – as we cannot say either way for sure)
2. Lose my faith. You can't scare me with Bigfoot or ghosts because I don't believe in them.  

I cannot even answer the question "If my thought processes were not inhibited by fear and anxiety, would I still believe?" Truth is, I’m too anxious to ask myself that, which speaks volumes.

Why does an omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) creator, feel the need to create a torture chamber, where the wicked are sent to spend an eternity in unimaginable agony? Why not just utterly annihilate them? Not enough punishment? Ok, but why does there need to be any punishment in the first place? Surely an omnipotent and omniscient creator could just show us the error of our ways, teach us so we know why we did the things we did, and then we can all live in peace?

I see no point in it, and it makes no sense on any level, but that doesn't help me because I still believe it may be real.  

The reason for my questions (and questions to subsequent answers I may receive) is to test what I believe. This may all sound backward and crazy, but if I can test my faith to the point it dwindles to nothing, then I get over my fear of hell. Truth is truth regardless. 

 

The Last 7 Years (a living hell)

Possible triggers here, so if talking about hell makes you anxious, please feel free not to read. I don't know how far along someone is on their journey so I don't want to risk upsetting anyone. 

 

I’ve just copy and pasted the stuff below from a word document I have. I give it to new therapists so I can sort of ‘crash course’ them as to why I need to see them. As a result, some of it might not flow narratively. Quick note, I sometimes mix up hell and the lake of fire but it’s all the same in the end. 

I am a Christian but do not belong to any Christian church and haven’t done so for years. I have an extreme fear I might be going to hell, because I think I blasphemed the Holy Spirit (known as the ‘unforgivable sin’). This is how it all occurred:

1. I used to study the Bible, and in November 2010 I was studying the Book of Revelation, and I came across something called the “lake of fire”. I believe hell is just the grave but the ‘lake of fire’ was new to me. Don’t know how I missed it in the past as I’ve read the bible twice and studied it a lot. 

2. I then remembered something called the unforgivable sin. Now I was anxious as there was an unforgivable sin and a lake of fire where sinners were sent to spend eternity in agony. I was worried and had to find out more. 

3. When I found out what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was, I then believe I committed that act in my mind. Why I did this I don’t know, but I became extremely anxious to the point I was having panic attacks. 

This fear has taken over my life. It is gnawing fear by day, interspersed with spikes of great anxiety and bouts of depression. 

Thoughts and Images: When on the edge of falling asleep or on the edge of waking up, I would see images of myself burning in fire or see others burning and falling into fire. I even had thoughts (that I will call ‘messages’) come into my mind telling me I was “destined for hell’ and “you are going to hell”. I never literally hear voices – they are thoughts that, I have to stress, I do not place in my mind; they seem to arise out of thin air. 

Things get worse: I started worrying these messages (i.e. “destined for hell”) were not originating from my own mind (as I said, I didn’t put them there, at least not consciously). I asked myself if I never placed them in my mind, where did they come from? I started worrying that Heaven was telling me I was going to this lake of fire. 

Random Thoughts: I now became aware of random thoughts popping into my mind. These thoughts were different, from the messages (i.e. “Destined for hell”), they were more, random. Again, I do not consciously place either types of thought (i.e. the messages, “Destined for hell” or the random thoughts) in my mind, and this is what makes them so worrying. 

Example: I’m sitting in silence and suddenly the word ‘water’, or ‘trombone’, or ‘Arizona’, or shovel (literally anything) just pops into my mind. 

Intrusive Thoughts?
So I have two types of worrying thoughts (i) message types about me “Destined for hell” and (ii) seemingly random words that pop into my mind. I’ve been told I am suffering from ‘intrusive thoughts’ but I'm not convinced and worry the therapists are wrong.  

Evidence I am Going to Hell: I worry, these random thoughts are evidence I am going to hell. Why? Bll, because I cannot predict the future, but Heaven can. So if I encounter these random words in the future, it is because they are predicting the future. Insane isn't it?

It is as if I am being told: “We have told you, you are "Destined for hell" for blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In case you think "Destined for hell" is a product of your own mind, we will send you glimpses of the future by placing words into your mind. You will know these words are from Heaven, because they will be predicting the future and that is something you cannot do.” 

Example: I am in the bathroom washing my hands, and suddenly, the random thought “white horse” pops into my mind from nowhere. A few minutes or an hour or a day later, I turn the t.v. on, and see a white horse. Or perhaps I go for a drive and see a white horse in a field, or the next day I turn a page in a magazine and see a picture of a white horse, or someone mentions white horse in conversation. All this I see as glimpses of the future coming true, and therefore evidence that I am going to hell. 

 

Conclusion: The random thoughts and “Destined for hell” thoughts, all come from the same source: Heaven, and Heaven is proving to me I'm hellbound. 

This is extremely worrying for me and I have to walk around with earphones, listening to podcasts, because any sort of “chatter/dialogue” prevents these words from popping into my mind. I cannot stay in silence without my earphones for very long. This happens today. 

I no longer pray like I used to, or go to church, or study the bible, and I feel anxious when I’m around most things to do with Christianity. I have removed all religious books from my home. 

Recapping:

- Random thoughts popping into my mind
- Images in my mind when falling asleep or waking up
- Thoughts telling me I am "Destined for hell" (thoughts I do not consciously place in my mind)

On two different occasions, things got so bad; I considered becoming a voluntary patient at a mental hospital. My Mirtazapine medication has been increased, and I am now also taking Citalopram. 

 

Thanks for reading my story. If it sounds familiar, it's because I also posted this on the 'Thinking Atheist' forums. They are a great bunch who have helped me immensely. 

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Welcome to the forum, SeaJay.

 

A lot of what you say sounds familiar to me. I haven't really had such a problem with hell, but the intrusive thoughts including some that seem to predict the future - yes. 

I used to think that spiritual beings including Jesus talked to me in thoughts, not audible by ears but "different" thoughts, and that they'd take me over when I needed to do "god's work". Truth is I have DDNOS, like DID with the alters, but mostly without amnesia, and most of the time I'm Yunea to the outsider. I hear my alters talking in my thoughts. Some of them are very ill and talk about death and such, some are happier and sing songs or whatever. I even had a Jesus in there, that's how I "knew" he was real (I've set him free since).

 

And yes, some of them guess right what someone is going to tell me next and such things. I don't know the mechanism, but my system is entirely agnostic and atheist (I guess someone is sort of deist, believing in some kind of "universal source of love" that she can tap into) and I actually have blasphemed the Biblegod and its spirit in every way I could think of and these things still happen just the same. And none of the voices/thoughts are warning me about hell even though I just now blasphemed Jesus in my mind again.

 

I am glad you are in therapy. I am as well. All the best to you on your journey out of fear. 

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Thanks for replying Yunea

 

The human mind is a strange thing for sure

 

I hope your issues are resolved soon

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10 hours ago, SeaJay said:

Hi all :)

 

One last thing, I promise you, in all honesty, I have no intention of preaching here. I am not here to do anything other than to test my faith to the limit. The reason why is detailed below. 

 

Hi SeaJay

 

Glad to have you along. Don't you worry about preaching we can handle it - anyone coming here and who starts preaching gets a rapid education on how to get shredded. Last fellow still hasn't recovered enough to pop back for his debate :D 

 

In fact if you started preaching you might actually learn an awful lot as we dismantle each claim of Christianity. But you seem far more will to find the truth so keep asking questions like you are. :)

 

 

10 hours ago, SeaJay said:

I feel trapped and as I see it, there are only two ways out for me.

1. Be convinced there is no hell (not really possible – as we cannot say either way for sure)
2. Lose my faith. You can't scare me with Bigfoot or ghosts because I don't believe in them.  

 

 

Let me ask you - are you convinced there is no bigfoot? Because there is no real way to be absolutely certain. I mention this to show that you are convinced there is no bigfoot despite not being absolutely certain. Thus I think you can become convinced there is no hell - I am, but I don't absolutely rule it out. I think, based on everything I have looked at that it is so unlikely that I am convinced that it doesn't exist the same way I am not convinced any god exists.

 

 

10 hours ago, SeaJay said:

I am a Christian but do not belong to any Christian church and haven’t done so for years. I have an extreme fear I might be going to hell, because I think I blasphemed the Holy Spirit (known as the ‘unforgivable sin’). This is how it all occurred:

 

 

You state you are a Christian, but are you? Are you sure you are not just a person scared of the concept of hell? (A natural fear that affects many people) If you were a Christian you'd also believe in God, that Jesus is the son of God and is God. Much of your post is not about your shaky belief in God, but in fear of hell and there are two separate issues. I always tell myself that if I am operating or believing something out of fear then I'm being irrational. Then I I try and think rationally as to whether the fear is founded in REALITY.

 

10 hours ago, SeaJay said:

1. I used to study the Bible, and in November 2010 I was studying the Book of Revelation, and I came across something called the “lake of fire”. I believe hell is just the grave but the ‘lake of fire’ was new to me. Don’t know how I missed it in the past as I’ve read the bible twice and studied it a lot. 

2. I then remembered something called the unforgivable sin. Now I was anxious as there was an unforgivable sin and a lake of fire where sinners were sent to spend eternity in agony. I was worried and had to find out more. 

3. When I found out what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was, I then believe I committed that act in my mind. Why I did this I don’t know, but I became extremely anxious to the point I was having panic attacks. 

This fear has taken over my life. It is gnawing fear by day, interspersed with spikes of great anxiety and bouts of depression. 

 

 

There is a good video on youtube that I post below on the evolution of hell in the bible. Once you understand how the concept of hell we have today came about it will hopefully reduce/eliminate your fear of it. Aronra also goes into detail in some of his lectures on the origins of the idea of hell. Once you have finished the video below there is another one called Evolution of Satan in the Bible from the same person (43Alley)

 

 

10 hours ago, SeaJay said:

Recapping:

- Random thoughts popping into my mind
- Images in my mind when falling asleep or waking up
- Thoughts telling me I am "Destined for hell" (thoughts I do not consciously place in my mind)

On two different occasions, things got so bad; I considered becoming a voluntary patient at a mental hospital. My Mirtazapine medication has been increased, and I am now also taking Citalopram. 

 

Thanks for reading my story. If it sounds familiar, it's because I also posted this on the 'Thinking Atheist' forums. They are a great bunch who have helped me immensely. 

 

At this point I can't really offer any advice because we are straying into mental health here and saying "just get over it" is extremely unhelpful. I have/do suffer from anxiety so know what its like when thoughts are tearing unbidden through your head.

 

I would reassure you that this is not evidence of you going to hell. This is evidence only of your mind producing thoughts that creates a fear of something that is not real. "Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist." Will Smith in After Earth

 

All the best

LF

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20 minutes ago, LogicalFallacy said:

Let me ask you - are you convinced there is no bigfoot? Because there is no real way to be absolutely certain. I mention this to show that you are convinced there is no bigfoot despite not being absolutely certain. Thus I think you can become convinced there is no hell - I am, but I don't absolutely rule it out. I think, based on everything I have looked at that it is so unlikely that I am convinced that it doesn't exist the same way I am not convinced any god exists.[/quote]

 

I've really delved into the whole hell concept and I'm almost convinced it isn't real. The problem for me, is I have O.C.D Pure O (meaning I have the obsessions but not the outward compulsions), intrusive thoughts, C-PTSD, and severe anxiety (not to mention social anxiety). What this does, is turn the 1% chance hell is real, into a fear it might be 99% real. 

 

You state you are a Christian, but are you? Are you sure you are not just a person scared of the concept of hell? (A natural fear that affects many people) If you were a Christian you'd also believe in God, that Jesus is the son of God and is God. Much of your post is not about your shaky belief in God, but in fear of hell and there are two separate issues. I always tell myself that if I am operating or believing something out of fear then I'm being irrational. Then I I try and think rationally as to whether the fear is founded in REALITY.

 

This is a great question  and I've questioned this myself, a lot. I can't seem to arrive at a decision about this though. 

 

There is a good video on youtube that I post below on the evolution of hell in the bible. Once you understand how the concept of hell we have today came about it will hopefully reduce/eliminate your fear of it. Aronra also goes into detail in some of his lectures on the origins of the idea of hell. Once you have finished the video below there is another one called Evolution of Satan in the Bible from the same person (43Alley)

 

 

 

At this point I can't really offer any advice because we are straying into mental health here and saying "just get over it" is extremely unhelpful. I have/do suffer from anxiety so know what its like when thoughts are tearing unbidden through your head.

 

I would reassure you that this is not evidence of you going to hell. This is evidence only of your mind producing thoughts that creates a fear of something that is not real. "Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist." Will Smith in After Earth

 

All the best

LF

 

 

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One question, how do you multi quote?

Thanks

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Just now, SeaJay said:

One question, how do you multi quote?

Thanks

 

And how do you edit a post if you see an error?

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I watched the 'Realizing Hell Does Not Exist' video, and read some of the comments. I found something a little alarming. 

 

The OT does not teach about a fiery hell we say (and I agree), however, I read this (I've paraphrased to keep it short)

 

"Sheol simply refers to the abode of the dead in general, not particularly the place of the punishment for the wicked. In fact, sheol was divided into two compartments, one for the righteous dead and one for the wicked dead."

 

First the relevant verses from the Rich Man and Lazarus story:

 

Luke 16:19 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.  

 

The author then says:

 

"First, we see (from Jesus' description) that the place of the dead is divided into two compartments separated by a gulf so that those on either side cannot go to the other side. Second, we see that the beggar is taken to the side on which Abraham resides. This side of the place of the dead is a place of comfort. And the name for this portion of the place of the dead (where the righteous) go was "the Bosom of Abraham." As we will soon see, this place of the righteous dead was also known as "Paradise." Third, we see that the rich man goes to the other side of the gulf, which is described as a place of fiery torment."

 

My concern is this, we say the OT does not teach a fiery hell, but Jesus here is using the description of the Jewish underworld, which is (i) divided into two compartments and (ii) has a fiery section. If the Jews never believed in a fiery hell, why does Jesus (a Jew) describe their Sheol as having a hell like location?

 

Worried

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A related question

 

Is the punishment for the wicked eternal torment?

Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Matthew 25: 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

So the wicked are thrown into the same place as the devil, the beast and false prophet, and if the devil, beast and false prophet are tormented forever, doesn’t that mean the wicked will also be tormented forever? :huh:

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9 minutes ago, SeaJay said:

A related question

 

Is the punishment for the wicked eternal torment?

Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Matthew 25: 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

So the wicked are thrown into the same place as the devil, the beast and false prophet, and if the devil, beast and false prophet are tormented forever, doesn’t that mean the wicked will also be tormented forever? :huh:

 

You realize you are asking a theological question to a person who pretty much believes most of the bible including revelations is B/S? :)

 

My short answer to you is its all bullshit.

 

But theologically it depends who you talk to and what your interpretation is. It appears that hell is eternal punishment according to the writer. However logically why would an all powerful God create two places of eternity? (Heaven and Hell)

 

What you are seeing between the OT and Jesus is humans evolving their religion.

 

Example, in the OT God was very much a being who physically intervened in our reality. Now days Christians cannot defend that God due to lack of evidence, so they also have evolved - now God is a transcendent being outside our reality! They do their best to explain God in such a way that he can't be defeated and cannot be falsified - after all what use is a god that can be proven false or weaker than other gods?

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2 hours ago, SeaJay said:

And how do you edit a post if you see an error?

You need to have a certain number of posts... be a member for a certain time.

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2 hours ago, SeaJay said:

One question, how do you multi quote?

Thanks

Next to "Quote" there is a "+". Click the plus in each post you want to multi quote.

 

If you want to do it how I broke up your post into several to answer individual sections I hit enter a number of times under the portion I want to break off.

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1 minute ago, LogicalFallacy said:

You need to have a certain number of posts... be a member for a certain time.

Thought that might be it

Ok thank you

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Thanks LF

 

The way I see the issue with the above OT/Lazarus issue is that the Jews after coming out of Babylon, brought with them Babylonian myths about 'hell'. It is as you say, an evolving belief. 

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Welcome SeaJay to our community.  I think you'll be glad you came here.  I have found it invaluable to be part of a community of men and women in various stages of recovering from Christianity, and I hope you will find it helpful too.  There are some very knowledgeable and very caring people here who will encourage and welcome you.  Some are both knowledgeable AND caring, haha! 

 

It may not seem so to you now, but it IS possible to be convinced that Hell does not exist.  I am convinced, just as I am convinced that the god of the Bible is a human construct that evolved through the ages as humans in the Middle East tried to make sense of the universe and their lives.  Am I CERTAIN?  No, but I am convinced enough.  I have said on here that I fear Hell less than I fear a Jumbo jet falling on my house, and I don't live near an airport.

 

This is probably little comfort to you at this point, but plenty of people here will tell you that they have moved past the fear, guilt and other negative baggage of their former beliefs and they will assure you that it does get better.  But it does take some strength to keep moving forward.  For now I would just encourage you to keep reading, keep asking questions.  I really wish the best for you - I'm glad you're here!

 

TABA

 

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3 hours ago, SeaJay said:

I've really delved into the whole hell concept and I'm almost convinced it isn't real. The problem for me, is I have O.C.D Pure O (meaning I have the obsessions but not the outward compulsions), intrusive thoughts, C-PTSD, and severe anxiety (not to mention social anxiety). What this does, is turn the 1% chance hell is real, into a fear it might be 99% real. 

 

SeaJay,

 

I cannot help direct with the likes of OCD etc. That is for the professionals.

 

However, It might be interesting to challenge your thought processes by asking which hell are you afraid of?

 

The Jewish hell? Well, they don't have a hell - ask any Jewish Rabbi about hell and they will say there is nothing in the OT that has the Christian concept of hell. This was made up by the writers of the NT.

 

(Incidentally you talk about Jesus mentioning hell. There is no evidence, nor reason to believe that the Jesus of the bible, as written about actually said and did the things attributed to him. In fact there are good reasons to consider the very real possibility that Jesus never existed - we can discuss this later.)

 

The Christian hell? You are familiar with this, and this is the one you are afraid of - but its not the only hell humankind has invented - so why so afraid of THIS hell?

 

The Islamic hell? The Islamic hell is very similar to the Christian hell with a few modifications. Why? Because Islam is a direct bastardization of Judaism and Christianity, just as Judaism is a direct bastardization of the local Canaanite, Sumerian, and Babylonian religions.

 

The Hindu hell "Naraka"? Located beneath the earth? Funny that - Hinduism is centuries older than any other religion to my knowledge, and yet the christian version of hell is sometimes also referred to as "down there".

 

The Roman, or Greek hells (Underworlds)

 

The Egyptian underworld where Anubis rules? 

 

So many hell's, yet you are afraid of only one - ask yourself why. I'll give you a hint - you live in the UK according to your profile, I'm going to assume you were born there and heard about Jesus, hell, heaven at an early age. Why? Because the UK is predominately Christian, and has been since - what 500 AD? At least 1,000 years. Had you been born in India which hell do you think you would be afraid of? And does this show you that a real hell is not what is causing the fear, but the idea of hell from the culture you were brought up in? Naturally I've made a lot of assumptions, but it illustrates the point.

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51 minutes ago, ThereAndBackAgain said:

 For now I would just encourage you to keep reading, keep asking questions.  I really wish the best for you - I'm glad you're here!

 

TABA

 

 

TABA is right on the button here. Research, read, find out about other religions. As can be seen from the concept of hell it is not a uniquely Christian concept. The fear of dying and wanting to live forever has haunted man ever since he began to be intelligent enough to ask questions. But we don't need to be bound by those fears. We have enough information at our fingertips to be able to determine what is real and what is man made myth.

 

Here's a vid from Carl Sagan you might like - the last third deals with the human fear of failure and dying. - I'd ignore the imagery and just listen to what Carl is saying.

 

 

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1 hour ago, ThereAndBackAgain said:

Welcome SeaJay to our community.  I think you'll be glad you came here.  I have found it invaluable to be part of a community of men and women in various stages of recovering from Christianity, and I hope you will find it helpful too.  There are some very knowledgeable and very caring people here who will encourage and welcome you.  Some are both knowledgeable AND caring, haha! 

 

It may not seem so to you now, but it IS possible to be convinced that Hell does not exist.  I am convinced, just as I am convinced that the god of the Bible is a human construct that evolved through the ages as humans in the Middle East tried to make sense of the universe and their lives.  Am I CERTAIN?  No, but I am convinced enough.  I have said on here that I fear Hell less than I fear a Jumbo jet falling on my house, and I don't live near an airport.

 

This is probably little comfort to you at this point, but plenty of people here will tell you that they have moved past the fear, guilt and other negative baggage of their former beliefs and they will assure you that it does get better.  But it does take some strength to keep moving forward.  For now I would just encourage you to keep reading, keep asking questions.  I really wish the best for you - I'm glad you're here!

 

TABA

 

 

Thanks for the reply TABA, much appreciated

 

I home to get answers to my questions here and reduce the anxiety concerning hell to the point I can look at what I believe and come to a decision. I hope this site can be a place of support for me because I have realised I might not be able to do this alone. 

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Thank you all for the links and advice, it's much appreciated!

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18 hours ago, SeaJay said:

...

I have a real phobia about going to hell.

... 

As an intellectual exercise, consider the following task:

 

List all the things, events, attributes and properties that must exist in reality a priori before this hell you speak of can also exist in reality

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I'm linking here some teachings that completely obliterated my fear of hell.  I encourage you to gander a listen.  The long and short of it:  The concept of heaven and hell are part of a domination culture, intended for ruling over other people to get them to do what you want.  It is more natural for us to interact through giving and receiving, compassion and empathy.  Marshal uncovers the dynamics underneath this; core human needs.  I saw very quickly that the god of the bible didn't understand humans at all, and the domination model taught in the bible was in contradiction to human nature.

 

 

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Thank you Sherpa, I will watch it as time allows

 

Is what the person talks about focused on religion or on life in general?

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On 4/27/2017 at 7:34 PM, SeaJay said:

The way I see the issue with the above OT/Lazarus issue is that the Jews after coming out of Babylon, brought with them Babylonian myths about 'hell'. It is as you say, an evolving belief.

Hello SeaJay

 

I'm new here too, so welcome. I've been lucky in not having suffered any trauma in leaving the church and becoming an Ex Christian, but I'm learning here just how traumatising it can be for many people. Sorry you've been exposed to the idea of such a frightening future after death. I must admit it was never something that cropped up in churches I went to, so it's not a fear I share.

 

Have you read Robert Wright's book The Evolution of God? I recommend it as it helped me to see more clearly how the religions have evolved. I think we're all seeing little bits of this evolution in action in our own lifetimes as well. I remember when God disapproved of women leaders for example (and the church I recently left still does) but now many churches preach that God doesn't mind at all. I remember God disapproving of women not wearing hats in church. And I remember when God needed good Catholics to eat fish on Fridays, and then apparently thought better of it. About 30 years ago God stopped being frugal for a while and wanted people to be rich, and Christians (in America mainly) were told that if they wanted a yacht or a luxury car they should pray for them as God wanted them to have such things. Then along came recessions and economic downturns and then God seemed to shut up about that. Now God's attitudes to homosexuality are changing. Except they're not of course -- society is changing and it takes a while for God to catch up (and for Christians to find verses to back up their new positions perhaps). Either God's a slow learner, we're more socially evolved than God, or it's all a human construct. And if it's a human construct then of course we can change the God to suit the changes in society.

 

Hell is made up too. It was invented by people who thought the Earth was flat and that heaven was a literal place above it and hell was a literal place below it.  It made perfect sense to them and it was a useful concept because it kept people in line. It doesn't exist any more than God does.

 

The Bible is full of things nobody takes any notice of any more, such as all the animal sacrifices and whatnot in Leviticus and elsewhere. We've evolved beyond that sort of thing in most civilised places. I think we've also evolved beyond--or are in the process of evolving beyond--the concept of hell.

 

PS. A bit off-topic, but did you catch the letter to Dr Laura that circulated a few years ago? I hope you're not offended by it, but it doesn't mention hell. It does illustrate very well though how you need to take great care about interpreting anything in the bible literally. Link here:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/3/25/850561/- but wrongly attributed. It was actually written by Kent Ashcraft, according to Snopes.

 

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The letter to Dr Laura was very funny to be fair - it makes the bible sound crazy in parts

 

But aren't the OT laws done away with when Jesus is sacrificed?

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Well, I suppose that depends on which New Testament teacher you listen to. Paul, at least, certainly seemed to think that the OT law was no longer in effect after Jesus' death. The interesting thing is that we don't get an affirmative from Jesus himself in the Gospels; in fact, he is reported to made some claims that seem to run directly counter to the idea that Christians don't have to worry about OT laws:

 

"It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law." (Luke 16:17)

 

"For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)

 

"Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)

 

This last teaching is especially interesting in context. Jesus supposedly said this to a rich man (the 'rich young ruler') who in verse 16 asks what he must do to gain eternal life. Now, if you were to ask any modern pastor this question, they would almost certainly tell you to believe in Jesus Christ and receive his sacrifice as a payment for your sins. After that, you're covered–wiped clean, as white as snow in the eyes of God. But that's not what Jesus says. And in case a Christian were to wonder exactly which commandments Jesus is referring to, verses 18-19 make this clear: "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'" 

 

All of these laws are major tenets of the Law of Moses. In brief, Jesus is telling the young man (and by extension, his followers) that keeping the commandments will get people into heaven. 'Faith alone,' prayer, a 'close relationship with God'–Jesus mentions none of these things as the One Way™ into heaven, even though he easily could have. 

 

[All Scripture references come from the NIV, in case you were feeling curious!]

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