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Fear of Hell

As an atheist is continually boggles my mind that I can have no belief in an afterlife and yet still fear what the church indoctrinated me to believe about where we go when we die. Do any other atheists still fear, or have feared, hell fire? If so, how does one get over that fear? I was raised in a Christian home and have only been an open atheist for about 2 years, but I still constantly fear that if I'm wrong I'll burn for eternity.

BlairAlena 4 Mar 6

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Hell is just a term like Santa Claus we know it is not real and yet in some respects it controls our emotions. It is a way in which terminology is used to cause fear in our mind. Phobias can be erased with intellectual perspectives. Like a spider for example lots of people fear spiders in reality, a human is thousands of times bigger than an arachnid, we are not even in the prey category for spiders. Most not all people that have spider venom in them is because they swatted the fangs of the spider into their skin. In most cases people that insist that a spider bit them it is a case of mistaken identity the solifugae is way more likely to bite a human than a spider is.


I'll be very happy to really be alive after I'm dead, even if it's hell. I have a feeling it's going to be exactly like the last time I was dead, though. You know, that time before I was born.

I have a feeling that you are exactly correct, MollyBell.

I think death is heavenly because we escape the curse of awareness. Being aware of death and illness among friends, family, and others around the world are horrible. Ironic our best time is one we will be unaware of.


I used to think that way, but as I got older I realized the only real hell is the one in this life. Humans already are capable of doing some of the most hellish things to each other, there is no need for an afterlife for that. Heaven and hell exists right here, right now. You create which one you want with every decision you make.


I can understand where your coming from. There are priests that have come out and stated that the church made it up to control the people with fear. As for myself my father raised me and my siblings as Jehovah’s Witness's so we don’t believe in literal hell. Kinda funny how this bible that is the perfect word of god can be misinterpreted by billions of people and people can read the same book and come to different conclusions regarding what’s metaphorical and what is literal. As far as fearing hell fire that’s exactly the hold on your thinking religion thrives on. Fear based control l.


You get over the fear of hell by realizing that you'll be in good company if the Bible is true. The Bible says that MOST people are going to hell.
I made a couple of videos on the subject.


Christians use the term “father” when referring to God, and I’ve seen some awful fathers on the planet, but I don’t think any of them would go to this extreme. I’ve concluded that Christians cannot call themselves loving as long as they never call into question their god’s predilection to eternal torture.

If God is as they say, willing to torture for eternity, then how is Heaven going to be different from Hell? The God they describe is volatile and angry, and gets pissed at a moment’s notice. He will be the same for them. While they may not be tortured by fire, that doesn’t mean that God can’t torture just as easily in Heaven ass in Hell (let it be done on earth as it is in heaven). Think North Korea, Russia, China... the best way to be left alone is keep low and not be seen. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t find something wrong anyway.

Or, as they say, God is a loving father. Well, a loving father would not torture. Nor would a loving father send anyone to hell. A loving father would make his children do it over and over until they get it right. In other words, a loving father/God, would send us back... reincarnation... forcing us to keep trying until it’s finally right. And if “getting it right” is not your plan, then a loving father would simply let you go. Cut ties... or just let you “rest in peace.” There you cannot do anymore damage.


As I shared in a recent post, you are not alone (far from it), and I'm so sorry you are having to deal with this. I started a group here called Bible Belt Survivors, and just this week, another member made a post very similar to yours. See my reply. It has a link that may assist in helping you overcome your fear. Also, that link/site has listed several other sources/links to assist nonbelievers with regard to the fear of eternal torture. It's so cruel -- inhumane to teach people this, especially children. Religious terroism, and they get rewarded with tax exemptions.


From a personal perspective, I did experience fear after denouncing Christianity, although I still remained a believer for about 5 years afterward. But the more I studied, the more it became obvious to me that hell is a human construct intended to control people. As I noted in my reply, it takes time for neural circuitry (circuits that trigger aversive memory) created after years of indoctrination to atrophy.

Offering a hug. Welcome to the community, Rachel.

Thank you so much! My town is as close as you can get to bible belt in SoCal. Everyone I ever knew has been a Christian and I have had a difficult time finding friends since I "came out" as an atheist. All of my friends have abandoned me and family treats me like shit so it definitely isn't easy.

@RachelLiz My heart aches for you because of the way you've been treated. You will be among friends, here. Feel free to PM me anytime. Btw, when I was a kid I lived in Lancaster. My dad was in the Air Forced.

In case you weren't aware, there is a Meetup group in your area. Lancaster Freethought Society is a community for Freethinkers, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Non-believers, Skeptics, and those who are simply curious. There is no fee to attend our meetings.

They meet the 1st Wednesday, every month from 6 PM to 9 PM, at the Granite run Isaac's Restaurant, located in the strip mall behind KFC on Manheim Pike and has a neon sign. Meetings take place in the private conference room in right rear of restaurant.



No, but I didn't really fear it when I was in fundamentalism either. In my experience, if you feared it then, you'll fear it now; if you didn't fear it then, you're unlikely to fear it now.

I was pretty active in the church and two or three pastors I knew personally over the years confessed that their most vexing challenge was people who would come to them complaining that they didn't "feel" saved or forgiven. Sometimes they would answer an altar call whenever it was made "just in case".

In my particular denomination this was considered a matter of relying on feelings rather than "fact". He would step them through the dogma -- have you acknowledged your need of a savior? Have you accepted Jesus as that savior? Then you're saved, end of story. If you're able to worry about it, it's actually "evidence" that you're saved. However -- nothing you can say to these folks would ever make them feel they had their bases covered.

And this, mind you, was in a fairly "mild" centrist sort of fundamentalist / literalist camp. I can only imagine what a more sawdust-trail, hellfire-and-brimstone environment would do to such people. Indeed, sometimes these miserable folks came to us OUT of those sorts of churches. (It's not like there aren't "degrees" of deconversion sometimes -- from harsher to milder kinds of religions, relatively speaking, as well as out all the way like us).

I think it's a combination of personality, parenting, and religious experience that traumatize some people while not bothering others. In my case, I was from the "once saved, always saved" camp, and always figured that was a non-issue for me. Also my parents were unconditionally loving, and unintentionally protected me from the worst features of fundamentalism. And -- I was, as I mentioned, in a relatively less authoritarian group than some, and not in the thick of the Bible Belt where some of this authoritarianism / judgmenatlism would spill over into my educational experience. All of this I think spared me the emotional trauma you're describing.

As others have suggested it's partly a matter of the passage of time and the gradual retraining of your mind, of your emotions catching up with your intellect. However if it keeps you up nights you're probably suffering a form of PTSD and might want to seek help for that. You're hardly alone in being tormented by operant conditioning via religious ideation.


Indoctrination is hard to over come..all of those former fears and guilts will disappear eventually..and congrats on making a rational decision about religion..welcome


Think about it... There is no more evidence you will go to hell when you die, than there is that your soul will ride on the back of a purple unicorn for eternity. The only reason you worry about it is that others believe in hell and you were taught to believe in hell. If the majority of people believed the moon was made of cheese, that would not increase the chances that the moon is made of cheese. Keep logically challenging that fear. Also, we often think our emotions decipher what is true or not, but they don't. Being afraid of going to hell doesn't increase the chances that hell exists.


Go to Amarillo, Texas. Hell will look pretty good.


Personally, I found that that fear recedes over time. I too was raised an evangelical christian. It's the fear that keeps people "in line". A fear of death is natural for all human beings. But I think ultimately it's the quality of the life you lead now that matters.


To me a heaven and hell is state of mind. Guilt and/or the need to be punished.


Neural pathways.
Literally ruts in your brain, tracks in your thinking processes which we fall into over and over simply because we are used to thinking in precisely that fashion.
For folks raised in a religion or indoctrinated into one, Neural Pathways are created and made deeper every time they are used, often with great frequency and repitition.
SO, when a person Rationally realizes something different, comes to a different understanding like say the unfeasibility of Hell and a benificent God, their brain might well still fear Hell by simply using the same pathways and creating those feelings even long after the person in question no longer believes in the ascribed place.

You have to make new pathways and that takes time.


The way I see it is if you live a life of treating others good and moral and there is a "loving" god then he/she won't punish you for not having faith. The god created you that way if it is real so it should understand.

jorj Level 8 Mar 28, 2018

The popular conception of Hell is that it's a place of punishment and reckoning. But what if it's just a human construct to keep the masses in line? I'm a classic fence sitting agnostic - I don't know either way. If there is a great beyond, I don't see how there can be one all-encompassing celestial plane called Hell where "wrong doers" are punished for eternity. I mean, honestly, what is the point in that? Also, "sin" is a temporal and relative concept - something that was "sinful" in the 15th century can be perfectly acceptable today. So, on a logical basis, Hell just doesn't stack up. But if I do go, I hope they have really cool T-shirts.


Old lies die hard. The best way to deal with this is to consider the implications and logic of it all. Once the absurdity of it all sinks in, the lingering fear will vanish.


I don't know why any one would want an after life. Would it be like this one?.


Hell was the first thing that I let go of and never took litterally.


I've decided not to worry about it. I guess if you could say I have faith in anything, it's faith in the unknown. I don't know what happens after death. It could be something, or anything, or even nothing. I just sort of opened myself up to whatever possibilities, and decided that was ok.


Well there are two ways I've looked at this problem that might help. The first is the comfort of the unknown. There is no real way to know what or even if anything happens next because no one has come back to tell us. Death is the greatest unexplored boundary. So though you were taught things by your religion their is no real way to know and thusly no reason to fear.

Two just don't be a jerk. If we are all wrong and their is a God and an afterlife then no matter who's God it is or what afterlife you find yourself in they all have some common rules. Don't be a jerk seems to be the most common. Almost all the faiths judge you for your actions not how you worshiped. So take a bit from Bill and Ted and be excellent to each other.

Rilos Level 2 Mar 9, 2018

If you are wrong, and this god would damn you to eternal torture, then it's not a god worth worshipping. I felt the same, but then realized, screw it, I'll stand against such a vicious being no matter what.

velk Level 4 Mar 7, 2018

Due entirely to the constant indoctrination you have been subject to since your birth, this fear is locked into your brain. and is the reason that parents feeding this nonsense into your head is really child abuse. It must be as you are troubled by what you have been taught. You should be without fear, but you have been force fed a lot of childish nonsense.


I'm afraid that my son believes it - that scares me more than anything else.


The belief in a real hell was instilled in you as it is in most christians, and I don't think you will get over it instantly, but in time, as you delve more and more into your non-theist studies, you will. The most important thing I have found in my life is to be patient with myself. I let go of religion years ago, but within the last year, labeled myself an atheist. I don't think I ever really believed anyway. Religions know that fear is their strongest weapon and they know how to use it so just think logically and use reasoning.


I'm a relatively new atheist, but I must have been thinking about all this in the back of my mind for some time. I can honestly say I have no fear of hell. If I do have any fear of hell it seems to be on the same level as a fear of being bitten by the Easter Bunny.

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