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How to Get Over the Fear of Hell

How to Get Over the Fear of Hell
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    One of the most common questions I get as a secular activist is, "How do I overcome
    the fear of hell?"
    A curious quandary coming from a largely atheist fan base.
    It rarely originates from a life-long atheist, though, and therefore speaks strongly to the
    anxiety-ridden residue that religion so kindly leaves in its wake.
    For example's sake, here's just one message that I got last week from an atheist and evolutionary
    biologist friend of mine named Ryan Chavez (shared with his explicit permission of course):
    "As an atheist, I'm still afraid of Hell.
    It's instilled into me.
    And it makes me think "What if I'm being deceived somehow by Satan?"
    Then I realize if there was a God, shouldn't that God realize my predicament?"
    Ryan, and anyone else wishing to simply live a life free of this traumatizing and utterly
    irrational fear.
    Check this mutant monstrosity out and tell me how many nights of sleep you've lost
    sleep over it?
    This is the Demon Ammit, native to Egyptian mythology.
    It's part lion, part croc, and part hippo.
    It's not quite a crocoduck, but equally ridiculous, and it's what Egyptians terrified
    their children with for centuries.
    It was believed in Egyptian mythology that the afterlife contained a series of trials
    culminating in the weighing of the heart ceremony.
    Plopping your heart on a scale and weighing it against a feather.
    At which point you cross your spirit fingers and hope the gods weren't so kind as to
    genetically predispose you diabetes.
    'Cause otherwise, the croc-headed lion with the hippo-butt would devour your fat heart
    and consume your soul.
    But is it really any more ridiculous than the part leopard, part bear, part lion creature
    with seven heads but 10 crowns described by John in the "Revelation" that he had under
    the hot island sun?
    There are thousands of ridiculous religions with wild speculations about the other side.
    And while some people claim to have died and witnessed the afterlife, near death experiences
    vary widely from culture to culture (as I showed in my video on NDEs) – what you experience
    is based on your upbringing and is all in your head.
    No religion has special knowledge although all of them claim to.
    And no matter how you live your life, you're going to hell in most of them.
    You don't lose sleep about going to hell in Narnia because you know it's man-made
    But what if I showed you that the religious notion of hell is equally man-made.
    What if I told you that the Jews don't believe in Hell.
    "It would be considered a purgatory, I think, In your religion.
    It lasts for eleven months for all Jews – even the lowest of us.
    And it's basically a transition phase."
    "We look at it as a cleansing place for people – in order for them to be able to
    go into the world to come and enjoy the uh, great reward."
    "I'm telling you firmly that Judaism, which is the mother/father of all monotheistic
    faiths has NEVER put any kind of serious emphasis of the afterlife, period!"
    The religious scholars who wrote the Old Testament – the foundation of the Christian faith
    – completely reject this fundamental pillar.
    In the Old Testament, there was a place called Sheol – an underworld for both slave and
    free, righteous and wicked, rich and poor.
    And even Jacob, who was supposedly chosen by God, repeatedly talks about how he will
    go down to Sheol when he dies.
    The Devil too evolves throughout the Bible.
    In Job, the oldest book of the Bible, Satan enters and exits heaven,
    communing with God, & making bets.
    He was NOT the serpent in the story of Genesis, and it's not until the New Testament that
    he evolves into a monstrous, villainous dragon.
    But religions that can evolve a fear mechanism invariably are more successful at spreading.
    And over the centuries, works of art and literature like Dante's inferno and sermons like Jonathan
    Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" ensured that the fear of hell, though
    entirely man-made, would pass successfully from anxious parent to trusting child.
    And it is an incredibly effective tool.
    In my days as a Christian counselor, we were taught to introduce young, impressionable
    children to the concept of hell.
    Creating a nightmare for them to seek salvation from - betraying the trust of kids as young
    as 6 by psychologically traumatizing them with a man-made lie.
    And even then, I felt wrong about it, but I bought into the lie too and it traumatized
    me well into my 20s.
    We fear the unknown, so we make up stories.
    Fortunately, there is no hell – no eternal suffering – just a human attempt to make
    sense of injustice in the world.
    For if God exists and is truly an omnipotent creator of the world, and the universe, and
    all the galaxies, why would he care about any of us, and why would he care about us
    more than the single-celled life forms that we evolved from.
    Why would he punish us in particular for our nature (but it's totally ok if cheetahs are gay)?
    Eternal condemnation and omnibenevolence are too mutually exclusive to flow from the same entity.
    If he is just, would our finite crimes not be met with finite equivalent punishments.
    And if he is intelligent and all-knowing, would he not reward the curious, open-minded,
    and inquisitive skeptic and find the mindless religious sheep utterly insufferable?
    My reply goes on just a fraction longer, it is, "I presume, divine sir, that you have
    some respect for intellectual honest and for moral courage, and that you would look with
    more favor on somebody who made an honest profession of unbelief than on someone who
    acceded to believe in you in the hope of a handout.
    Only a man-made god would reward credulity.
    And if God exists only in our imagination, then as we perish and our brains decay, will
    his existence not disappear along with us?
    When we slip into that eternal slumber, that fateful rest, is a peaceful state of non-existence
    really so terrifying?
    For in the words of Mark Twain,"Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already
    tried it before I was born—a hundred million years—and I have suffered more in an hour,
    in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together."
    The fear of hell takes time to overcome, but it can be done.
    And you can be free.
    Dare to be curious, but don't drink the Koolaid.
    What's up Skeptics, Thomas Westbrook here.
    Are you new to atheism?
    Making sense of the world after a recent worldview shift can be really hard.
    And there's a huge irrational stigma against atheists that can be difficult to navigate alone.
    So I've created a free guide just for you.
    It's a compilation of 13 things that I learned in my first year as an atheist.
    You can download it absolutely free today at
    I'll put a link below.
    And if you really like what I'm doing with this series, please consider supporting my
    work on a per-episode basis over on
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