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Atheism, Hell and Spiritual Terrorism

Updated on March 15, 2014

Is Fear Healthy?

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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?

The Map of Hell

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Do You Find Hell as an Effective Means of Conversation/Conversion?

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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.


Source

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

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Conclusion

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.

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    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Thanks for commenting again and clarifying Sheila. I find it repugnant to tell a child as young as four that if they don't accept Jesus, they're going to burn in hell. It's psychologically and emotionally damaging, yet it is exactly what's being done in a lot of these public school evangelism groups.

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      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      JMcFarland: Thanks for the further explanation. With that in mind, I tend to agree with your definition of "abuse". I guess I wasn't taking the age of the children into consideration. At the younger ages, or as you said while their emotionally and mentally immature, I think it much better to teach about God's love. I think up to about age 8 or 10, kids are better able to learn good behavior by being rewarded instead of punished.

    • Dion Walker profile image

      Ultraman 3 years ago from Maryland

      Sir, I was not trying to preach or proselytize, I read your hub and thought I would share a somewhat similar experience. Everybody has a right to believe what they want to believe. We are ALL 99.9% the same, I empathized with you when I read your hub. I am not trying to change you. Sorry you misunderstood me.

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 3 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      "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."

      An interesting observation, in a good article.

      Thankfully with my children I chose to give them a fairly broad education on as many aspects of any religion they felt interested in, working on the assumption that as I was 41 before I came to faith in Yeshua, having explored all and no religion on the way, it would be a failing to exclude them from free range and knowledge.

      Hell has NEVER bothered me.... that may be because inherently I failed to believe in it's existence when I was secular, or that in my (then unrecognised) spiritual existence, I knew it would never apply to my soul, either way I was unconcerned, and I presume those who are 'predestined' to be with God would be just that.

      Does your residual fear indicate otherwise for your soul? - Frankly I have no idea, nor would I presume to offer an opinion.

      I agree that raving fundies who pass forward the same indoctrination they have received are a menace to real 'reaching out' to secular folk, and frankly would warrant that MOST of the church movement is encouraged to these excessive displays of 'terrorism' by their (and our) enemy who seeks to undermine any chance of folk finding Yeshua on earth.

      " I've never met a Christian, for example, who was afraid of an Islamic hell. Why?"

      Simple really, any believer knows THEY will not end up in whatever Hell is...... for me it would be eternal separation from God.... but each will draw their own conclusion, however, what ALL followers of Yeshua will know it that there may be many religions, but there is only one Heaven and one Hell scenario to decide upon, all humanity will come to eternal existence either with God or without.

      We are spirits attending soul school, our grades when we leave 'school' seem to determine where we go next, which is possibly why scripture says "Study to be approved"

      Basically I agree with your premise of excluding young children from exposure to deeper spiritual teachings that can scar them for life, perhaps we can start by stopping the enemies attacks on their lives in our secular society, where MTV, evil cartoons and even schools will seek to teach them errant beliefs as fact, expose them to abhorant sexual behaviour displayed as 'normal' and a media that exposes them to mind bending corruptions designed to produce the perfect consumer... then maybe those fundies would not seek to get their kids attention fixed on Heaven by explaining what Hell represents.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I appreciate your story, but I'm not sure this hub is the place to preach or proselytize. Further comments of this type that do not relate to the content of this hub will not be approved.

    • Dion Walker profile image

      Ultraman 3 years ago from Maryland

      When I was 7 years old I remember watching this T.V. program where people talked about not believing in GOD, and I thought to myself, "If GOD is all knowing and loving he would understand why I do not believe in him". By virtue of my family I was raised as a Christian to believe in GOD. But that did not give me a free pass I had to do my due diligence i.e. read the bible, most of the times not understanding it, pray, go to church. I did not really receive confirmation that GOD exist until I reached a point in my life that I lost my job. That night I prayed with all my sincerity, I got up the next morning prayed again. After I finished praying I opened up the bible and began to read, instantly I felt without a doubt God was speaking to me. WOW, I remembered. I turned on the radio to listen to this Christian talk program and the preacher began to talk about the situation I was going through. We all do through our rebellion and unbelief, and for some reason or another some of us make through and some remain suspended. I am not trying to convince you one way or another, just wanted to tell my story.

    • Brittany Kussman profile image

      Brittany Kussman 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I loved reading your hub! I have friends who are atheist and they have similar views as you. I am agnostic while I believe in a higher power I do not believe in a heaven or hell in the biblical sense not do I believe in the popular god of today. I have a young son and when he is able to understand and asks what happens when people I die I will tell him that a soul never truly dies but instead inhabits the elements around us such as the wind or rain. I do not feel young kids should be given the ideas of hell it could damage them. My cousin was told at a young age that people who didn't believe or go I church were going to hell, as a result she went to school telling other kids this and got made fun of the rest of her grade school to high school career. I believe she was told too young.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      I love to share about the love of Jesus and how much he loves us, especially to the very young, and that I would never tell a young child, who happens to be misbehaving, they are going to hell! Once they are of the age to accept the Lord as their Savior and begin to be in that personal relationship with Him, they will realize there is no need to fear, even after learning of Hell.

      Blessings,

      Faith Reaper

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Sheila, as always I appreciate your comments. To clarify, I don't think teaching your own children about your religion is abusive. I think telling them about hell while still emotionally and mentally immature and telling them that they will go there, along with their friends unless they believe the same thing you do DOES constitute a form of emotional and psychological abuse.

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 3 years ago from New Zealand

      I find it difficult to believe that it is not considered abusive to be evanglising to those who are vulnerable - children, the mentally unwell/unstable, grieving - people who are not ready to make informed decisions. And yet, it is seen as those who do not bring children etc to Christ as the 'abusive' ones.

      Perhaps it is done this way on purpose, a higher success rate for conversion. But it seems that this would defeat the idea that people come to Jesus willingly.

      Thank you for this hub, JM, I'm not a believer, nor a believer in Hell, but it has given me food for thought this lovely morning in NZ.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I really don't have any comments about what you've said in this article I'd like to share except to say I disagree with your use of the word "abuse" when it comes to Christians (or people of other religions) teaching their children about their religion. I'll simply leave it at that. As always, I found your hub very interesting and thought-provoking.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Mystic, thank you for sharing your experience. It can be difficult for people to talk about, but it needs to be discussed if there's a change to be made. Thank you for bridging the gap and being willing to be forthright about a difficult yet necessary topic.

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      MysticMoonlight 3 years ago

      I still experience the occasional fear of Hell as well. I'm not an Atheist but I have left the fundamentalist Christian way of believing and thinking behind me. Years of listening to a preacher talk about Hell, attending Bible study groups that largely focused on it, and largely keeping company only with those of that similar mindset for years on end really took its toll on me. I look back now at how I was once so gripped with fear of not only going to Hell myself, but that all of my loved ones would go too and I'm so relieved that I've broken free from living and believing that way any longer. I often wonder how I lived that way for so long and also how all of the constant fear and worry didn't drive me mad. It has taken quite awhile to unravel the tangles that fear created, it's a process but for me, well worth the freedom and release I now experience more and more.

      It took me a long time to even realize how much damage had actually been done by all of the indoctrination because while I was in it, I didn't see it. I see it now though. When I see people telling others that if they don't obey the Christian god they belong to Satan, it makes me sad. I think back to when I believed that too and try to remind myself not to think harshly of them. I'm just thankful that that mindset is no longer a part of my life.

      Interesting and honest hub. You've said here what many will not.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      While I agree in part, I know that it was extremely effective with me personally, and I remember as young as five or six laying in bed terrified that I was going to end up there. Maybe it's because I'm naturally anxious, or maybe that helped create my anxiety. I know that I wasn't alone in that fear at that young age.

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

      While I agree that the threat of Hell is a popular tool for religious proselytizers, I don't believe it's that effective in convincing the very young to fall under the sway of religious indoctrination.

      At that stage, when they're really yet incapable of fully comprehending such a thing as eternal torment, I suspect other, more mundane factors play a larger role, like the stories from the Bible, and the social aspects and "fun" activities of Sunday school.

      That said, it DOES plant the seeds of a threat that becomes more real as children get older and begin to comprehend the implications of eternal damnation. So it's still essential for proselytizers to begin indoctrinating children with the threat even before they fully understand what they're being told.