Please excuse the novel here... I tend to try to explain myself so clearly that I go overboard, so sorry about that. Also, sorry if this is in the wrong category; I wasn't sure where to put it.
I grew up in a pentecostal Christian household, Assemblies of God to be exact (extremely evangelical believe-every-word-in-the-Bible-exactly group, for those who aren't familiar with it). I remember being told things specifically like "You don't have a conscience; that's the Holy Spirit telling you you're sinning." I remember thinking, "Yeah, because I'm incapable of figuring out when I'm doing something wrong on my own... Riiight."
I knew what hell and demons and Satan were even in early elementary school. I have vague memories of speaking with my school guidance counselor about a ("real," as in not from a movie or a show but documentary style) exorcism I had witnessed. I remember being told horror stories from a youth leader about her experience with demons, which included physical assault on her. I still fear the idea of hell and I've always had a very strong fear of demons (which hasn't gone away).
Anyway, during my journey away from religion entirely I began to be confused by my own thoughts. When I no longer really believed that a God existed and I wondered, "What if I'm wrong? What if I go to hell because of this?" I've had a lot of fear even about just coming to terms with even using the word "agnostic" to describe myself.
Something similar is when I think of things like the fact that I'm going to make sure I have a wedding ceremony with absolutely no mention of God or religion of any sort, something in my head sort of mocks me by saying, "You're just trying to be difficult and defiant." I know that's not true; why would I risk eternity in hell if I really thought it existed? I don't know what that voice is though, or where it's coming from.
Those thoughts aren't always in the front of my mind by they are, and I just keep wondering if they're "God is trying to tell me I'm wrong" or if it's a totally normal human response because leaving a religion can be a scary experience on its own and my brain just needs to relearn things.
I'm not sure if anyone else has this problem, but in a way I'm hoping so because maybe someone could help me understand my "own" thoughts/why I'm having them. Is it normal? I don't really even know if this will make sense to anyone else.
I've used these lines on Christians worried about my "eternal soul", and it usually quells the urgency in their tones. Doesn't make them shut up forever, but at least they climb out of my ass for a while.
@ dd - back in the '70's there was a psychologist named Eric Berne, who took Freud's idea of the "Ego," the "Id" and the "Super-Ego" and tried to make those concepts easier for the average person. He represented these states of our personalities - i.e., who we are, what makes us, "us" - by three circles that he termed the "Parent," the "Adult" and the "Child."
We need all three in order to have a well-balanced personality. The Parent gives us information we need, but don't normally have to think about a lot - stop at red lights, wash your hands before eating, how to tie shoestrings, etc. The Child portion of our personalities gives us a sense of play, lets us enjoy ourselves, gives us a sense of humor, and endows us with a sense of wonder and awe at the majesty of the world we live in. The Adult controls all of these functions, deciding which of the Parent's instructions are worthy of following and which have little value, deciding when the Child can come out to play and when it's a good idea to keep him in his room until after the Board Meeting is over, as handstands on the conference table, surrounded by the Board of Directors, probably wouldn't impress the company President, no matter how perfectly they were executed.
But sometimes - for many reasons far too complicated to go into here - the Parent or the Child overpowers the Adult. In the latter case, the individual may shirk responsibility, engaging only in "fun" activities; in the former case, the individual walks the straight and narrow, rarely doing anything "fun," living only the life proscribed for him/her by one or more parents (can actually include any authority figure - teacher, pastor, older relative, etc).
The "voices" you hear are the words of your parents - the adult portion of your personality needs to sort through these, decide which are worth saving, and disregard the rest.
How can you tell which is which? If you hear, "I want," "I like" or "I wish," it's likely your Child. Words like, "should," "must" and "ought to" generally come from your Parent.
I hope you realize this is waaay over-simplified, but I'm trying to explain it in a nutshell.
I understand what you're saying, and it definitely makes sense! That is basically what I try to keep in mind; I just need to remember that until I've grown and learned a lot more I'll just have to tell that voice to shut up. Thank you for your reply! :)
archaeopteryx - you mean "I'm OK, you're OK"? I've read that, it's a good book.
Actually Simon, I'm OK, You're OK was written by Thomas A. Harris MD, a student of Berne's - the process itself is known as Transactional Analysis.
I appreciate how you explain things, you are so easy and enjoyable to read.
I'd also like to thank you, for I have a new awareness.
Thank yuh, thank yuh very much! (That was my best Elvis imitation - it looses a little something in the writing --)
@ Lesa (and archaeopteryx) - I agree! :)
I can't speak for you but I think we are born tabla raza and only our cultural memory is in place, meaning those things that are encoded in our DNA..Everything else we learn has a 99 percent chance of being thought of before..Since we all share deductive reasonsing skills, we can often reach the same conclusion as others, even without knowing the other person. This makes us susceptable to indoctrination, but we can also use reason to challenge the indoctrination if we are so incline. We are less incline to use reason because it burns energy and it doesn't entertain our largest brain. Plus it can be to our detriment if our reason is in the minoirty opinion..I'm glad you chose to use reason..
Thank you! Unfortunately growing up in the church meant I was being taught this before I understood the importance of questioning, but I can definitely see how this applies for adults!
Just take the time to look at what you fear you might be wrong about.
Snakes and donkeys not only speak but apparently have a better grasp of logic then their human counterparts.
Women turn to salt, old men take up residence in fish, the true source of physical strength does not come from exercise but from growing your hair long.
Magic gardens once existed that were populated by enchanted trees that grew magic fruit that gave you knowledge and immortality.
Trumpets were instrumental (pardon the pun) in ancient demolition contracts.
All powerful gods required golden boxes to travel from their magic mountains to their fortresses of solitudes.
Dead Jews walked about Jerusalem yet never made the evening papers
Other dead guys stopped being dead after a few days and then flew off into the clouds.
Honestly, you wonder if your wrong?
I wonder if I'm wrong about there being a God in general. If being wrong could mean eternal suffering I think it's worth at least wondering. Obviously if I'm here I really, really doubt that I am but what got me to this point in the first place was my questioning everything I was taught all my life, so questioning is a good thing in any circumstance. As in "the only thing I know is that I don't know anything." When you're indoctrinated it's hard to push those things aside, regardless of how ridiculous they seem, because it's what you've known since you were a child, before you could fully form your own opinions about things.