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LogicalFallacy

Are you an atheist if you fear hell?

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Well since our last Christian left us, and I found myself with an interesting question I thought we may as well have a little discussion.

 

I should probably preface this by saying I am by no means attacking anyone if they are still afraid of hell. I'm looking at beliefs and how that maps to identity.

 

So on Quroa I came across this blog link titled "Yes there are atheists who still fear hell" with a comment underneath that said "You are still not an atheist then"

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessmom/2020/02/yes-there-are-atheists-who-still-fear-hell/?utm_source=quora&utm_medium=referral

 

So TL;DR the blog is about how some atheists still fear hell, and that short snide comment actually got me thinking. Rather than just dismiss the writer as a pretentious prick I wondered if there is anything to it.

 

Personally I fear neither, god, nor hell, I simply don't believe either exists, similar to me not fearing Hades or Hel or whatever the Islamic version is, or not fearing Santa won't bring me any presents.

 

An atheist, as we all know, is someone who does not believe in any god or gods, or who believes there are no god or gods. The concept of hell is predicated on the idea of a god who made said hell and can send you there. That is the concept of hell doesn't stand on its own. There is always a god concept[t behind it.

 

Therefore if you are still afraid of hell are you an atheist? That is do you not believe god exists? Isn't the fear stemming from somewhere in your brain that still believes god exists?

 

Interested in your thoughts while we wait for the next Christian to grace our den.

 

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Yes I think you can be an atheist and still fear Hell.  We have all had irrational fears on occasion.  A few years ago, I visited the CN tower in Toronto with my wife and son.  On the observation deck there’s a glass floor where you can stand and look down at the ground, a thousand feet below.  It’s thoroughly unnerving and most people have great difficulty stepping out on to the glass.  I did, even though I was completely confident that it was as strong as the opaque floor nearby.  
 

I’m lucky that I have not had a fear of Hell since I deconverted.  But then I was very skeptical about Hell even when I was a Christian.  But I know there are quite a few people here who had trouble with this fear, even when they were intellectually satisfied that neither gods nor Hell exist.  
 

I think that for most Ex-Christians, the fear of Hell, if any, diminishes as time goes by. But it’s not fair in my book to question their atheism while that fear still lingers.  

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I'd say one is a product of the logical mind making a conclusion, the other is the product of the survival mind and is a product of programming. 

I never realized how separate they were until this last summer when I started having anxiety attacks (PTSD) based on the behavior of a neighbor acting oddly and then aggressively. I had to spend weeks trying to understand why I was reacting so strongly to something that in reality was just an annoyance, not a run-or-be-killed situation. 

 

I realized eventually that I had been raised with a single solution to any such situation: shoot her. Not that we ever did, but my family wasn't the most functional and mature folks. We loved firearms and had plenty, and loved Rambo and Terminator type films. The solution to any issue of an "enemy" was then to shoot them. Again, we never did, but that was the programmed response verbally and emotionally. I've been around long enough to know that shooting is only valid if I am in clear and present mortal danger. The neighbor was just being aggressively noisy with her music, sometimes at 3am just to annoy me. Not a threat at all, but I really had no emotional training to deal with it. So my emotional basic mind responded with "I have to shoot her, but I can't do that. I'm trapped, therefore must flee the danger." It really came down to that stupid conclusion. But I reacted with full body shaking terror anytime I heard her subwoofer. Then at work, even an HVAC system turning on had a low thrum sound that I'd react to that. I was stuck in fear by a part of my mind that was trying its best to protect me from perceived danger.

 

It took weeks of purposefully examining the situation with my logical mind, talking to my primitive mind that was in terror, every time I'd hear something that triggered me. I'd ask it "Is this danger, or just an annoyance?" and wait for a response. Over and over again. It eventually learned through repetition that this was just an annoying thing, not a real danger. I taught myself a new response and got to the point where subwoofer sounds were easy to ignore, and I stopped being triggered. The mind really is segmented more than we usually realize, but the pieces can work together through training it.

 

The same sort of thing is true of those who have an irrational fear of hell. It makes no logical sense, but the terror is quite real and will remain so until the mind is taught to see through repetition that it isn't a real danger. I've read articles that say this is backed up by current knowledge of how the amygdala learns. 

 

So yes, one can be an atheist and still have fear of hell, and that fear can be overcome through purposeful confrontation of the triggers and re-training the amygdala to see that it was lied to originally and that there is nothing to fear. 

 

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40 minutes ago, LogicalFallacy said:

Well since our last Christian left us, and I found myself with an interesting question I thought we may as well have a little discussion.

 

I should probably preface this by saying I am by no means attacking anyone if they are still afraid of hell. I'm looking at beliefs and how that maps to identity.

 

So on Quroa I came across this blog link titled "Yes there are atheists who still fear hell" with a comment underneath that said "You are still not an atheist then"

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessmom/2020/02/yes-there-are-atheists-who-still-fear-hell/?utm_source=quora&utm_medium=referral

 

So TL;DR the blog is about how some atheists still fear hell, and that short snide comment actually got me thinking. Rather than just dismiss the writer as a pretentious prick I wondered if there is anything to it.

 

Personally I fear neither, god, nor hell, I simply don't believe either exists, similar to me not fearing Hades or Hel or whatever the Islamic version is, or not fearing Santa won't bring me any presents.

 

An atheist, as we all know, is someone who does not believe in any god or gods, or who believes there are no god or gods. The concept of hell is predicated on the idea of a god who made said hell and can send you there. That is the concept of hell doesn't stand on its own. There is always a god concept[t behind it.

 

Therefore if you are still afraid of hell are you an atheist? That is do you not believe god exists? Isn't the fear stemming from somewhere in your brain that still believes god exists?

 

Interested in your thoughts while we wait for the next Christian to grace our den.

 

 

 

"You are still not an atheist then..."  - Sounds like "You never were a real Christian" ... I personally dont have a religious goal. I'm not leveling myself up to a certain title. Whatever feels good is what I'll be doing. 

 

Seems like this guy is using an all or nothing fallacy to me. When I was a registered Republican I voted for Bill Clinton. Does that mean I wasnt a Republican? Or not a true liberal? :)

 

The pretentious prick is a gatekeeper. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Gatekeeping

 

People cant be described in a one word label. People are complex and often seemingly self-contradictory and hypocritical. 

 

 

 

 

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The lizard brain is a quirky thing. I suppose with enough indoctrination using the Hell tactic, one could have that deep fear crop up after deconversion. A lifetime atheist without the brainwashing would never fear Hell. 

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You could be an atheist but
1) fear that you were wrong, and thus fear hell;
2) have an irrational “amygdala” fear of hell based on a lifetime of conditioning, independent of your beliefs;
3) believe in a godless universe where your spirit goes to a bad place after you die.

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40 minutes ago, midniterider said:

 

People cant be described in a one word label. People are complex and often seemingly self-contradictory and hypocritical. 

 

 👍     You got that right!

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Yes,  you call be an atheist and still fear hell.

 

I'm the kind of atheist who doesn't only lack the god belief, but who actively thinks that there is no god. The same goes for hell. As such, I have no fear of hell. I really believe that no such place exists. But it is very possible to be an atheist and simply lack the positive god/hell beliefs. Such a person may very well think it's possible that they could be wrong,  and thus be afraid. This isn't even necessarily an irrational fear. It's a bit like being afraid that a plane you're on might crash. It's not something you think will happen,  but you know you might be wrong,  and so you can still be afraid without being irrational. 

 

And of course,  as others have pointed out,  it's also possible to just be irrationally afraid.

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Can you be an atheist and not fit into somebody else's preconceived mold of what an atheist should be?  I think you can; and probably should.

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As had been said the rational logical mind and the primitive mind are two different things. 

I don't believe in hell or fear hell. But can even I predict how I may feel if I'm put in a highly emotional situation where previously effective mind control techniques worked on me quite effectively? Even I can't predict that - maybe my logical rational mind would shut down (temporarily, hopefully) as I'm "triggered". It could be similar to PTSD in that way. 

 

I agree that this person is acting as a "gatekeeper". More than that they have something invested in labeling other people, never a good sign. 

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I bet champions of logic and reason still have irrational fears. Unless they have had those areas of their brain removed. :)

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I remember when I first became an atheist, I would sometimes have moments of panic when I got home and no one was there.  I thought, "maybe the rapture happened!  Maybe I was wrong!"  But, I was still an atheist.  Those moments would pass.  I liken it to a scary movie.  We all know that the monsters aren't real, but our minds can suspend that disbelief for a short period of time.

 

Of course, my favorite part of these moments of panic is that even during them, I was resolute in my conviction to not serve that god of the bible.  I thought the rapture might have happened, that I might be wrong, but knew that I would not waver for a moment and pretend to serve that god.  If nothing else, they certainly drove home the fact that I wasn't going back to Christianity, regardless of what happened.

 

As time went on, those feelings passed.  They never come these days.

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On February 14, 2020 at 12:43 PM, midniterider said:

I bet champions of logic and reason still have irrational fears. Unless they have had those areas of their brain removed. :)

Booze helps :D

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Fear is an emotion and not necessarily rooted in logic or reasoning. I think it's common for people to have persisting irrational fears after deconversion, especially if they were brainwashed or intimidated as a child by christian parents, or their environment. In a sense the fear can be contextualized as a childhood trauma and fear resurfacing under a false narrative. It took me many years (and self reflection, and therapy) after deconversion to overcome this fear, and a lot of the process involved recognizing and healing from psychological/emotional hurt. 

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Hell is basically a form of religious trauma.  Imagine being taught from a young age to be afraid of going to literally the worst place imaginable for minor mistakes and being routinely told that if you ever lose your faith you will definitely go there.  And with it being something that we won't know with 100% certainty until after we die, it remains untestable.  

I consider fear of Hell to be an irrational phobia that comes from this trauma.  It's not something we can control.  You could liken it to otherwise rational people who have a mild fear of ghosts or the supernatural but I would argue it's actually closer to people who get out of abusive relationships and still have night terrors about their abuse.  

Anybody who says "you can't be an atheist if you still fear hell" might not be operating with that same level of psychological abuse that religion brings.  While the intent is probably not malicious, I would say the statement smacks of telling somebody they should be ashamed of their emotions.  

I sometimes have the fear of Hell, but the truth is for me it is just the fear of nonbeing and the unknown of what, if anything, comes beyond death masquerading as the boogeyman of Hell.  Even coming from a religion that doesn't teach a fire and brimstone hell, and one that is very hard to get into properly (Mormons believe in a tier-Heaven and then "Outer Darkness" which is only for the absolute worst of the worst) I still have the occasional flare up. 

As far as general advice for anybody who still suffers from this, you can present all the usual arguments of the literally thousands of flavors of Hell that are preached about by various world religions and the impossibility of safeguarding against all of them.  But logical arguments don't fare so well against emotions.  That's why I think the statement is both foolish and somewhat irrelevant.  

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On 2/13/2020 at 9:37 PM, florduh said:

The lizard brain is a quirky thing.

Someone inferred that I had a lizard brain after I replied to a Christian's question about what was wrong with them since they felt at times they were saved and at other times doubted their salvation.  Of course any first year healer would known that it was a case of DM, probably the result of industrial disease, or maybe not, but the ole boy sounded like he was in dire straits.

 

On 2/14/2020 at 4:18 AM, disillusioned said:

The same goes for hell.

Well, that's all good but it doesn't alter the fact that one can ignore it, but that doesn't make it go away. 

 

And for those who the fear of it has under pressure, sometimes giving a person a hand out of their hell can vanquish the hell that the fear of it is giving them. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Justus said:

Someone inferred that I had a lizard brain

Everyone has a "lizard brain." Sometimes it takes over the rational part.

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Guest freedwoman

I'm sorry. But it my opinion NO. You can't be an atheist and still fear Hell. Because it shows that a part of you still believes in the Bible gods existence who created that place. You still believe he could send you there. But that's just me.

✌️

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1 minute ago, freedwoman said:

I'm sorry. But it my opinion NO. You can't be an atheist and still fear Hell. Because it shows that a part of you still believes in the Bible gods existence who created that place. You still believe he could send you there. But that's just me.

✌️

 

I think this is equating belief with certainty. This is a mistake, in my view. 

 

You can be a Christian and still be afraid that you might be going to hell. If this is true,  then it must also hold for atheists.

 

You can believe that the plane will land safely and still be afraid that it won't. You can believe you won't die of covid19 and still be afraid that you might. And you can believe that God doesn't exist,  and still be afraid that he might, and that he might be pissed. What you can't do (rationally) is be certain that God doesn't exist and be afraid of Him. But certainty is not required for atheism.

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Guest freedwoman

I can see your point. But the fear is based on something that is unknown. But we know planes do crash and people get sick. We don't know for sure if God and Hell exists or not. So we fear it may be true. So that's why I don't think a true atheist fears Hell.  We won't know until we pass.

 

Also Matthew 7:21-23 is why Christian's still fear Hell.

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Who are these true atheists that you speak of? Atheism is not a belief system. It's the lack of the god belief, or, in its stronger form, the belief that there is no God. I'm a hard atheist, who very strongly believes that there is no God. I almost say that I know there is no God. But I'm not certain. I don't know of any atheists who actually claim certainty.

 

Fear of the unknown is fairly common. Amongst atheists as well as everyone else.

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Guest freedwoman
1 minute ago, disillusioned said:

 I don't know of any atheists who actually claim certainty.

 

 

Then by that definition aren't they really Agnostics? 

 

Atheists I though believe there is no God. Period. 

 

Agnostics at least admit we do not know. And most likely will never know. So maybe atheism doesn't even exist? Only agnosticism? 

 

Sorry if I'm being off topic. 

 

But if someone who claims to be an atheist but at the same time fears he will go to Hell in my opinion can not really be a true atheist. If such a thing really exists. Sorry it just makes no sense that someone would fear someone or something they claim to know doesn't exist.

 

I struggle believing atheism is even a real concept? 

 

We really do not know. 

🤔🤔

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Guest freedwoman

I'll just come out and say it. 

 

I don't believe anyone is really an "Atheist". Sorry if that upsets some people. It is not meant too. I think people more agnostic then they admit or even realize. Trying to hide behind atheism and run away from a God who may or may not exist doesn't mean it really doesn't? 

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Guest freedwoman

Maybe even a true "Theist" doesn't even exist. Not like they've ever actually met the big guy. Even if they did that would make them by definition insane and need psychiatric medication and therapy. 

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21 minutes ago, freedwoman said:

Then by that definition aren't they really Agnostics? 

 

Atheists I though believe there is no God. Period. 

 

Agnostics at least admit we do not know. And most likely will never know. So maybe atheism doesn't even exist? Only agnosticism? 

 

Sorry if I'm being off topic. 

 

But if someone who claims to be an atheist but at the same time fears he will go to Hell in my opinion can not really be a true atheist. If such a thing really exists. Sorry it just makes no sense that someone would fear someone or something they claim to know doesn't exist.

 

I struggle believing atheism is even a real concept? 

 

We really do not know. 

🤔🤔

 

Some good questions here.

 

"Atheist" and "agnostic" are not mutually exclusive terms.

 

To claim to be an agnostic is to make a claim about knowledge. The agnostic claims not to know whether there is a god or not.

 

To claim to be an atheist is to state one's beliefs, or lack thereof. Negative atheism is simply the lack of a belief in God. Positive (or hard) atheism is the belief that there is no God.

 

Most atheists, whether positive or negative, are agnostic atheists. That is, most of us do not claim to know whether or not there is a God, but we do claim to either believe that there is no God, or to not believe that there is one. Gnostic atheists (those who claim to know that there is no God) are few and far between.

 

I have a thread in the colosseum about truth, knowledge, and belief, and in that thread I have maintained that I think knowledge is really just firmly held belief. So I think it may be possible to claim to know that God does not exist. I'm very close to making that claim,  but I'm just not quite there. The distinction between knowledge and absolute certainty is something that I may need to explore in that thread. But that's beside the point for now. 

 

The point is this: you can be an agnostic, or an atheist, or both, or neither. And if you are an atheist, you can be a positive or a negative atheist.

 

The only person who can't rationally have some fear of hell is someone who claims absolute certainty that there is no God. I don't know of anyone who claims this.

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