Facebook: What fears you faced based on religion

Jan 2, 2013

I wanted to cry reading several posts volunteered on our official Foundation Facebook page about childhood experiences and religion. Thank you everyone who told of your experiences. A recent comment in a Catholic publication implied these are isolated incidents. Maybe we all can take a step back, read the comments below, with compassion in our hearts, and face the reality that children are quite often deeply harmed by religious dogma. It is immoral and unacceptable. Under the leadership of our Executive Director, Elisabeth Cornwell, we are working at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science to overcome this great injustice and do so based on reason, and based on basic human decency.  Read the comments below. Some will break your heart. The last one from Amy Milligan breaks mine.

So many of you, by overcoming these horrors, have set an example for those of us who were never religious. If you can overcome, we can support you and work together for a better world in 2013 and beyond. 

Thank you so much. It is such an honor to be involved in this deeply compassionate cause. Read on. — Sean Faircloth, Dir. of Strategy & Policy, author of Attack of the Theocrats, How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About It.

You can leave comments here or on the RDFRS Facebook page

The comments below are just a few of the many

Laura Rhodes I was brought up by a conservative southern baptist mother and atheist father. As a child I was indoctrinated into a “hellfire and brimstone” religion that taught me anyone that didn’t accept Christ as lord and savior would burn in eternal damnation. Every night for years I laid awake praying that god would convince my dad to become Christian so when I died we would be together in eternity. I remember having nightmares about his damnation. It wasn’t until high school I was able to leave the church and denounce all the nonsense I’d been fed as a child. To this day I consider myself a recovering Christian and as a result do not allow my child to be involved in Christian churches or organizations. No child should have to suffer the abuse of organized religion and carry lifelong scars from it

Karin Petersson I often looked at the sky, terrified the clouds would part, Jesus return to bring “home” the ones who was pure at heart, leaving me behind…

Amanda Bond Warner I was told to never bring home toys or books that belonged to my school friends and never to purchase things second-hand (like at yard sales, the Good Will, etc) because the owner or previous owner could be involved in spiritistic practices and attached a demon to the object. Once the demon has entrance to the home, it would torment and rape me, my mother, and sister. I was 6 when I was told this.

Trevor Buvyer I was invited to watch a Church production called “Hell’s Fire and Heaven’s Gates”, depicting the deaths of several people. Those who were believers were shown to ascend to heaven where Angels sang, those who were not, were hauled down underneath the stage by a man dressed as the devil with flames shooting up and terrifying music. I accepted Christianity out of pure fear. It was a horrible experience.

John Ashley When I was seven..I was told by a teacher in a Morman sunday school class that my grandparents,who weren’t Morman, could not go to the same heaven that I and other Mormans would be allowed into….so I told the teacher that I wasn’t going if they couldn’t go..She then put me outside the classroom on a chair in the hall and told my father what had happened.When I got home my father gave me a beating..Merry xmas

Susanna Sharp-Schwacke Because of teenage indoctrination, I suffered from absolute terror of the “End Times.”

Anita Wittig I was told similar to what the 7 year old in the story did. Went to church and school at the same damnable place, a church filled with pedophiles, con artists, and perverts..I learned early into my teens that nothing is as it seems, that there is an agenda behind each and every one of these losers, and that heaven and hell are states of being and mind here on earth.

Jacob Wagner It was always, and still is, difficult to discuss being gay (at least between family members, as they are very religious). Back when I was a Christian, I tried to suppress many feelings to stay “normal” and out of Hell. Now that I’m an atheist, I’m much more comfortable with myself and discussing such things as homosexuality.

Melissa Glenn My best friend in 2nd/3rd grade came from a home that didn’t go to church or practice religion. I tried to tell her about jesus and all that but she didn’t believe. I remember being 8 years old, crying, praying on my knees for god to let my best friend take my place in heaven. What kind of 8 year old should have to worry about the eternal torture of her best friend?

Martin Navnihal Lochner Our politics taught us that we are Gods people and that we must suppress the heathen that represent all the other races and orientations..a mix of nationalistic autocratic rule with apocalyptic theology crushed my spirit until I one day discovered a book called ‘ straight and crooked thinking by a Mr Thouless..’ It saved me by my own effort. I have been excommunicated by my family,crucified by our Church and lonely in community because of reason over myth… I am ok…

Samantha Fischer I was raised a Catholic and, though I have long since renounced that faith, I am still haunted with guilt for my supposed life “sins” that are contrary to the Catholic Church’s dogma: divorce, child out of wedlock, promiscuous behaviour, being “mean” and not “polite and respectful” (ie. speaking up for myself), etc. In fact, as a result of this guilt, the mental illness I suffer from often becomes aggravated and I am in some peril when I dwell on what I’ve done “wrong”.

Jennifer Darden horrible nighmares that if I didn’t “speak in other tongues” from being “filled with the Holy Spirit” that I would spend an eternity damned to hell. along with the ridiculous rules that I couldn’t watch tv, couldn’t wear pants, cut hair, etc. so happy to be out of such an oppressive religion. out of religion, period actually. along with most of my family, who no longer believe in a judgmental god.

Hal Molitor – I remember my sister returning from her Catholic grade school sobbing horribly because our parents were going to Hell because they were not married in the Catholic Church.

Gordo Clayton A woman I used to be very close to was raised in a deeply religious, very harsh, fundamentalist Christian family. Growing up, she was utterly terrified of that one Bible quite that says if you doubt God even for a moment you are doomed to Hell. Of course, tell a brain not to think of pink polar bears, that brain is going to envision pink polar bears. She had an instant of “what if” doubt at a young age and was absolutely traumatized up until she became an adult. She told me when she was a kid she’d lie awake in her room for hours, reading frivolous teen magazines, until exhaustion finally took over and she fell unconscious. This went on for years. This child was abused, without a doubt.

There was also a bunch of Rapture fear thrown in there too, but I gotta keep this thing under a million words. However, I want to say that when she told me her story a few years ago, that’s when I went from being a timid, apologetic atheist to being a militant atheist.

Rachel Wilde My niece (age 12) recently returned home from catholic school in tears because her class mates told her she would burn in hell as she is not a baptised catholic.

Allison Underwood Raised a Calvinist and believing in predestination, I always feared Hell when I was growing up, and the powerlessness I had in my own salvation was overwhelming at times. There’s no way of knowing whether or not you were Chosen until you’re at the Pearly Gates, and you’re either let inside or cast down to Hell. How do you find comfort in those thoughts?

Dan Allford Even now as an atheist adult I still get a pang of fear and doubt: what if the christians are right and I burn in hell for eternity? It’s still an uncomfortable thought for me, aged 38. Then I remember what I’ve seen, learned myself and experienced directly – and the notion of hell becomes rudiculous again. Children don’t have the strength of character to resist these superstitious, religious notions. I feel enormous pity for them.

Angela Darst Blais My mother became a Jehovah’s Witness when I was 5. I grew up thinking the world would end before I grew up. Armageddon would come and I and everyone else who didn’t believe would be killed, our flesh falling off as we watched. Talk about traumatized.

James Willis I had exactly the same speech given to me by someone who resmebled and sounded just like a car salesman. Turns out he was the pastor, I still have a recurring nightmare that scares me awake sometimes of loved ones dying by fire. Please stop this madness towards children. Lets keep them truly innocent by having a “religious” age of consent where it is illegal to have your parents force the archaic religion on you when your not old enough to understand right from wrong, let alone Jesus from Allah, or Krishna from Buddha. KEEP CHILDREN INNOCENT UNTIL THEY CAN CHOOSE FOR THEMSELVES.

Robert Miller We had to take my 5 y. o. brother off of life support after a car accident. A Pentecostal preacher told my grieving mother that because he was so young he was not accountable for his faith, but that my mom’s faith must have been lacking. He told her that if her faith had been stronger Satan would not have been able to take my brother as God promises long life. My mom was shattered.

Jen Martin I felt left out as I had not been “saved” and took the lord’s supper (southern baptist) at about age 9. Two “friends” convinced me that I was going to hell and there was no way out of it, not even salvation, since I had taken of the lord without being worthy (i.e. being saved). The mother of one confirmed this interpretation of the bible, directly stating that I had no hope of salvation. This family justified a lot of questionable teachings to children. On a lighter note, I did find it funny that their daughter, the one in the story above, refused to kiss her boyfriend for months because she was convinced she would get pregnant (we were around 16). I had some laughs over that one. I guess had she allowed her daughter to attend sex education, she would have known (but that would take the “fear factor” out of life, right?). I have many stories similar to this… all in the life of a southern baptist.

Pete Simms I was forcibly exorcised for being gay at fourteen and told that I am going to hell. eight suicide attempts later and at 40 I am still dealing with the fallout so yes understand completely the little girls fears. hell is a scary place to damage a young mind with.

Joshua Torres Demons! This put so much fear in me. I have religious family members to this day said they met angels and demons. As a kid I always worried if one would visit me or attack me. Or even possess me! This made sleeping scary.now as a adult and one who doesnt believe that. No fear 

Brian C Findley Being gay, I learned that I was an abomination and for nearly a decade i believed it. Only after my suicide attempt did i learn to love myself again.

Shanta Sultana Horrific fear is implemented on Muslim children, from a very early age children start to imagine the detailed stories of hell fire they have been tought about and its an excellent way to abuse and control children. Little girls especially. However the same fear disables the mind and toungue and Muslims stay in a pack and promise never to speak about the abuse. instead become PR mad nation. Whenever someone points out the truth its propaganda by the west, perhaps Penguin publishing company (figure that out!) or the Church etc.

Eddie Mcclanahan My Father was a Baptist minister, I am gay and always have been, so trust me growing up I had many sleepless nights.

Ross Moorhouse I was a fundie Christian till I saw the light. I am ashamed to say I used to preach about people going to hell. I no longer follow the god of bloodshed and murder nor his so called book.

Fred Akman sorry this is a bit longer than requested.. I was confronted at YMCA camp in Greensboro, NC after moving there from Los Angeles. A Young kid got up in my face when he found out I was Jewish, yelling that I couldn’t just turn my back on Jesus, he had died for my sins and I was going to hell. When I told him I was Jewish and didn’t believe in Jesus, he assaulted me. The camp did nothing about the attack after it was reported by my parents, so I stopped going to camp there. The same kid went to my high school, where he did the same thing to a gay student. This time I got in between and verbally wiped the floor with him and made him look really stupid, I didn’t hear any more out of him during high school. I became an atheist around the same time as the second incident, though I had been one inside since around 3rd or 4th grade (at a religious school). After leaving high school I began fighting to keep religion out of school and maintain separation of church and state, as well many other causes while I work towards my eventual PHD.

Mike Ahern Good Friday Catholic prayers for the Jews. Every Catholic congregation in the world prays for the conversion of the Jews so that they may be redeemed.

Linda Selzer My mother grew up in Austria with a Catholic mother and a Jewish father. In those days religious training was part of schooling, so my uncle went to a Jewish school so he could be Bar Mitzvahed and my mother went to Catholic training, When she was 10 her father died, and the nuns told her she had to pray every day for her father because he was Jewsih and therefore burning in hell. Becoming an atheist at the age of 12 is what eventually saved her.

Kaveh Haddadi I had the same experience, as a kid in my homeland Iran I’ve been told to follow the rules made by religion and it could even cover the rules made by our teachers. Failing to obey those rules, having a doubt about god or even about the supreme leader would lead to hell, I remember how it affected our childhood. fear of thinking and illusion were the smallest consequences of this method for us children. Thank you Mr. Dawkins, you’ve gifted the valuable act of thinking without fear to many Iranians, we owe you a big one.

Ashley Alderman After suffering complications (retroplacental hemorrhage and an incompetent cervix), I had my pregnancy terminated at age 20. I’ve been told repeatedly that I’ll burn in hell for it, even though the complications weren’t my fault. I’ve always questioned religion, but the fear of “hell” was so deeply embedded in my mind that I prayed for “forgiveness” night after night. I am SO glad that I broke free from those chains.

Bonny McCurdy My older brothers friend committed suicide in high school, I was so so sad for such a long time because I was taught that he was most definitely in hell. It was several years later that I realized it was all nonsense. Why do people teach their children such damaging lies? I will never understand.

Lainey Head Kloes I was kicked out of a catholic private school because I believed in science more than mandatory bible class. They called me a heathen at 11 and I’ve been atheist ever since..

Phillip Jones When i was in Primary school, my 5th grade teacher screamed at me about how I am born stupid and i should repent and devote my life to learning the ways of Jesus, or my family and friends would be sent to Hell.

At 23 and an Atheist, I still have re-occuring nightmares about my family and friends burning in a Lake of Holy Fire or dying in all sorts of gruesome manners. I’m on medication for my night terrors and I hope they leave my mind before i shuffle off this mortal coil and my natural materials go back into the universe.

Devin Kennedy Not exactly the same, but I was told as a child that “little boys who ask questions don’t get into heaven.”

Rachel Shockey I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family. My whole life was based on Christianity. At the age of 6 I became “saved”, only because the thought of hell terrified me. I wanted to avoid it at all costs. Throughout my childhood and teenage life I often wondered if I was really saved. And I would pray again to be “saved”. Looking back I now realize those were the start of my doubts about my faith. But it took till I was 16 to really question everything. When I finally told my family, at age 17, that I no longer considered myself a Christian, it was a family crisis. Although it hasn’t been easy being the only nonbeliever on both sides of the family, I’m glad I had the courage to not be influenced by irrational fears.

Bill Melton I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian (Nazarene) environment, and began having anxiety attacks at about 6 years old. I knew I was going to Hell because I had crushes on other boys, among other naughtinesses. One day at about that age, I came home from school to an empty house. I knew that my family had been taken in the rapture and left me behind. I carried the anxiety long after I realized that the myths were just that. Encouraging a child to envision him/herself being eternally tortured for being human is child abuse.

Chris W James In the church I went to as a child, they had a baptism tank to dunk ppl in. Being 5 years old, I asked my parents what the tank was about. After explaining to me briefly it was to “save souls from hell and eternal torment ” I let my mind wander and conjure up horrific images of a horrible place with torture, blood, demons etc. After service we talked in the parking lot, like most do, and a man with a Polaroid camera showed us these pictures of Jesus floating in the sky. My dad bought one for $5 and kept it in the glove box, assured that the end was nigh and we better get our house in order. I had terrible dreams of the devil coming for me, and that her lived in the water tower at my school, which was walking distance from the house. For awhile there I even wet the bed. My uncle finally told me it all wasn’t true, and things were better.

Wayne Stremski Catholic School, 1966, sixth grade, Confirmation time. I procrastinated on the coloring book of Jesus and the apostles I was assigned, not completing it. The lay teacher told me that I would not be confirmed because of that. I sweated through three days, too fearful to tell my parents – or even my friends. I thought the teacher was going to tell the bishop to walk right past me and not confirm me in church on Sunday. But when I was indeed confirmed, and the bishop slapped my face, well that started me thinking. 40 years later I figured it out for good. I am an atheist.

Aimee Eisiminger Sleepless nights….praying feverishly for forgiveness for the smallest of transgressions. At one point I started to believe that I must be a demon because I kept transgressing. I was simply following my nature but religion kept telling me that my nature was evil.

Boris Warszawski When I wasn’t 18 yet I was still forced to go to church. I got out of it by volunteering during the mass by teaching children the gospel in an age appropriate manner. The kids would draw or make crafts after the lesson. I was surprised when a little boy stole a girls crayon and she didn’t mind. I told her it was very nice of her. She replied, “Oh, I’m not being nice, he’s just gonna burn in hell”. The boy cried for the rest of the lesson and I was flabbergasted at how religion is taught to our youth.

Derek Rowe As a child raised in Mormonism, I was taught the following:

There are three different heavens. If I ever left Mormonism, if I did not marry in a Mormon temple, if I drank coffee or tea, if I drank alcohol, if I participated in any sexual act before marriage, if I did not continuously give 10% of my income to the Mormon church, I would be separated from my family members in the afterlife in a lower heaven while they enjoyed the highest level of heaven without me.

Stacey Silverman We live in the bible belt (Texas) and my 8-yr old daughter was told by her classmates on the playground that she would be going to hell since she doesn’t believe in Jesus. Dawkins is absolutely right. This is traumatic for a child to hear and she was upset for several days.

Petra Roesner I was “born into” the evangelical church in Germany, and for many years was told exactly that, that I would burn in hell for eternity and suffer terrible pain if I were to reject the church’s teachings. As if those words were not enough, we (in Sunday school) were shown horrific pictures that depicted human suffering in hell, resulting in many nightmares as I grew up. When I was 14 I was forced to participate in the traditional ritual of being “confirmed,” because it was what was expected from me by my family. Two weeks after that, I rode my bike to the courthouse and filed papers that I was officially leaving the church. As a mother, I have encountered one child in particular, who has told my boys that they would go to hell if they don’t believe in Jesus, had their character attacked for knowing about religion but not being religious (which would ultimately be their choice). As a result of this taunting or religious bullying, my younger son was afraid to go to sleep and had nightmares. Needless to say, they are not playing with this child anymore.

Mary Charles Severinghaus As a small girl, I lay in bed trembling and crying in terror if the sunrise were red. We had been taught by the nuns at our Roman Catholic school that the “unrevealed secret” of Our Lady of Fatima was that the end of the world would be preceded by a red sunrise. My parents wouldn’t listen to me, so I bore that burden by my scared little sad self for years.

Jennifer Bisson My sister died in a car accident at a young age. Afterwards I couldn’t even count how many people told me (@14 years old) she died because my family didn’t pray enough or because my family was not more active in church.

Vicki Burns-Hufstetler Very similar story- at 9 my father told me my beloved grandfather was going to hell for not believing as we did. They had also terrified me into thinking that Jesus would return at night- and i wouldn’t be ready. Worrying for mine and my Padaddy’s eternal souls caused me to be plagued with middle of the night panic attacks into my late teens. I educated myself and am now free

Buddy Brown Yeah I grew up in Oklahoma, as Christian as possible. When I was younger I wanted to be a missionary and spread the word of God. I used to be terrified of every little thought I had. I used to cry at night fearing that while I dreamed id have a dirty thought and miss the rapture. I used to physically hurt myself to do my best to prevent myself from thinking sexual thoughts. The fear of hell was horrible. It dictated every aspect of my life. The way I acted, dressed, thought, everything. I was as Christian as possible. In my teens I managed to get some time to think for myself. I got into a pretty bad car wreck. I certainly would’ve died were it not for the doctors and medical advancements… Not god. Yet over and over god kept getting the praise for my survival. I was bed ridden for quite a while and did plenty of reading. I had a biology textbook with me and read it as unbiased as I possibly could, and that was that. No more christianity for me. I’m now slowly working to try and become a biologist. And so much happier with my quality of life. Everything is better. Life is sweeter. And knowledge, not dogma, is what I strive for.

Angela Amira Petite A Priest told my infant school assembly that parents who had disabled children were evil and were being punished by god. My sister of course experienced significant brain damage through meningitis and became disabled. I was escorted shouting and crying from that assembly.

Eleanor Tagart I remember being in tears as a child because I was taught in school that unbelievers won’t go to heaven and that meant my mum wouldn’t be there.

Sondra Cevelin I was raised Agnostic, but my parents always let me go to church groups with school friends when I was a child. I remember a youth group leader asking me once why he never saw my parents on Sundays. I told him they didn’t believe in God, and he gave me a big hug and told me “I’m so sorry they won’t be in heaven with you”. I was absolutely devastated. I cried and prayed For them every night. At 8 or 9 years old, my parents were my whole world, and the thought of them burning in hell forever was terrifying. I brought it up with my dad, and he explained to me why I shouldn’t have believed it, but that only made me feel worse. I eventually got old enough to know better, but I vividly remember the terror I felt, and I would never wish that feeling on anyone, especially a child. That is why now that I have kids of my own, they are not allowed to go to church groups with friends. The last thing I want is my children crying themselves to sleep in fear over my soul.

Kirsty Moss I had a christian and atheist upbringing, my mother was a devout christian, my father an atheist. I remember long fitful nights terrified by the thought of my father being sent to hell simply for not believing. Funny thing was, he is a warm gentle beautiful soul with a strong moral compass and generous nature. An awesome nurturing and respectful father and husband. My mother was deeply depressed, volatile, angry and unhappy. The irony only dawned on me when I was substantially older and wiser. Not that I blame my mother. I believe (though I’m not 100 percent sure) that the church made her depression that much worse by its belief that to seek treatment was to admit to not being a good enough christian to fight off the ‘demon of depression’.

Melissa Glenn Idk if there is much to elaborate on. 

I was raised baptist. If you didn’t believe in god you were going to hell. My best friend, when I was 8, didn’t believe in god. I tried to tell her about god but she wouldn’t believe. I was terrified for her. I prayed and cried on my knees for god to let her into heaven and I would go to hell in her place. I didn’t want my best friend to burn forever.

* * * * * *

What is really messed up about it is that I think at the time I was hoping that giving up my “spot” would be considered selfless enough to get us both in. Then I felt immediate shame and guilt once I realized that god could read my mind and would think I was actually being selfish and trying to trick him and that we would both go to hell because of it.

Isaiah Copp Raised as a evangelical/pentocostal I dealt with severe guilt and shame, mostly due to sexual maturity. Every time I had an erection, sexual thought, or masturbated I was taught that I was essentially crucifying and breaking the heart of Jesus over and over…Feeling insane with guilt for torturing such a beautiful saviour, I sought counsel and was told that I had demons in my soul fighting for my etenal existense….this is total psycological abuse…

Lm Brown That happened to me when President Kennedy was killed: A neighbor told five-year old me that he was going to Hell because he was Catholic. Christianity never had a real chance with me after that.

Desiree Nicole Maslen Being told a friend was going to hell was the least of our worries as children of my parent. That fear was just normal every day pain that we would never know the people around us when we went to heaven because none of them were as good christians as my mother. Our torture was being molested and beaten, if you can call it beating when you black your childs eyes and touch them and verbally bludgeon them into submission and fear every day…then you clench the deal by telling them baby jesus will cry if you ‘lie’ to the police or the school teachers so they think your mother is doing bad things.

Jessica Lynn-Lato As a child my Sicilian grandfather told me that anytime bad things happened to me – a cut or bruise, disappointment, death of loved ones, etc – God was punishing me for something bad I had previously done. 

Kenneth Jones I feel ashamed to be subscribed to the Richard Dawkins foundation for reason and science. I hate this religion bashing. 

Shouldn’t we be promoting reason, science and tolerance. 

Also I am sick of comments like “god is bullshit” shows just as much intelligence and reasoning as those with unproven faith.

Elyse Schuler-Cruz I was raised Catholic, and went to Catholic schools. I was afraid of physical intimacy until I was in my mid 20s. Even after I stopped believing that kissing with tongue was akin to premarital sex, I still had trouble becoming comfortable with sexuality. Sometimes, I find myself feeling guilty about things I do with my husband even though I know better. Hell, my husband and I are pretty vanilla by any standards except religious ones.

Sam Jacob Simply put I lived in fear as a child, I was never clear on what might send me to hell and what not. I had a friend who went to vacation bible school with me and he woke up screaming for months because he was having dreams that he was burning in hell. I felt so bad for him. Religion is CHILD ABUSE.

Mackenzie Maxwell I grew up Mormon. When I was 6, the Sunday school teacher told me that people who smoke would not make it to Heaven. My grandfather smoked back then. I had nightmares for weeks. Then I decided that if the people I love aren’t going to Heaven, I don’t want to go to Heaven either.

Daniel Villalobos I was told by the pastor of my baptist church that God can see me everytime & everywhere. That’s really fuck me up when I come to that age when kids start to masturbate. Sounds funny: IT WASN’T.

Gary Harmon I have a mental disorder which makes me paranoid, anxious, prone to mood swings and delusions. As a child, my religion both fed and subdued my mental disorders: God is always watching you. Thirty years later, I had to be hospitalized due to a mental breakdown. I told the doctors that my greatest fear was going to Hell, despite being an Atheist. But there’s no such thing as Hell. Some childhood monsters follow you forever.

Thema Modisi When I was a kid I we carpooled with this family that were Jehovah’s Witnesses. They gave me these Watchtower booklets to read. I remember reading a story about a girl who forgot to bless her food before she ate. Unfortunately for her there was a demon curled up in a piece of lettuce on her plate and after eating it she became possessed. I remember praying everynight after that for God to bless everything i would eat the next day. I was terrified the same would happen to me. One day when I was 13 I got tired of being afraid and I embraced atheism.

Chelsea Leah Johnson I had a lot of insomnia when I was ten because I was afraid of hell. I couldn’t bring myself to accept that any of the bible stories or god or jesus were real. I thought I HAD to accept it and I really tried, but I just couldn’t.

Phil Peron I have many childhood memories of being awakened by horrifying nightmares of hell and damnation. Felt more like terrorism. Even if God exists, It wouldn’t be worth worshipping. What an abhorrent being. Needless to say I won’t be subjecting my own children to this rubbish.

Hiroki Burke A belief in God made my adolescence a lot more confusing and frightening than it needed to be.

I had an interest in Biology and Evolution, and struggled to reconcile what I learnt about those with what I was being taught in religious education class. I was also struggling with my sexuality, which my religion teacher taught was a way for God to test our faith, and that God would still love us, so long as we never acted on any sexual feelings towards other men that we may have had. I interpreted this as God’s way of punishing me for having doubts and I would need to get rid of my doubts in order to get rid of my attraction towards other men and become ‘normal’. 

Eventually, I got the courage to ask…why was God punishing me, and did he have good reason? Sure, I was having doubts. But how could I not? Everything I was learning about God simply didn’t match what I was learning about the real world. I was trying to reconcile it, I was TRYING to believe in God, I WANTED to believe in God. Was it really just for God to punish me when I actually wanted to serve him? 

It finally occurred to me that, even if God did exist, he was a being that was not kind, was not just, was not something I wanted to spend eternity with after my death, and certainly wasn’t worthy of worship. It gave me the freedom to look at the world and myself with clear eyes and question my morality. Rather than just accepting that being Gay is wrong because my religion teacher said so, I was finally able to ask… “is it? If so, why? How is my being gay harming anyone else?” 

Without religion, I would not have had to go through years of believing that I was a bad person. Believing that I was being punished for questioning the existence of my apparent creator. 

I would have been able to develop a strong understanding of morality long ago. Religion doesn’t encourage understanding of morality, rather, it suppresses it by teaching the faithful obedience and submission.

Jaden Martinez I use to live in Wisconsin, America from birth to seven years. I was born into a heavily religious family, my grandma was a deep believer and grandpa was a paster. I would attend church services and was scared to death by the thought of burning in hell if I did not follow gods word. I did everything right, praying every night before bed and not saying a single swear word. My life was devoted to god until I entered pubescents. I started having feeling for girls, impure thoughts would come into my head almost all the time. I would try and fight these thoughts, I even looked into seeing a doctor about it. After a few years my worries increased causing me to be extremely anxious. I became mentally ill and had an episode that lasted nearly six months. When I was a child my mum told me that the devil would put a gun to my head and if I believed in god enough he would save me. In hospital I feared this was going to happen to me. The unpear thoughts lead me to believe I had evil me so I would hurt myself to try and get it out this resulted in me trying to take my life as a sacrifice so god would forgive me. 

After a lot of counselling and help I got better. I have excepted myself and left religion behind me. 

All this time I thought being gay was an illness but really it was the fear of gods word.

Lindsey Thompson I went through 10 years of undiagnosed Bipolar Hell. My parents took me to Christian counselors instead of psychiatrists, who told me that my depression came from sin and that if I truly repented in my heart, I would be healed. I began cutting and branding myself with hot metal in an attempt to prove to God that I was willing to suffer like Jesus suffered. When I attempted suicide at age 22 I was finally properly diagnosed in the psych ward. My church excommunicated me. I now lead a happy, stable life with medication and without God.

Kedar Anil Gadgil as a kid being raised to be hindu, i was convinced by adults that if i didn’t do something, or did something, or did something wrongly, etc…any infraction of the arbitrary code of ethics and ritual requirements…i would be reborn (in my next birth) as an ant (to be crushed) or a frog (living in mud and dirt) or a donkey (overloaded and abused)…etc…i was told that because in my past births (as ‘lower’ animals), i did good deeds, i have been ‘rewarded’ with a human birth…and that the ultimate goal is to be so good in this life that the lord shall have mercy on my poor soul and break the cycle or birth and death, and offer me a privileged place at his feet for eternity…!!! i have had many a sleepless nights trying to hope (and pray) that some random act of ommission or commission i did during the day didn’t break some arbit rule, and that if it did, hoping the lord would forgive my transgressions…

Tom McEvoy entered catholic school in’55..kindergarten….. 2 nuns for teachers…. I remember them holding big yard sticks….. they told me anyone who didn’t go to our church will burn in hell. 5 yrs old. Child Abuse…..

Anna Gardner I am still plagued with guilt even though the rational side of me tells me to stop being so silly. It is an intense fear. A fear of simply acting like a human. Afraid to think outside the box. Belittlement, shame..ugh I can’t express it correctly. These are deep-rooted feelings that come frombing told my whole life that I had better get my act together or face the deepest darkest pit. It still hurts.

Victoria N Finney There aren’t enough words for what I went through as a young bisexual girl in a Christian boarding school. I wanted to die. Anything would have been better than the hatred and condemnation I was surrounded by, even death.

Kristie Keller Starting from the time that I was about 7 or 8, I was told that my dad would go to Hell unless he accepted Jesus as his savior before he died. Because of this, I would sit in fear with my hand on the phone in case he fell off a ladder while changing light bulbs in our vaulted ceilings. Eventually I decided I’d rather not believe in Heaven if it came with the possibility of Hell. But that was only a decade later.

Diana Szymiczek At around 12 years old my Born-Again Christian neighbour stopped by to see me (she was the same age), and she heard my brother listening to AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”. She turned to me and said “your brother WILL go to hell if he listens to that music”, and left. I cried for days. This is a girl who burned her bible after she lost a competition to win a new house, because the bible “told me if I wanted it I would win it”.

Jennifer Blaesing I remember being so terrified about feeding into temptation that it would lead me to become possessed by demons or the devil. We were told that temptations to sin were whispers from demons so I felt like they were constantly trying to control my mind. I’d lay awake petrified at nights agonizing over the idea that I cannot defeat them. I felt like I was the perfect candidate for possession because my mind was so weak.

Anneka Padrón Having been told that people who didn’t believe Christ was the Savior, and knowing that Jews denied he was so, I told a little girl in my 2nd grade class that she was going to Hell. She was so upset by this statement that she cried the rest of the day. To this day, I still feel guilty over this. This poor girl probably went home terrified. I know kids say mean things, but the things I told her were just me repeating what my mom told me. Ugh, I’m so glad I came to my senses.

Amy L Milligan I was raised as a Jehovah Witness. To keep young children in line we were told that god only loves children who obey their parents, study the bible, and attend the meetings without disruption. We were told stories of people harasses by demons who have to call on gods name to get freedom. Not having faith in god or worshipping him correctly results in demonic possession and harassment that is anything from physical harassment to your life being filled with terrible tests if faith. However they also teach that if you do worship in the most faithful way you will also be harasses by demons as proof that you have gods approval much like Job. Many if their teaching are in contradiction. So as a result, I had nightmares into adulthood of dark beings chasing me and pinning me down and no matter how loud I screamed gods name I couldn’t get away. I would wake up screaming and crying. 15 years ago my brother (22 at the time) was kicked out of the religion for being possessed by demons because he heard voices and thought people were following him. A year later he committed suicide. He was never directed to mental healthcare, it is never discussed and the “elders” who remove people from the congregation for these offenses are not trained in mental healthcare. They are janitors, construction workers, etc…regular men making dangerous judgements. About a year after that I left this cult, tired of the guilt, shame, and fear. For this I was excommunicated (they call it disfellowshipped like my brother) and deserted by all my family and friends. It took about 5 years to deprogram and I still struggle to understand how in this century a religion can proliferate such ignorance and fear. Currently I am a well educated Atheist, having nightmares on occasion but I no longer hold any fear of spiritual beings of any kind.

Written By: Sean Faircloth
continue to source article at facebook.com

28 comments on “Facebook: What fears you faced based on religion

  • 1
    aleopold says:

    Catholicism isn’t the only branch of Christianity that can scare the wits out of kids. I was raised with Lutheran dogma, and I vividly remember many nights crying into my pillow, thinking that my dad (an agnostic) was going to Hell. There were weeks where I’d stay up half the night on my knees praying to God not to “hurt my daddy.” To this day I have very unpleasant dreams about those midnight hours. — That indoctrination came in the slow, steady variety and eventually I was able to – as they say – “deal with it.”

    The moment that left me completely and utterly destroyed happened when I was eleven. My dearest childhood friend died of ovarian cancer after enduring several years of painful medical procedures and treatments. She showed me the tumor on several occasions (it broke through the abdominal wall and was clearly visible in its grey, twisted form in the last months of her life). While they were loading her coffin into the hearse after the funeral, a man from our church stooped down and told me that she had sinned so much that “God caused the tumor to do that” – that had she prayed harder/been a better christian, she would have survived. And of course, he threw in a comment that Jesus wouldn’t want her. Subtle, no? Is that not totally fucked in the head?

    It took me until my mid teens to completely discard my beliefs, and several years longer to part with the guilt of not believing. — though I still have the occasional lingering dream about hell fire.

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  • 2
    aleopold says:

    **And I’d like to add this: I was inadvertently lead to Dawkins’ book “Unweaving the Rainbow” by my pastor the same year my friend died. That single book had more impact on turning my life around than any other text, event, or lecture. It provided comfort, and wonder, and a drive to pursue scientific knowledge that has never left me. Thank you to Professor Dawkins, and also, thank you Sean and Elisabeth. — For continuing to speak out, for showing such compassion, and for helping both children and adults to break free of indoctrination. You’ll never know how many lives you’ve touched.

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  • 3
    Katy Cordeth says:

    John Ashley When I was seven..I was told by a teacher in a Morman sunday school class that my grandparents,who weren’t Morman, could not go to the same heaven that I and other Mormans would be allowed into….so I told the teacher that I wasn’t going if they couldn’t go..She then put me outside the classroom on a chair in the hall and told my father what had happened.When I got home my father gave me a beating..Merry xmas

    I’m sorry but I love this story. The image of a seven-year-old child defiantly standing up to an idiot teacher and stating simply that if his grandparents, whom he obviously loves dearly, are to be barred from Heaven, then he himself elects not to go, and the adult’s impotent reaction in sending him from the classroom (the irony of this expulsion almost assuredly being lost on her) could almost be an atheist Norman Rockwell painting or similar.

    Most of us don’t show this sort of courage in the face of stupidity or thuggish propagandism even as adults. The world needs more heroes like John Ashley’s younger self. If every seven-year-old reacted as he did, religion’s days would be numbered.

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  • 4
    Bananamama says:

    This is what happens when unfit parents that still have a bit of “crazy” in them insist on having kids. It’s that misguided ego showing it’s ugly head again. The only consolation is that none of these people snapped and did something stupid.

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  • 6
    QuestioningKat says:

    Bringing up the idea of Hell as childhood abuse and torment, I’m reminded of some very unpleasant and irrational fears that I had as a child. I feared demons and being watched. When I became and atheist at 18, these fears suddenly vanished. When I became a believer again they returned. When I was clinically depressed, I had night terrors of the most horrific kind. When I finally lost all belief in Hell (about 15 yrs ago)—no more night terrors about demons. I cannot tell you how much anxiety this lifted from me.

    The idea of imposing an imaginary place of torture is abuse and cruel. I think this crosses the line and is no longer free speech, but mental abuse.

    I would like to hear from someone who is a historian where the idea of Hell and the devil actually came from and how it has changed over the centuries. I recall hearing some of this info in the past and I think it would be worth repeating.

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  • On Chrome, you can right click “open in new tab”. That makes it easier to get back to the comment.

    In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

    With a right-click on the thumbnail picture and a choice of “View Image”, all will be revealed!

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  • 8
    HardNosedSkeptic says:

    Amanda Bond Warner I was told to never bring home toys or books that belonged to my school friends and never to purchase things second-hand (like at yard sales, the Good Will, etc) because the owner or previous owner could be involved in spiritistic practices and attached a demon to the object. Once the demon has entrance to the home, it would torment and rape me, my mother, and sister. I was 6 when I was told this.

    I felt physically ill after I read this. What kind of a sick mind would even think such a thing, let alone teach it to a 6 year old girl?

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  • 9
    rick_farrar says:

    When I was a child an aunt of mine committed suicide, leaving a husband and two young children, because she was told that if she could not persuade her husband to join her church (The church of Latter Day Saints) and get him to bring the children into the church that she would be rejected and they would all burn in hell. A few years later a cousin of mine was killed by people from the same church that he attended because he admitted that he was gay. The priest declared that he was demon in disguise and encouraged the congregation to do the “right thing” as otherwise he would condemn them all to hell. So much for Roman Catholicism. For a long time I prayed through the night that he might be saved and spared being burnt in hell.
    Since my epiphany and then reading “The God delusion” I have stopped worrying about them, 35 years after their deaths.

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  • 10
    Rob Schneider says:

    While I seem to have forgotten my own personal fears resulting from Catholic indoctrination, I can relate one attempted use of it after I was married. My wife and I chose to not baptize our children. At about the same time my wife’s father was stricken with liver and colon cancer. One of my wife’s family told her that the reason her dad got cancer was because we refused to baptize the kids.*

    Attempting this sick, manipulative bull on an adult is horrifying enough, but I know the same tactics are deployed hourly against children who are not self-possessed enough to tell their abusers to fuck off.

    *Thanks to modern medicine he still lives, fifteen years later. My kids remain unbaptized, yet we never hear speculation that our actions might be keeping him alive. 🙂

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  • 11
    funnieguy says:

    My father was once in jail. In my country there are faith-based halfway houses for ex-convicts. He converted in prison. Ever since he got out, he was very involved in church, found my mom in a seminary, worked in my church’s counselling center. Also along the way he had this deep passion for his brothers – those who were once in jail too. Lo and behold he got a calling from God to open a furniture delivery business and employed some of ex-convicts. Very noble. He spent almost all the money that could be used for me and my brother’s education and the family’s living expenses in the future. From ‘God’ indeed. Could have led a peaceful life given the past mistakes. Don’t need to be rich. A house, food, some money in case of emergency. No. Because of a calling from God. Had he been a Muslim and I was born in the Middle East, ‘God’ would would have probably asked him to sacrifice me.

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  • In reply to #6 by QuestioningKat:

    Hi Kat. The conception of “hell” as we understand it today comes from the earliest translations of the complete Bible. The catholic church preached in Latin and the Bible was unavailable in the tongues of the common folk until the Reformation. In fact, the first Bibles printed in English were burned in their thousands by the Bishop of London. The word “hell” in the Bible is translated from four different words, Gehenna, Sheol, Hades and Tartarus. Jesus would use different words for destruction depending on his audience (greeks – Tartarus, Jews – Sheol (literally the grave), and Gehenna – The Valley of Himmon outside Jerusalem, where in the past sacrifices had been made to Moloch, and by the 1st Century AD was used as a dump for the worst refuse of the city). There is no concept of “hell” in Judaism, and Jesus never preached the modern idea of “eternal torment). For more details, this site has plenty of relevant information; http://www.harvestherald.com/challenge.htm.
    As for “satan”, it comes from a Hebrew idiom meaning “adversary”, and is used for both people and armies in the Bible. Personification of “evil forces” was commonplace in History, and after the Jews left Babylon, “satan” became less of a description of the latent evil lurking in man, and more a “personification” of evil. (mammon is a good example of how evil traits and ideas were personified). I hope that helps. I’m a theist by the way, ex atheist, but it doesn’t mean I don’t search eagerly for the truth. There are many misconceptions unfortunately. I have to say I don’t believe these mistranslations and obfuscations are accidental. I hope my comment remains. All the best. Tavel.

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  • 14
    Alan4discussion says:

    @OP – Kenneth Jones I feel ashamed to be subscribed to the Richard Dawkins foundation for reason and science. I hate this religion bashing.

    Shouldn’t we be promoting reason, science and tolerance.

    Were there some particular abuses that you recommend tolerating??
    Filling children’s minds with fear & Hell perhaps????
    That I would think, would be a real cause of shame!!

    Also I am sick of comments like “god is bullshit” shows just as much intelligence and reasoning as those with unproven faith.

    Did you have a reasoned argument for the existence of some particular gods which you claim are not bullshit?

    Absence of evidence is evidence of absence! –


    Even the most pious believer has to admit that there is no scientific evidence for God or anything else supernatural. If there were, it would be in the textbooks along with the evidence for electricity, gravity, neutrinos, and DNA. This doesn’t bother most believers because they have heard many times that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

    However, just repeating a statement over and over again does not make it true. I can think of many cases where absence of evidence provides robust evidence of absence. The key question is whether evidence should exist but does not. Elephants have never been seen roaming Yellowstone National Park. If they were, they would not have escaped notice. No matter how secretive, the presence of such huge animals would have been marked by ample physical signs — droppings, crushed vegetation, bones of dead elephants. So we can safely conclude from the absence of evidence that elephants are absent from the park.

    That is the situation with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. Until recent times, absence of evidence for his existence has not been sufficient to rule him out. However, we now have enough knowledge that we can identify many places where there should be evidence, but there is not. The absence of that evidence allows us to rule out the existence of this God beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Now, I am not talking about all conceivable gods. Certainly the deist god who does not interfere in the world is difficult to rule out. However, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, whom I identify with an uppercase G, is believed to play such an active role in the universe that his actions should have been detected, thus confirming his existence.

    There is more on the link!

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  • 15
    goshwinkle says:

    We would always hold hands and say grace over meals at Grandmas house. My dads mother.

    She was a born again Christian after her son (my Uncle) passed away.

    My parents divorced when I was 8 and I moved in with dad for 9 months when I was 11.

    Within that 9 months my Grandma had given me a comic version of the bible which I finished and had taken me along to church many times on the weekends.

    I was holding my hands up and singing to God and thought very hard about what was right and wrong.

    Mum always let us watch more grown up movies than dad (M15+ instead of just PG – Australian ratings). Mum would let out a swear word every now and then, and she smoked.

    By the end of my stay with dad I believed my mum was influenced by the devil and that I would have to be careful around her. Moving back in with her was a huge internal moral struggle for me.

    I never spoke to anyone about it – all of it went on in my head, Kids keep alot to themselves when they think about these things.

    Post adolescence, buying the God Delusion and a healthy dose of the four horsemen, I am disturbed, upset and angry at my Grandma for planting those ideas. She is still at it too, running ‘after school ministries’ for kids.

    She saved up a secret birthday present for when I turned 18 also – she told me if I spoke the word of God, people would listen. She wanted me to become a preacher. Thank goodness I had more brains. Thanks to Richard I think I’ll be a science teacher.

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  • 16
    RezOKC says:

    “I feel ashamed to be subscribed to the Richard Dawkins foundation for reason and science. I hate this religion bashing.”

    Those who emotionally scar children for life deserve to be verbally bashed in the Square of Public Discourse forever, as well as those who enable the abuse by distracting from the issue with accusations of “religion bashing”. Any religion that tortures children emotionally of physically deserves an ‘eternity’ of public scorn.

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  • Once, my older sister, who was a recent born-again Christian at the at time, brought home a TDK cassette tape (this was the 1980s) that she’d been given from her evangelical Christian church. She made me listen to it.

    In the tape, which clearly had very high production value (judging from the impressive sound effects which made it all sound so real), there was a story of a bad person who falls from God’s grace, dies and goes to Hell.

    While in Hell, this person undergoes the usual torture: burning. As she burned, it was a woman’s voice, as I recall, she’d scream out loud while the voice of Satan taunted her.

    By the end of the cassettte, which lasted over 30 mins, I was shaking like a leaf in the wind. I was reduced to floods of uncontrollable tears. I literally feared for my life and soul.

    My sister held my hand and we prayed. Still reeling from what I’d just listened to, I declared myself a born-again Christian on the spot. I was 9 years old.

    This cassette tape haunted me for another 3 years. Aged 13, the doubts began to creep in. Soon after that, I lost all belief in Christianity — when I was about 15. It was another 10 years before I became a fully-fledged atheist.

    Ahh, the relief that atheism brings: the knowledge that there was no spy master with a roving camera in the sky; that there was no sadist with a pitchfork and bottomless fire pit below; that I only had one life, this one, and that nothingness awaited me in the afterlife.

    On a slightly separate point: RD is right, some forms of childhood religious indoctrination are tantamount to child abuse. Whether extreme forms of it is worse than sexual abuse, however, is not a comparison I would make because, it seems to me, every case is different and each individual deals with both forms of abuse differently.

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  • 18
    chunkimunki says:

    Fortunately for me, the attempt to indoctrinate me into fear and dogma didn’t happen until I was eight, with the arrival of the stepmother. By thirteen, I had decided it was a crock, and didn’t attend anymore.

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  • There seem to be a lot of extreme circumstances in the above examples. As traumatic as these situations are, the truth is, the fundamentals of the Christian doctrine can create trauma or are abusive in themselves. If a secular institution promoted such values in their adherents, there would be outrage… but as Richard Dawkins mentions in The God Delusion, religion is given special exemption against rational analysis.

    Some core Christian Ideas.
    1) You need Christianity, having lost your special relationship with God because of Adam and Eve’s original sin. This original sin is handed down through generations.
    2) Jesus died for your sins.
    3) You can only be save through Jesus.

    These tenants require you to place your status as a sinner at the core of your identity.

    4) Jesus will one day return to save mankind.
    This return will involve a “rapture” involving a violent end to life as we know it. As a Christian, you were to prepare for this moment and be ready for it.

    Even if “saved”, you had to accept accept that the world as you know it could end at any moment.

    5) You have no power to achieve anything worthy of God by yourself, you have to always rely on God/Jesus/Holy Spirit’s grace, because you are a sinner.

    Believing yourself to be a sinner tainted by evil at your core, isn’t good for your self esteem. Neither is believing that you must rely on a 3rd party to originate and deliver desirable outcomes, that you are powerless to change yourself and your circumstances for the better. Common sense and psychology will tell you having good self esteem and basic level of self belief are essential for good mental health.

    Having no feeling of control and living under constant fear of death (at least mortal death) is a cause of PTSD.

    As a Christian, I had poor underlying mental health because of these beliefs. The symptoms didn’t really manifest themselves until I left Christianity, when I lost any recourse to supernatural patch ups and interventions. Then I began to fear life. It was a dark, painful time, punctuated by depression, catatonic states, and anxiety attacks, with a long road to recovery. One of the first steps was reading the book Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell. Understanding that it wasn’t my fault, that my state was an outcome of my Christian beliefs, and that others suffered similarly was liberating and opened the doors to recovery. I felt angry and bewildered for such a long time.

    I would advise anyone feeling generalised anxiety, having left Christianity to get help. I was hoping the feelings would disappear with time, but in my case they didn’t. Specifically trained councillors may also be able to help. I will certainly be seeking one out.

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  • 20
    mmarieden says:

    The fears I developed as a child, because of the horror stories about Hell, were worse than any other forms of abuse I dealt with in my entire lifetime. Fearing an eternal Hell punishment is the biggest reason people refuse to give up their faith, that’s why it’s instilled in the first place.

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  • I’ve always been an atheist, but in the last couple of years, while researching religion, I started noticing how downloading SUFFICIENT amount of religious knowledge into your brain, does indeed create the impression of the existence of God. I tried to retrieve from it by removing myself from religion entirely, but this illusion is very hard to break. It’s like a bubble. Very multidimensional. I became terrified of all these religious prospects and possibilities, such as eternal hell, for instance. Then I started telling myself that even if God really exists, then he knows that he cannot pass the ‘Truth” through people because they are known to be conniving liers, who love to abuse and scare you. Therefore, I cannot trust them with anything they tell me without evidence. Ironically, even the Bible itself states that you cannot trust people. I cannot be punished for not believing people, when they tell me that there is God out there. I personally see nothing like that anywhere.

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  • It’s crazy to think how religion has such a stronghold over our minds when we fail to use our brains properly. So there is a real sense of people becoming free here. The truth shall set you free indeed! As a former judgemental Christian, I would have been the first to cast a stone at those who were gay. It’s so liberating to not be bound by those prejudices anymore. And then the question of hell. I can completely relate to the fear people here speak of. I will NEVER put my own children through that. When we create a fear of hell we rob young, impressionable minds of childhood.

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  • 23
    Shrommer says:

    I was raised Catholic and had constant fears of being damned if I didn’t confess on time before dying, if I didn’t follow the Church rules, if I didn’t do enough penance, or if my confession or turning from sin wasn’t sincere or effective enough. I finally found great relief and freedom from fear reading the words of Jesus, Paul, and John in the Bible, which fly in the face of the fear-spreading religion I had grown up with. Instead there was love, forgiveness, peace, and security. If you ever want to do a scientific study on the effects of these words to counter religious fear-mongering, please count my experience as one of your data entries. Saul the Jew was so intolerant he had Christians killed in an effort to make his god happy; then he had a conversion and was renamed Paul, and he wrote about how all that religious background was like rubbish or dung to him, compared to the freedom and life he experienced later.

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  • 24
    Dr. Colossus says:

    I was raised Anglican, so I can be glad for not being told that damnation awaited me if I didn’t do as God commanded. No, it wasn’t that extreme. But as a small boy I was scolded by my mother for having erections, and at Sunday School I learned that I could have no secrets because God or Jesus could listen to my every thought. C’est la vie.

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  • 25
    kdoxsie says:

    I wept at these stories. My own de-conversion was long and horrific. I wanted to believe in God so badly, but the more I searched to try and prove him real the more I learned he was not. I can remember nights I sat on the bathroom floor, smoking marijuana until I was so out of it I had no choice but to sleep. Leaving God was the absolute worst break up you can imagine for me. I had to smoke marijuana to sleep, because it felt as if God and the devil were in my head duking it out. I have a husband and four children, and it wasn’t fair for me to take myself from them. In the end, my love for my own children, and the overwhelming responsibility I felt toward them saved me. I had to make it right with them. I indoctrinated all four of them.

    Today I am proud to say my children are all four atheists, and my husband leans agnostic. We are no longer affiliated with any religion. In fact, I am part of the National Atheist Party, recently signed up to start going to meetings, and hoping to start a Secular Student Alliance at my children’s high school come Sept.

    My parents did not teach me religion. I had been sent to church here and there to get out of my mothers face, but I indoctrinated myself, and then passed that on to my husband and children thinking I was doing the Lord’s work. Nothing ever harmed me mentally and emotionally more than religion.

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  • 26
    phil rimmer says:

    Just caught up with this lot.

    Hellfire, its abuse plain and simple.

    And these are the ones who made it through. Rewriting these stories with their more likely outcomes, the oceans of misery probably out there is a shocking indictment of religion. And we know the feedstock for abusers is the abused. I no longer feel quite so inclined to give the quietly religious a pass, not if they have kids.

    This is all the more reason in the UK to abolish religious schools. We can’t do anything about their parents but we can give them a clean and positive education, a rope ladder leading back to sanity if needed.

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  • 27
    Asexual Atheist says:

    Teaching the gruesome and insulting concept of hell and eternal damnation to young and impressionable children is, quite simply, psychological terrorism. It is this ghastly notion that delayed my emancipation from the primitive cult of Christianity by a full year. Fortunately, the words of Dawkins and Hitchens helped me a lot during that time of my life and reason prevailed.

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  • I wanted to write on here my experience as an adult who converted to Christianity. I didn’t know where else to write it! I absolutely agree that indoctrinating children with Christianity is child abuse, but other victims of evangelical Christianity are adults who are prone to mental illness. I have a history of depression and OCD tendencies, and six months ago I converted to Christianity and have plummeted into a horrible mental state. And believe me, I didn’t fall into depression just because of my previous history of depression (as if Christianity itself were harmless) – rather I had little mental resilience to tolerate the toxic teachings of the Bible. Who could read the Bible and truly believe it and not tremble with fear? It even directly tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling! And I find it quite horrible that people can sing praises to the Lord and be happy about a god who allows most of the world to suffer for all eternity, as long as they are not grouped along with them!

    I believe that humanity is and should be evolving, and one of the things we want to encourage within one another is empathy and to absolutely NOT delight in the sufferings of others. When I first converted to Christianity, I read and believed all these horror stories of visions people had about hell and I truly took them to heart and thought I’d be on the “safe side” and just repent and believe. I then plunged into a horrible perfectionist, fearful, depressed state. I imagined my husband, my parents, my children, and everyone else I cared about going to hell for all eternity if I couldn’t convince them to believe. I started to see all the evil within everyone rather than the good that I used to see within everyone. I even taught my six-year-old daughter about hell because I was so scared for her myself, and now I understand how abusive that was! I’m so glad she’s still so young and there is time for me to hopefully undo some of the damage I have done.

    Right after I converted, I became friends with some fundamentalist Christians who were giving me advice. I finally came to my senses (six months later, after purging tons of “demonic” items from my home, completely changing my wardrobe, praying and crying every night, donating tons of money to the church, and alienating both my husband and my mother) when I saw how harmful their parenting practices are. I do not believe in corporal punishment, and they were telling me that God instructs us to do it. Now that I am trying to put it all behind me, I still have nagging fears that I am not one of the ones who “perseveres to the end” and not heeding the numerous warnings “against falling away.” These fears are causing tremendous anxiety for me and I’m finding it incredibly hard to function at work.

    This religion really is a trap because any reason, common sense, or science that contradicts it is written off as just satan trying to deceive us.

    At this point, I am going back and forth between being afraid of eternal damnation for leaving the church, and downright angry at Christians for their harmful teachings and for even allowing people to have Bibles and promote it is as truth. I have learned about how church leaders have invented their teachings about hell to control people through fear and about all the violent consequences that have resulted from their teachings. The rational side of me knows that a sexist, rape-promoting, war-promoting, slavery-promoting book could never be from God, but fear is a truly powerful weapon and I am hopeful that I can pull through this and get on with my life.

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