One of my earliest memories is being absolutely terrified of burning in hell. I was 4 years old the first time I “got saved.” I folded my little baby hands and bowed my little baby head and prayed with terror in my heart that God wouldn’t send me to this frightening place called hell. I don’t understand why parents would want to terrify their child about hell. If they do believe in hell, it’s something that should be discussed at an older age. Even then it’s still terrifying. But terrifying little children is wrong.
I distinctly remember reading those Chick Tracts at a very young age. Those things are scary. They are not appropriate reading material for children. I wouldn’t even read them as an adult as some of them are quite disturbing. I do not like horror. And those tracts are horrifying.
I never really thought through it before (you know, being a robot and all) but I don’t understand the whole concept of hell. As a child, it was just terrifying so I never really seriously considered what hell is. It doesn’t seem to fit with who fundamentalists claim God is. I am inclined to think it is just a fear tactic to control people and/or force them into behaving the way fundamentalists think they should behave.
My question is why would the Almighty God create earth and man and then say, “see that beautiful tree over there… you can look at it all day long and admire its beautiful fruit but you aren’t allowed to eat it. If you do eat it I am going to send you to a burning pit of fire and brimstone that I created for you for an eternity of torment. Unless of course you believe in me and that I love you so much that some day in the far, far distant future I am going to die for you to pay for your sin of eating of that beautiful tree I told you not to eat of. Oh also, if you eat of that tree you will be responsible for birthing the sin nature of every single human being who comes after you. Ok? Got that? I created you because I felt like it and I created hell so I could send you there if you don’t believe in me. Can’t you see how much I love you? Aren’t I such a loving, caring and sacrificial God?”
The God that I grew up knowing was scary. I very much imagined him as my mother or father ready to spank me for some infraction like not taking a nap. It sounds to me as if he is just playing some cruel game with his creation. I have heard it said that God is omniscient. So if God knows everything than he knew that the creation he was going to create would sin and that he would send them to hell for it. What’s the point then of creating it if not to play a cruel game to prove how powerful he is? Or so he can demand their love, obedience, faith, and loyalty just because he created them? I picture God sitting on his throne laughing at the fact that he created something, knew they were going to sin, and then forces his “love” on them and sends them to hell for not believing.
I have heard so many times that “God gave us free will.” But I don’t think that’s true. Yes, we are free to choose. But our “free will” allows us two options: believe in God and repent of our evil deeds which God knew we would do or be eternally tormented. He knew. He knew it all and yet he still created us and sends us to hell. That’s a conditional kind of love, if you can even call it love. It’s the kind that forces someone to love and believe in you and then punish them if they don’t believe. He just wanted to have a little fun. He wanted to play with his humans and then send them to hell for not believing in him. I know what some people will say. They say that God is a just God and he has to punish sin because he is sinless. Except no. He didn’t have to even create the earth or humans and as such sin wouldn’t exist.
My constant fear for a good 25 years has been the wrath that would be poured on me if I had one misstep in my life (things such as not attending church every Sunday and Wednesday or not tithing) My mother has done some awful things to me and yet I used to get in trouble for the stupidest things like being “rebellious” because I didn’t wear my hair a certain way.
That is what I lived with every day. On the rare occasion that my dad would give me a little more freedom to do something I wanted, the ensuing hours-long argument between my parents wasn’t even worth it. I became more and more withdrawn because I could not do anything right and I was sick and tired of hearing them argue about what I should and shouldn’t be allowed to wear, see, do, etc. I was certain that if I couldn’t even keep my bra strap from accidentally showing I must be doing a lot of other horrible things that I was going to go to hell for. So I got saved. Again. And again, and again, and again.
I think I was always confused about hell because my life was hellish. I didn’t understand that if I was going to go to hell some day, why God was also punishing me now for not being a good enough girl. Isn’t hell enough? Do I have to spend my entire life being punished and then also go to hell for not believing in him? Did I get saved enough? Did I believe enough? Did I love him enough?
I am so glad I’m not a robot anymore. I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. And it’s not necessarily because certain things are or aren’t happening. It’s because for the first time I feel that, as much as anyone can, I actually have some control over my own life and well-being. I am free. I can choose. And I’m not afraid anymore to do that.