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.
Haha! This portion of this thread makes my day. :D
@Simon - I've been gathering a lot of links and videos and information that I'm sure will take me years to get through, lol, so I'm definitely planning on learning as much as humanly possible. And I agree - I'm done taking other people's word for anything and while I definitely was looking for advice and similar experiences from others I know to take everything with a grain of salt and draw my own conclusions.
I just put the Shafak book into my Amazon wishlist (along with all the billion other books I plan on delving into) and I look forward to reading it! There sure is a lot of helpful literature out there, apparently.
Also, I tend to agree with you - perhaps using the word "demon" wasn't the best. Being as I don't believe what I was taught anymore I don't believe in the Bible's "demons," but I do believe that there are spiritual entities (and yes, some unfriendly ones.) Thankfully I've never had any problems of my own, but I know several people who at least fully believe that they have. Leaving those kinds of objects alone is definitely something I agree with.
dd - RE: "but I do believe that there are spiritual entities (and yes, some unfriendly ones.)" - then with all due respect and concern, you're still not there yet.
dd - I could recommend a dozen books, but you're overwhelmed enough as it is, so I'll just suggest one: Who Wrote The Bible, by Richard Elliot Friedman.
archaeopteryx - Just added it to my (quickly-growing) wishlist! I really look forward to reading that one. The fact that people pick and choose what to believe from their supposedly holy book that may or may not have even been written by anyone whose work was worth reading has been a confusing thought for a while.
dd - put the name, Bart Ehrman on there too - he has a number of relevant books you could read.
Big ditto on arch's suggestion. I found some of his points stronger than others, but that's why it's valuable... the exercise of sorting things out for yourself with some honest information. Bart Ehrman has pulled together a ton of research and great content. Well worth reading.
dd - you're an intelligent person, it's in your hands.
Simon - Thank you! I fully agree with you to just go out and learn and figure what I can out for myself, and I plan on doing so.
There is a man called Nate Phelps, the son of Fred Phelps of the Westboro Church. This is a cult group of about seventy members, but they are very vocal, vehement and hateful. All the children are indoctrinated and brainwashed. The father of this group had eleven children. Three defected with Nate Phelps writing a book called 'Recovering from Religion'.
The difference between you and Nate, he grew to hate his father, as he was an abuser of his whole family, including his wife, so it was fairly easy for him to leave. When a person is an Atheist, but they love their family, then it becomes difficult.
Nate Phelps now gives seminars and talks to would be Atheists, telling them his story and was at a Reason Rally recently as a speaker.
Reason Rally organizer David Silverman, who is also president of American Atheists. "He shows us all that if you can come out as an atheist in that family, it's possible anywhere."
Sharon - *shudders* Ugh, Westboro... I never knew that his son left! That's incredibly interesting and I'm throwing that into my reading wishlist as well.
At this point my atheism isn't being too hidden but it's not quite being offered either. If the topic somehow comes up and I feel comfortable with that person I'll share it but at least until I've learned enough to defend my stance (which I don't think I should really have to do, but y'know, that's the way it is and all that) I don't feel comfortable just throwing the information out there. The one external family member I shared that part of myself with proceeded to tear me apart with judgment and act like it was in the name of love. It was such a horrible experience and it upset me so much that I'm just leaving it at "need-to-know" (at least for now.)
Hopefully one day, though, I too will be able to share it in the way I should.
dd - we had one member, a while back, whose aunt invited her to her house for tea - when she arrived, the aunt threw "holy water" in her face.
I told her that if it were I, after that betrayal of trust, I would have, without saying a word, gone to her kitchen, gotten a glass, then to the bathroom for some toilet water, thrown that in the aunt's face and left and never looked back. Turning the other cheek is for Christians, and they don't do it either.