Why I Believe
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05-04-2017, 01:28 PM (This post was last modified: 05-04-2017 04:09 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Why I Believe
(05-04-2017 05:40 AM)SeaJay Wrote:  EDIT: Thanks all very much for the considered and (quick!) responses. I am sorry that I cannot reply to every one of them fully or even at all (I think I'd go mad Smile ) but I do appreciate them, and I read them. I also copy/paste posts and/or certain parts of posts into a word document too.


Hi all

Thanks again for the welcomes (from here: http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...d1164883), it's much appreciated.

unfogged asked me why I believe there is a god and why it is the Christian God. I like that; straight to the point. I'll try and answer here (you might have encountered this post on another atheist website).

Fear is the key. Not sure if anyone expected that answer, but it's true. For the most part fear is the key. I mean, it's not just fear, I do have a belief it is true. But here's the situation:

I have major issues with Christianity, from slavery, brutality, misogynistic practices, the need for a human sacrifice, the threat of an eternal agonising afterlife for some, the need for any of this. But I am scared of being wrong. I have a real phobia about going to hell. I feel trapped and as I see it, there are only two ways out for me.

1. To be convinced there is no hell (not possible – as we cannot say either way for sure)

2. To, not believe. All I will say is that I have major doubts. I'm having a real crisis of faith.

I ask myself, if my thought processes were not inhibited by fear and anxiety, would I still believe? Well, having a Heavenly Father sounds great to me. Someone to love and care for you, and having the biggest and strongest Dad in the world is what every child inside us wants. Someone to pick you up every time you fall down, someone to tell you everything is going to be ok.

All that said, if I could push aside all concepts of Christianity and have a mind unfettered with Christian tradition and influences (all of them), would I still believe it was all true?

Truth is, I’m too anxious to even ask myself that, which in itself speaks volumes. I can relate to Pascal’s Wager.

I ask myself, why does an omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) creator, feel the need to create a torture chamber, where the wicked are sent to spend an eternity in unspeakable, unthinkable agony? Why not just utterly annihilate them? Not enough punishment? Ok, but why does there need to be any punishment in the first place? Surely an omnipotent and omniscient creator could just show us the error of our ways, teach us so we know why we did the things we did, and then we can all live in peace?

I see no point in it, but here is my problem:

Even if I do not see any point in it at all – it doesn’t mean it is not true. Sure it doesn't mean it is true, but that's where I am right now.

Do I only believe out of a fear of punishment? It’s probably not the ‘only’ reason, but it is a major part of it. Truth be told, I am not in a position to really answer that question yet.

I very probably will ask questions concerning biblical verses and such, but I assure you it is not to force my beliefs on anyone. As I always say, I really have no axe to grind and certainly have no agenda I want to push on anyone.

The reason for my questions (and questions to subsequent answers I may receive) is to really test what I believe, and why I believe. If my questions stand up to scrutiny, if I cannot have my faith torn down, then I will remain a Christian. Conversely, if I end up not believing because my beliefs cannot stand up to scrutiny, then I will seriously question what I believe, in fact, I may not have that option because regardless of what I want to believe, the truth is the truth.

Thanks all

You can release yourself from the fear of hell, by learning about the humans who cooked up the idea. You *do* know (I hope) the Hebrews who wrote the Bible didn't believe in the current concept of hell, neither did the early Christians. The concept evolved as Christianity evolved. We know a lot about that evolution, and who was responsible for what.

As far as all the other things Christianity is built on, (one of the major factors, is a total misunderstanding / misrepresentation of it's Jewish origins). When that is understood, it's hard to take any of it seriously.


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05-04-2017, 01:36 PM
RE: Why I Believe
I'm really sorry for the horrible fear that's been implanted in you Sad It's one of religion's most successful weapons.

Much great advice has been given already. Let me add this:

"What if" God is actually a mirror image of the Christian God, and everything you do that would have pleased Yahweh will actually anger the real God and cause it to send you to its own hell?

There are an infinite number of "what if..." scenarios, and it's literally impossible to avoid all potential danger. So the only rational way to cut through the tangle of nonsense is to focus on claims which have evidence backing them up. And there is zero evidence for any God, let alone the Christian God; nor any for any sort of afterlife, let alone a torture chamber made by a supposedly loving God.

Imagine picking up the bible, knowing nothing about it. What would you think of it? Go ahead and start reading it. Beyond people being obsessed with it, is there any reason to take it at all seriously?

I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
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05-04-2017, 01:49 PM (This post was last modified: 05-04-2017 01:54 PM by TheBeardedDude.)
RE: Why I Believe
(05-04-2017 12:22 PM)SeaJay Wrote:  I’ve just copy and pasted the stuff below from a word document I have. I give it to new therapists so I can sort of ‘crash course’ them as to why I need to see them. Some of it as a result might not flow narratively. Quick note, I sometimes mix up hell and the lake of fire but it’s all the same in the end.

I am a Christian but do not belong to any Christian church and haven’t done so for years. I have an extreme fear I might be going to hell, because I think I blasphemed the Holy Spirit (this is known as the ‘unforgivable sin’). This is how it all occurred:

1. I used to study the Bible, and in November 2010 I was studying the Book of Revelation, and I came across something called the “lake of fire”. I believe hell is just the grave but the ‘lake of fire’ was new to me. Don’t know how I missed it in the past as I’ve read the bible twice and studied it a lot.

2. I then remembered something called the unforgivable sin. Now I was anxious as there was an unforgivable sin and a lake of fire where sinners were sent to spend eternity in agony. I was worried and had to find out more.

3. When I found out what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was, I then believe I committed that act in my mind. Why I did this I don’t know, but I became extremely anxious to the point I was having panic attacks.

This fear has taken over my life. It is gnawing fear by day, interspersed with spikes of great anxiety and bouts of depression.

Thoughts and Images: When on the edge of falling asleep or on the edge of waking up, I would see images of myself burning in fire or see others burning and falling into fire. I even had thoughts (that I will call ‘messages’) come into my mind telling me I was “destined for hell’ and “you are going to hell”. I never literally hear voices – they are thoughts that, I have to stress, I do not place these thoughts in my mind; they seem to arise out of thin air.

Things get worse: I started worrying these messages (i.e. “destined for hell”) weren’t originating from my own mind (as I said, I didn’t put them there, at least not consciously). I asked myself, if I never placed them in my mind, where did they come from? I started worrying that Heaven was telling me I was going to this lake of fire.

Random Thoughts: I now became aware of random thoughts popping into my mind. These thoughts were different, from the messages (i.e. “Destined for hell”), they were more, random. Again, I don’t consciously place either types of thought (i.e. the messages, “Destined for hell” or the random thoughts) in my mind, and this is what makes them so worrying.

Example: I’m sitting in silence and suddenly the word ‘water’, or ‘trombone’, or ‘Arizona’, or shovel (literally anything) just pops into my mind.

Intrusive Thoughts?
So I have two types of worrying thoughts (i) message types about me “Destined for hell” and (ii) seemingly random words that pop into my mind.

I’m not sure if these fulfil the criteria of ‘intrusive thoughts’ (though I’ve been told I get them) because as far as I know, people with intrusive thoughts deliberately place them in their minds – but I don’t. They seem to arrive with no conscious part on my behalf.

Evidence I am Going to Hell: I worry, these random thoughts are evidence I am going to hell. Much less frequently, I get fleeting images in my mind’s eye. To be fair, the images are extremely rare and in over six years, I have had about three of them (none are clear, nor last more than a milisecond ((or so it feels like)) and I don’t get them anymore.

Why it is evidence: it is evidence I am going to hell, because I cannot predict the future, but Heaven can. So if I encounter these random words or fleeting images in the future, it is because they are predicting the future.

It is as if I am being told: “We have told you, you are destined for hell for blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In case you think ‘destined for hell’ is a product of your own mind, we will send you glimpses of the future by placing words into your mind. You will know these words are from Heaven, because they will be predicting the future and that is something you cannot do.”

Fearful Conclusion: The random thoughts and “Destined for hell” thoughts, all come from the same source: Heaven.

Example: I am in the bathroom and the random thought “white horse” pops into my mind from nowhere. A few minutes or an hour or a day later, I turn the t.v. on, and see a white horse. Or perhaps I go for a drive and see a white horse in a field, or the next day I turn a page in a magazine and see a picture of a white horse, or someone mentions white horse in conversation. All this I see as glimpses of the future coming true, and therefore evidence that I am going to hell.

This is extremely worrying for me and I have to walk around with earphones, listening to podcasts. The reason being, any sort of “chatter/dialogue” prevents these words from coming into my mind. I cannot stay in silence without my earphones for very long, for fear of my having some kind of random thought.

About 99% of these random words are just that: random. But now and then I’ll have a word that might be construed as a command of sorts. For example, “Listen.” I once had the word “Listen” pop into my mind. The radio was on so I thought it was an instruction to listen to the lyrics of the song that was playing. Usually though, the thoughts are just word salad with no pattern.

I no longer pray like I used to, or go to church, or study the bible, and I feel anxious when I’m around most things to do with Christianity. I have removed all religious books from my home.

Bad Thoughts
For about the last year I have started having terrible sinful thoughts about the Holy Spirit and they cause me a lot of distress and anxiety. The difference between the random thoughts, message thoughts, and these sinful thoughts, is that I do (deliberately) place these thoughts in my mind. I have no idea why I would do this.

Worrying about the Past: Also, I worry I might have said something bad about the Holy Spirit in the past. I have a lot of anxiety about this because I cannot resolve anything because I just cannot remember if I did actually say something. I’m literally just worrying because I am not sure if I did say anything.


- Random thoughts popping into my mind: I don’t place them there
- Images in my mind when falling asleep or waking up
- Messages telling me I am going to hell (thought I do not consciously place in my mind)
- Bad thoughts about the Holy Spirit (these I do consciously place in my mind for reasons unknown to me)
- Worrying about things I might have said in the past.

On two different occasions, things got so bad; I considered becoming a voluntary patient at a mental hospital.

This also seems like a good time to tell you a little bit more about my experiences, because I think you will find that you aren't alone in a lot of this mind-fuckery going on.

I remember being a faithful teenage churchgoer. I hit my peak of religiousness probably around 13-14, and it had almost everything to do with obsession over hell and the unforgivable sin. I went to a Southern Baptist church, so it was a lot of preaching about Hell and what sins would get people there (all of them as it turns out). I remember being in a constant state of holding back tears while sitting in the pew listening to the preacher (this was several years before the youth minister and his his suicide sermon as a one-way ticket to Hell). I was always on the verge of tears because I was fucking terrified and I was deeply ashamed. And both for the same reason, everything the preacher was saying was a sin that would send you straight to Hell was either something I had done or thought about doing or knew I was capable of doing. As it turns out, listing off human traits and common human thoughts is a really good way of connecting with people. So turning those common human traits into sins, is a good way of really fucking with their mind.

A little bit of context/background. I started going to church with an aunt and uncle after my uncle's mother passed away (he married into the family so I wasn't related to her. I think I met her once?). He became much more religious and one positive was that he and my aunt stopped drinking (I am all for booze but they always had a stocked fridge of those old white Miller Lite cans. So they probably drank too much), which probably helped give him a few more years. Shortly after I started going to church with them on a regular basis (this was around 5th grade, so I was 10-11), a different aunt of mine was murdered by her husband (they'd only been together maybe a few years). This had the effect of making the rest of my family more religious, for at least a little while. It had the effect of making me start questioning death and heaven and hell. I remember being extremely depressed after she passed. Part of it was that my family wouldn't tell me what the fuck was going on with the murder investigation and part of it was because I didn't understand what it all meant with respect to death and afterlife. She was dead and I would never get to see her again, except they (family and preacher and Sunday school teachers) kept telling me I would...after I died and went to heaven. I had tons of questions about how this worked and ultimately I kept getting the same placating response: "you just have to have faith." That didn't make any fucking sense! I thought the Bible had all the fucking answers! The biggest message I got from asking questions was to stop asking questions. It was clear I was making them uncomfortable. So, I eventually stopped asking questions about heaven and hell and started to try and internalize things more. People couldn't give me satisfactory answers and clearly didn't like me asking the questions, so better to figure it out on my own, right? I mean the answer of "you just have to have faith" is basically them telling you to figure out how to answer the question yourself...or stop asking it.

So back to where I started at 13-14 years old. I remember, vaguely, the sermon on the unforgivable sin. But for our church, the unforgivable sin could be as simple as thinking that god might not exist. You didn't have to proclaim anything and you didn't even have to explicitly think god wasn't real, you could literally commit the unforgivable sin by simply having doubt about god. Now, if you are like me (and I suspect I am like most of you) then your imagination is highly susceptible to coercion. Meaning that if I tell you to NOT think about a basketball under any circumstances, my guess is that the first fucking thing you'll think of is a basketball. So, the unforgivable sin sermon was a real mind-fuck because as soon as the preacher tells everyone what it is, I immediately ask myself (internally): "Well, do I actually believe in God?" That fucking scared the shit out of me. I just committed the unforgivable sin. I was going to Hell. I wasn't going to get to see my Aunt again. Everything I had done and would ever do didn't matter, I was fucking damned. I lamented over this for a very long time, and still have flashes of it if I am honest.

Not too long after that sermon I tried to double-down on my religion to make up for that fleeting thought. I got baptized and participated more in the church. And every time I did something to enhance or deepen my faith it would have a positive effect, but the positive effect was always short-lived. A few weeks later, I'd be back to the same doubts and fears. Eventually I stopped going to church because as a teenager, sleeping in on Sundays became more appealing. But that wasn't the only reason, not going to church meant I wasn't being inundated with the constant stream of reminders of all of my sins and how I would be going to Hell because it was what they told me I deserved. So, I went through most of High School as a Baptist/Christian who didn't go to church, and I was pretty happy. The longer I stayed away from the church, the better I felt and the more confident I was that I might actually go to heaven. It was a sort of "out of sight, out of mind" kind of thing. I wasn't being told on a weekly basis about sin and Hell, so gradually year after year, I was able to think less and less about it while simultaneously convincing myself I was a good enough Christian to go to heaven. Which means that NOT going to church actually made my faith stronger in a weird sort of way. And it is not only because I wasn't being inundated with the preaching of sins and Hell, but because I was now relying more and more on my own ideas and thoughts and intuitions. So instead of getting placating non-answers to my questions, I was seeking to answer them myself.

That get us to Senior year of High School and the youth minister. I have detailed that story before, so I will just copy it here (which is also my very first post on TTA from 6 years ago):
"It took several years for me to kick my religion to the curb but looking back at it one of the most influential events was a youth sermon I had gone to my senior year of high school. I was dating a girl at the time who went to church services every Wednesday night. This was the perfect opportunity for me to skip work early and hang out with her, so I began to go. It was mostly a social gathering with a short sermon from the youth pastor thrown in. I didn't care because I was infatuated and not at work! All of the sermons were forgettable...except one. The youth pastor started out by telling us how he was mad at his grandmother. The reason? She had committed suicide and that meant she did not get to go to heaven and therefore he and his family would never see her again. She had been clinically depressed and on antidepressants. She had begun to feel better, so she stopped taking them and spiraled into a deep depression and jumped off a bridge. This man was standing before me angry with his grandmother who was obviously asking for help. His reasons for being angry with her were selfish and made no sense. I was appalled and it became similar stories like this that made me realize that a literal interpretation of the bible was dangerous and nonsense. It was not long after that when I quit calling myself a "christian" (sic) and then about 3 or 4 years ago (much longer ago now) I realized I did not believe any of it anymore and became an atheist.”

The basic idea that this sermon implanted in me was that I didn't agree with that preacher or a literal reading of the Bible. Once I realized this, the fear of Hell and the unforgivable sin dissipated enough for me to start questioning my religion at a more fundamental level (the fear of these things didn't go away. They lessened enough to not paralyze me intellectually). I started by believing less and less of the Bible as literally true, then started looking at other religions to see what they believed. What I saw were a lot of similarities between the religions and initially I took this as a sign of a common god between them, now I look at it as a common human element to all of them.

I still have moments where the fear of Hell and the fear of the unforgivable sin creep back. My wife has these fears too (she was raised in a very religious evangelical household. So her fears go along with indoctrination via home schooling and isolation), they are quite common. Over time, these moments have become less frequent and less severe. It is difficult to shirk these deep-seated fears and on some level, I suspect I will never fully rid myself of them. This is why my wife and I agreed before we had kids (when she still considered herself a Christian) that we would not force them into any religion, period. If they wanted to go, then okay that is their choice. We both realized that something like religion can fuck you up as a kid, and that there is no point in your life where you can simply wash it all away like a belief in Santa. It isn't so trivial when the punishment isn't coal.

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05-04-2017, 01:50 PM
RE: Why I Believe
Not even possible to blaspheme Holy Spirit. Rolleyes

Holy Spirit is that of god sent to spin up prophets. In such a manner, once you have felt it, you are already it. I'd be like blaspheming your big toe. Paul's trick was to embody Holy Spirit in a more relatable form by wrapping it in the person of an apocalyptic preacher (Jesus, who he totally fabricated).

A bunch of that stuff in scripture is sheep talk that deflates under even the most casual scrutiny. For instance becoming Christian is "to accept Jesus as your lord and savior," which is exactly accepting Holy Spirit. Also Holy Spirit cannot abide evil. Since the thought of burning in a lake of fire is obviously evil; can't happen.

That stuff gets printed and propagated by un-self-aware sheep minds to comfort their own feelings of being essentially powerless. Hell ain't got nothing to do with anything other than increasing the coin in the preacherman's collection plate.

Unless you're a prophet which is obviously not the case here. Tongue

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05-04-2017, 01:55 PM
RE: Why I Believe
(05-04-2017 12:22 PM)SeaJay Wrote:  I’ve just copy and pasted the stuff below from a word document I have. I give it to new therapists so I can sort of ‘crash course’ them as to why I need to see them. Some of it as a result might not flow narratively. Quick note, I sometimes mix up hell and the lake of fire but it’s all the same in the end.
I forgot about your mention of Pascal's Wager earlier.

Forgive me if someone else mentioned this, but Pascal's wager is so deeply logically flawed that it can be rejected out of hand.

It is what is formally known as a "false dichotomy". There are way more than two possibilities (that god doesn't exist, or is the punishing version of the Christian god). God could be any of the other gods that people have dreamed up, or an infinitude of gods not yet conceived of. For example, what might actually get god's knickers in a twist, is not that you don't love him as commanded or accept his plan of salvation, or have committed the so-called unpardonable sin ... maybe it is that you have the temerity to pretend to believe in him when, being omnipotent and all, he'll know that you clearly don't. Pascal suggests you should believe "just in case" ... as if this is even an option that god might approve of, unless he likes people being disingenuous with him.

So the wager fails not only as a false dichotomy, but as an invitation to lie to god. The nature of belief is that it is not voluntary. You can't choose to believe that your mother was a kind, gentle, loving, stable, emotionally reliable person. You can't choose to believe that the moon is made of cheese. You can choose to actively pretend to believe anything, but your TRUE beliefs are informed by what you know to be true or what "seems" overwhelmingly obvious to you. Heck, you would give your eye teeth not to believe you're going to hell, would you not, and you can't choose to believe things that would be far less damaging and limiting for you, because belief simply isn't voluntary in any straightforward, "throw a switch" sort of way. Beliefs are built up and reinforced in layers from experiences and observations (good or bad, accurate or faulty).

As an interesting side note, I can't choose to believe that any gods are real. I used to believe it and felt I had chosen that belief, but the truth is, that belief was built up (and eroded and torn down) in layers by my life experiences and observations. Christians often think atheists "choose to disbelieve" out of obstinance or rebelliousness or bitterness or misunderstanding. Anything but a rational decision based on rational criteria ... we can't admit that might be valid!! And most Christians certainly won't credit the high personal cost of deconversion. Many of us have lost family and friends and social support systems over it. No one in their right mind CHOOSES that.

So ... belief is not voluntary ... the only question is whether it arises out of a commitment to deal in reality or in fantasy (religious or otherwise).

Finally, as to the unpardonable sin ... this has been identified by committed Christians as everything from rejecting god, to masturbation or adultery or fornication or mental lust (or just about anything sexual), to suicide, or just about any pet sin that some preacher or exegete at some point has decided people need to have the bejeebers scared out of them so they won't do it. I even once heard someone opine that it must be not studying your Bible enough.

The only verse that mentions it is extremely vague, to the point of coyness, as to what the heck it is. You think it is "blaspheming the holy spirit", which is rich because if you ask 10 Christians how to go about blaspheming the holy spirit you will get 10 different answers. Mine would have been, it is simply not accepting Jesus as your savior, a problem easily remedied with a formulaic prayer so far as I was concerned. To you it appears to be inadvertently saying something the offends god or isn't sufficiently respectful, which, by the way, not one person who has ever lived on earth could be said to not be guilty of in some way, shape or form.

Your mind is simply latching onto a rationale, however, irrational, to explain / justify the strong feelings of shame and unworthiness that are your real problem.
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05-04-2017, 01:56 PM
RE: Why I Believe
Damn. Every time I see this thread title I start singing these lyrics .....

"I belieeeeeeeeeeeeeeve...."

Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.... on Donald J. Trump:

He is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,
Ill-fac’d, worse bodied, shapeless every where;
Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind,
Stigmatical in making, worse in mind.
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05-04-2017, 02:18 PM
RE: Why I Believe
You people talk too much. Angry You made my soup cold.

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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05-04-2017, 04:10 PM
RE: Why I Believe
(05-04-2017 02:18 PM)kim Wrote:  You people talk too much. Angry You made my soup cold.

It's ALL our fault.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein It is objectively immoral to kill innocent babies. Please stick to the guilty babies.
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05-04-2017, 04:23 PM
RE: Why I Believe
(05-04-2017 04:10 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  
(05-04-2017 02:18 PM)kim Wrote:  You people talk too much. Angry You made my soup cold.

It's ALL our fault.
Are we going to hell now?
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05-04-2017, 06:01 PM
Why I Believe
(05-04-2017 07:16 AM)SeaJay Wrote:  
(05-04-2017 06:51 AM)julep Wrote:  How certain do you feel that you've chosen the right god? There are other gods, other damnations.
A good question. I'm sure the other gods are fictitious

If the other gods are fictitious, it's a safe bet that they're ALL fictitious!

Man invented the gods for a variety of reasons, one of which was to explain the natural world. But as science has progressed over the centuries, there are fewer and fewer places for a god to hide. But consider that as natural laws are discovered, rendering gods useless as explanatory devices, there has NEVER been a case of a natural law being replaced with a supernatural explanation. Ever.

Just something to ponder...
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