I recently posted an interview with my husband about faith. He is forty years old and still carries a fear of hell and satanic forces from his childhood. He knows it isn’t rational, but he cannot completely let it go. He, like so many others, were raised in a household where everything was sent through a filter of god and the bible. He grew up in a world where god and Satan have always been in battle over our souls, and the opportunity for evil to seize hold of us is everywhere. Pretty scary stuff for a kid.
My parents did not invite god into our home, but I did go to church. I read my bible. At the age of eight I received my first sexual education from the Old Testament. Because I could read. At church I was taught that I should witness to my friends, and my struggle with that made me believe god was disappointed in me. I believed I might go to hell. Why wouldn’t I? I was always screwing up god’s commands. This was perhaps the number one reason I didn’t fully accept god until I was sixteen. It was too much to let in at first. I kept putting it off, clinging to the hope that I might be forgiven when the time came that I could really be what god required.
I once had a conversation with a five year old who was afraid of heaven. She was in tears because she thought if she died she might be sent to a place where she didn’t know anyone. Last week I discovered that I was not alone in my childhood fear of being left behind during the rapture. And few escaped the mental anguish that accompanied the bible’s teachings on sex and lust. As if the teen years were not scary enough.
I may no longer believe in god, but I still understand what that world is like. I don’t expect everyone to come to my conclusion about god and I don’t ask them to. But I know I have experience that is useful. I recently attempted to express this fear problem to a Christian. I simply suggested that parents could use guidance when it comes to ensuring their children’s relationship with god is not terrifying. I explained why I thought this should be a regular topic for Christian parents to discuss. The suggestion was not a challenge to Christianity, but rather a helpful reminder of how children may perceive things.
But I am no longer a believer, so my thoughts were not welcome. I was told by this Christian that he had never heard of any person who had experienced fear relating to Christianity. He said if it did exist as I claimed then it was rare and not worth exploring. That was it. End of discussion. Nope, fear doesn’t exist for children in relation to religion. Good day. His answer is overwhelming to me. I mean, actually heartbreaking. I want to tell him to fuck off, but instead I say nothing. I let his stupid answer just exist on its own for what it is.
This is exactly the type of thing that makes me care enough to contribute to the atheist community. This way of thinking cannot be the only thing available. Teens kill themselves over religion. Kill themselves. Adults who no longer believe in god are still nervous about the devil. Are you kidding me? And this Christian won’t even discuss it because he has no clue how common it is. Because once you stop believing, Christians can no longer see you. You don’t count. I was wrong before I even thought it.
I have been dismissed again and again based on my lack of faith, and I’m not even open about it in my personal life. I have had friends take me out of their social media circle not because of something I said or did, but because they noticed I liked an atheist Facebook page. How insulting is that? I’m not good enough for you anymore because I might not share your faith? Good riddance. I tried my best, but I cannot help what I believe. I want there to be a discussion where these friends can say, “Okay, I get how you got where you are.” And I want it to be the actual reason. Not something that gets followed up with an accusation that the devil might use me to influence them.
Tell me again how fear doesn’t exist in Christianity.
If you are a Christian, I realize you cannot trust me. You did trust me, but then one day I lost the battle of training my mind to believe what I could not. You think I have been deceived, and I think you have been deceived. We are going in circles. But really, aren’t we both the same people we always were? The difference is that one of us is still afraid. I know where that fear really comes from. Do you?