The Guilt of a Newly-Minted None

The foundation of being a moral person has always been about believing in God and following the teachings of the church. If you don’t follow the path Jesus walked, you are likely a heathen or a pagan or the unworthy of Heaven. Or, if you don’t follow Jesus and the teachings of the Bible, you are just lost and possibly weird, on the fringes of society and destined to be an outcast.

Heaven has always been the goal that we strive for in life. Be a good person, doing things in the name of Jesus and you will achieve your rewards in Heaven. We are told in order to go to Heaven you must be a good person. In order to be a good person, you must follow Jesus.

What if you don’t believe Heaven is the ultimate goal any longer? Can you still be a good person? Can you teach your children to be good citizens of society without using Heaven as the end goal? Can people be moral and decent human beings without getting anything in return?

I believe you can be a good person without the foundation of religion. However, as a woman who has grown up with the church and the teachings of the Christian religion, it is something that is hard to rectify in my brain. It has been so ingrained in my heart and soul that you can only be a good person if you follow Jesus. If you do what Jesus and God decree as correct and proper.

I have spent the last 29 years of my life thinking that God was the only way. That Heaven was the end goal. The only other option is eternal damnation. If you aren’t following God, you aren’t a good person, so you can’t go to Heaven, and therefore, you will burn in Hell.

Hell certainly doesn’t sound like a nice place to end up. When you look at the descriptions of Heaven and Hell in the teachings of the church, who doesn’t want to say they believe in God and hope that they will get to go to Heaven. By taking the belief of Jesus and Christianity on faith alone, it is supposed to safeguard them from the eternal damnation of Hell. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Let’s not forget that Heaven is also a better alternative to ceasing to exist. When you die, you just are no more. I never really liked the idea of that happening either. So, what was the purpose of life? What was the goal? The end game? Ceasing to exist seems exponentially as harsh a fate as Hell.

So to alleviate either ‘negative’ outcomes at death, if we believe in God and the teachings of the church  or death will end much more pleasantly. I am sure I am not alone in this thought process. I am beginning to think this is how people get caught up in the beliefs and the church.

Looking back at this, the description of Heaven and Hell is more propaganda and fear tactics. If you don’t do what we tell you to do, you will be punished. If you do exactly what we tell you to do, you will be rewarded. Don’t question or you go to Hell. Don’t miss church or you go to Hell. Don’t forget to pray at supper or you might go to Hell. Don’t support gay people or you will go to Hell. Don’t be friends with Pagans or they will bring you straight to Hell with them.

A lot of fear goes into the foundation of religion. A lot of fear and ultimatums.  Fear and ultimatums lead to guilt. Guilt about doing things just right. Making sure you are following the faith perfectly. What if you slip up? You can be forgiven, but the people of the church may look down on you. You will be given a big heaping spoonful of guilt.

Like my previous post about Cults and Churches, the fear and the ultimatums and ultimately the guilt is what keeps a member of a church or a cult in line. It keeps the person feeling like they are a bad person if they don’t go along, if they don’t follow. The guilt can be enough to hold a person under the church or cult’s thumb for years and it is a form of brainwashing.

I came across this blog post recently and it made me think. The points are valid. How come our particular religion can be believed on faith, but someone else’s religion is clearly not correct. It’s not right and thus a fairy tale. All the creation tales in each different religion are similar yet, once you latch on to the one you like, it’s the only one. It’s the one that is supreme.

You can deny all others as false and ‘fairy tale’ but the one that you follow may sound similar, but it’s the only true one. You have reasons and rationale why. The brain has made connections on this that will allow you to believe that it is real. Why do you have all these answers? Because the fear and ultimatums and the guilt that goes with the teachings have given you all the answers you need to make sure you are properly educated in what to say and think. IE. Brainwashing.

Then comes a time when you doubt it. What if you doubt what you have always been told? What if you take a logical look at the things you have always believed and you put rational thought behind it? The guilt settles in.

What if I’m wrong? I am a terrible person for not believing. I should just have faith. God calls me to believe in the face of doubt. I cannot trust my own flawed judgment. I just need to put my faith in Him. Just follow the leaders of the church, they are the ones who have more knowledge than I do. I have to teach my child to believe as I have; otherwise she will go to Hell. Hell is a bad place. What if Hell does in fact exist? If you don’t teach your child about God, they will never be saved and you have condemned your child to a fate worse than death. If you don’t get your kid baptized, they will be eternally lost in the pits of Hell.

These are the thoughts that I still grapple with. I am beginning to realize that I am in fact an Atheist. I have tried to cling to the label of the lesser evil in society of Agnostic, that of someone who is spiritual and who is not sure what they believe. But, I do know what I believe. In my heart of hearts, I know that there is no such thing – there is no validity to the stories I have grown up with. I know in my rational mind that I don’t want to be putting my kid through the same fear and guilt that I am currently trying to dig myself out of.

I hold tight to the lesser label, a label that doesn’t really bring me peace of mind either, because it is less harsh than the reality. The finality of the whole concept. It lessens my guilt. It lessens the doubt in my doubt and the uncertainty. I am coming to terms with the fact that I was in fact brainwashed and I was conditioned with fear tactics and guilt to believe in something that can’t possibly be real.

It makes no sense to me now. I am trying to figure out why the concept of God and Jesus made sense to me before. A flowery story about a man who died for me and forgives me of all my sins. A story of redemption and of love and kindness. It made sense because it was about the good in people. It was about the rewards for being a good person. It was about being a part of something.

How come we can’t teach our kids to forgive our fellow human beings for their misgivings and their shortcomings. Can’t we teach our kids to be kind and loving to all those they come in contact with? Why does the basis of morals and the difference between right and wrong have to be set in the foundation of a religion?

Instead of guilt, I hope to give the facts. I hope to give the theories and the stories. As I learn more of the different stories and the different culture theories of how the world came to be, I hope I can pass on the questioning nature I have grown to possess and leave the guilt out of my daughter’s heart.

2 thoughts on “The Guilt of a Newly-Minted None

  1. | The foundation of being a moral person has always been about believing in God and following the teachings of the church.

    I know that you believed this to be true and that lots of people still hold this belief but it is patently false. Organized religion is primarily about controlling the deluded individuals who had the misfortune to be born into it and keeping the cash flow coming in to church coffers.

    1. You are right, Mike, I did believe it to be true. I am hoping to steer my kiddo away from that belief and more towards the belief that being a good person comes from your heart, not a god or religion that someone tells you that you have to be a part of.

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