This is a common question that people ask me, Do you still fear going to hell?
Many people who deconvert from Evangelicalism have, from time to time, fear of going to hell.
Why is this?
Many Christians believe that this is the Holy Spirit trying to draw us back to Jesus. When we are lying in bed late at night listening to the beat of our heart or the click-clock of the alarm clock, and all of a sudden out of nowhere, a fearful thought of going to hell floods our mind, it is God trying to get our attention.
Is this really God trying to get our attention?
Of course not, because the Christian God doesn’t exist. As atheists, we believe the triune God of the Bible is a myth, just like the god of every other religion in the world.
We intellectually know that our fear of hell is not God trying to speak to us.
So…why the fear?
Many of us spent years in the Evangelical church and we heard countless sermons on hell. Our minds are imprinted with the belief that all non-Christians will burn in hell someday. Atheists, agnostics, and deists are going to burn in a hell heated seven times hotter. Remember, we heard countless times that atheism=Satanism.
When we have a moment of fear of going to hell it is simply a residual effect of our religious past. Over time, this residual effect lose its strength, and we reach a point where we no longer have thoughts of hell. Of course many Christians will likely say that this means God has withdrawn His Spirit from us and he has turned us over to a reprobate mind.
I still love listening to Southern Gospel music. Why? I don’t believe one word of the lyrics. Simple. For decades I regularly listened to Southern Gospel music. We sang it in the churches I pastored and we had Southern Gospel quartets come to our church and hold concerts. The cadence of the music, the style of the music, still resonates with me. I “feel” the music. Crazy, isn’t it?
When we spend years and years immersed in a belief system or listening to a particular style of music the imprint these things make on our mind doesn’t go away just because we say we are no longer a Christian.
The other day my counselor and I were talking about old girlfriends. He said to me, Bruce isn’t amazing that we can’t remember what we ate yesterday but we can remember a high school girlfriend from forty years ago?
Why is this? Our “love affairs” are steeped in heightened hormonal responses. These relationships are “fixed” in our mind as a result. This is why I can rattle off the name of every girl I ever dated but I can’t remember what I did thirty minutes ago.
So it is with the fear of hell.
Being beat over the head with the sin stick and being threatened with hell made a deep, lasting impression on us. It should not surprise us that we still have fear of going to hell years after we stopped believing there is a hell.
In the short-term, when the fear of hell floods our mind, we must beat the fear of hell back with reason. Over the long-term, the fear of hell will bother us less and less. It took us years to become the Christians we were and it will take years to undo what we were taught. To use an old, worn out, cliché, time is a great healer.
Did you notice I used the words we, us, and our? I am not some atheist who has arrived. I know what it is like to be lying in bed and all of a sudden have a dreadful fear of going to hell. I suspect most Evangelicals turned heathen have battled with this at one time or the other.