- Religion and Philosophy
Atheism, Hell and Spiritual Terrorism
Is Fear Healthy?
A Striking Quote into the Damnation Mindset
I stumbled across a post on the forums that contained this quote, and found that it summarized the point of this hub nicely. I'm sure the Christian would say that he/she said it out of love, but it is important to see this as the form of religious terrorism that it is.
You accept or reject God. If you accept Him, you receive all He has for you.
If you reject Him, you belong to Satan.
That is the whole point. If they reject Him, they are not His children. They belong to Satan.
Teaching Children to Fear
A friend of mine tells this story often.
I'm an atheist. I'm teaching my young daughter about mythology and comparative religions at home. As such, she is well versed in a lot of mythology. I have not taught her about the Christian version of Hell. She's six years old, and not mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with concepts of eternal torture. One day at school, a friend told her that she was afraid for her. When my daughter asked why, the friend explained. I know that you don't know Jesus. Your heart is black with sin without him, and you're going to burn in hell.
This story is just one of the plethora of similar stories told in Atheist - and even Christian circles. The Good News Club - an evangelical club intent on infiltrating the public school system in America and evangelizing children as young as 4 years old to convert and to go and convert their friends is notorious for teaching young children that they have dark hearts because they're sinful. If they ever want to feel loved or valued, they need to accept Jesus. If they don't accept Jesus and encourage all of their friends to do the same, then they're all going to go to hell. They preach this message to other Christians as well - Christians who may not share similar beliefs about hell, judgement and damnation. One Good News Club worker told a young Catholic boy that his brother (who had passed away) was NOT an angel in heaven. Rather, he did not truly have faith in Jesus with proper Biblical understanding, and was separated from God forever.
These teachings are incredibly detrimental to children. There is a reason why a majority of churches maintain a belief in an "age of accountability". Children who die prior to reaching this age, automatically go to heaven. After reaching that age, they are responsible for accepting Jesus or facing the consequences. This mindset has led several parents to kill their children in order to send them straight to heaven. These parents are considered not "real" Christians by the overwhelming number of churches around the country, but the mindset is still propagated. The Good News Club sees a window of opportunity in children aged 4-12, citing that over 89% of those who accept Jesus are in this window, and are more likely to stay Christian later on in life. a Jesuit priest by the name of Francis Xavier is notably quoted as saying "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man". Thus Christians across many denominations are encouraged to evangelize the young.
The problems with this approach should be abundantly clear. A young child is much more likely to accept anything told them by someone in a position of authority. They don't question adults as much, and they're far more likely to accept whatever an adult in a position of authority tells them to be true. Children are not, by nature, skeptical - although some seem to be. My wife, for example, tells the following story, much to my delight - since it is so opposite from my own upbringing in the church.
My grandmother sat me down one day when I was about seven. She told me the whole story of Jesus, from his virgin birth in a lowly manager through his ministry, arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. I sat, listening in rapt attention throughout the entire story. When she was finished, I said "yeah, I don't believe in any of that". She still, however, retained her belief in the Easter bunny for some time after that event.
My wife was raised completely different than the way I was raised. Fortunately, her grandmother did not ultimately take offense. She laughed, and everyone went about their day like nothing had happened. Unfortunately, my wife's upbringing is unheard of in fundamentally Christian homes - and a lot of children undergo psychological damage and anxiety as a result. By teaching a young child about hell, you are encouraging them to fear. How many children can truly discern the theology behind the concept of hell, and what it truly means to be tortured for eternity? How many then convert out of fear - a fear that if they don't, they're going to be burned forever, who then go out and share the word with their classmates in and out of school that if they don't do the same, they're going to be burned forever, too?
Find Out More on the Good News Club
The Map of Hell
Do You Find Hell as an Effective Means of Conversation/Conversion?
The Process of Personal Recovery
I was raised in a continual state of terror, from the earliest that I can remember. Hell was drilled into my head as a punishment for all of those people who displease god. It was not reserved for those so evil as to reject god outright, but it was also a place you would go if you did not obey god without question. Doubting was sin. Asking questions was sin. It seemed at times that opening your eyes in the morning and not wanting to get out of bed would be considered sinful. I lived in terror for all of my childhood and adolescence. Any wrongdoing was met with "careful, you don't want to displease god and go to hell, do you?". I often went to bed terrified that my friends didn't know God and would wind up in hell for eternity, and if I didn't witness to them and try to get them to convert by whatever means necessary, I would wind up there too.
It was engrained in me so deeply, that I still have my moments of fear - even though I have now been an atheist for several years. Terror that has been so completely instilled from such a young age is incredibly difficult to break. If I start thinking about hell for long periods, I start to feel a familiar sense of dread. Ultimately, I get over it and go on about my day, but at some points, it still chills me to the bone. I'm not alone in this fear. I know many atheists who have had to deal with the same reaction even after leaving the faith. I know that if a god exists, hell is a morally bankrupt system to punish those who upset his delicate sensibilities. Why would an all-knowing, all-powerful god set up a system that he was designed to lose by default? Over 2/3 of the world's population throughout history has been non-Christian, and if the Fundamentalist view is correct, all of them are (or will be) suffering in hell for an eternity. Fundamentals view non-belief as spitting in the face of a deity that cannot even definitively prove it exists. Do nothing, go to hell. Reject Christianity, go to hell. Have any other faith, go to hell. It seems a backwards, immoral system - but still a system that inspires terror for believers and former believers alike.
Now that I'm out as an atheist, hell is one of the first approaches that believers take with me. They either assume that I have been an atheist since birth, and have somehow never heard of hell, or that I haven't sufficiently been told about how horrible it is. The use Pascal's Wager, asking whether or not it's just better to believe now than potentially face the horrific consequences. I detailed Pascals' wager in another hub, linked to below this capsule.
It's not uncommon for believers to resort to hell when all other tactics fall short, either. They know that fear is a powerful motivator, but fear is not a rational reason to believe in something "just in case". If it were, all believers of all religions should be polytheists. Christianity doesn't hold the monopoly on hell, many other religions have their own incarnation of eternal torture for unbelief. If one was enough to compel you into belief and obedience, then you should be terrified of the possibility of them all. But believers aren't. I've never met a Christian, for example, who was afraid of an Islamic hell. Why? Because they don't believe it exists. Yet it never seems to register that atheists or members of other faiths feel the same way about the Christian hell - although believers will insist that theirs, alone, truly does exist, while all the others do not.
My Hub on Pascal's Wager
- Continued Difficulties Reconciling the Cost of Pascal's Wager
known as a last-ditch effort to appeal to the emotions of a non-believer, Pascal's wager is used in debates worldwide - but is it compelling enough to justify believe? There are many problems with the premise itself, and in the end it's simply ineffe
The Appeal to Fear and Emotion
The Importance of Combating Religious Terrorism - in All Forms
Terrorism is often linked hand in hand to 911 and the destruction of the Twin Towers by Muslim extremists. Often terrorism is linked with violence, but it doesn't always have to be. If the definition of terrorism is to be believed, however, it encompasses a much broader span.
the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion
If telling a young child or grown adult that they are headed to a place of eternal torture and that they will burn forever if they don't obey and kowtow to a particular god isn't terrorism, I don't know what is. It is immoral to tell a young child without critical thinking or logical capabilities that they need to obey "or else". It is immoral to tell that child that their friends are going to burn forever if they don't obey as well. It leads to anxiety and deeply rooted psychological issues later in life, should that child refuse to go along with the flow or leave the faith whatsoever, and I'm a living testament to the dangers of Religious Trauma Syndrome.
Fear comes in many shapes and sizes, and is as varied as there are individual people in the world. Don't assume that my lingering occasional fear of hell means that I somehow internally recognize that there's a god out there who's going to punish me unless I come back. It's nothing of the sort. If that god DID exist, and used hell as a punishment for those who disbelieved in it, it would not be a god that would be worthy of my worship. If hell was the punishment for being morally superior, then so be it. My irrational fear of hell, recognizing that there's no reason whatsoever to believe that it exists is a construct of childhood indoctrination and a conditioned response. Nothing more.
Christians and atheists together have recognized the dangers of indoctrination and installing fear into the minds of impressionable youth. Yet for every individual who sees the inherent harm in such a philosophy, another person sees no problem with it, and seeks to perpetrate the tactic and influence other young minds. This mindset amounts to child abuse, and should not be tolerated - regardless of what you do (or do not) believe. Why resort to fear when you can instead teach a child to think for themselves and make their own decision when they're old enough to understand the implications of what that decision means? What is the danger of encouraging deeper thought? Or is it because fundamentalist evangelists realize that, without converting the very young, their populations would dwindle as fewer people are likely to convert anywhere above the age of 18? Therein lies the appeal - and therein lies the danger.
The New Scarlet Letter
As demonstrated in the video that I was loathe to post, but did anyway to prove a point, it's not only the unbelievers who have cause to fear. The friend who refused to evangelize was blamed for his friend's ultimate fate in hell for eternity. This strikes fear into the hearts of believers, and makes them feel responsible for every person who ultimately crosses their path. Putting this level of guilt on an adolescent, and making them fear for the safety and ultimate fate of their friends is unnecessary pressure, and can cause demonstrable psychological harm.
I am hopeful that eventually I will overcome my periods of fear permanently. I can share the solution with those who cross my paths, in the hopes it will aid them towards recovery from this traumatic abuse as well. Ultimately, everyone is different. Some people will succumb to fear and run back to what they think protects them from a horrific outcome. Others, like me, will continue to find solutions and speak out against this kind of psychological abuse that is taking place among children as young as four. This should be a battle cry that crosses religious lines as we make a distinction between teaching and mandating - suggestion and abuse - and move forward into a world that does not rely on fear but on facts. On reality rather than ridicule. On peace rather than terror, and beyond.