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.
Thank you! It really is just thoughts, but you're right, they're very difficult to get rid of. I really do look forward to reading more here and learning to do so.
dizzyduckie - I've found that deep-seated beliefs like that need to be counteracted with proof to the contrary, somehow - and the problem is, there's no way you can prove there's not a God.
I don't care if God exists or not. If He does, then when my time comes, I feel confident then He will approve of me, because I always try my best to be a good person. We need to be not scared to die, otherwise life isn't worth living, in my opinion.
Anyway, I believe that heaven or hell consists of your own conscience. Imagine having a bad conscience, and having to live with it for thousands of years. What worse torture could there possibly be?
I believe you're definitely right to ask questions, freely.
I just read this quote: "Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you." - Ovid.
Simon - it's true that you can't prove there's no god (then again, you can't prove there is) but what you CAN do, is prove that the Bible is a crock, and this is what I'm in the process of doing.
@Simon and @archaeopteryx - Is he what, that is exactly what Archy is doing- it is just brilliant, a real education :D
Can't refute there is no god, but from any religious book, one can prove it is total bollocks.
@ Suzanne - yes, you're right.
For some reason, I always thought bollocks was spelled with an x - ya learn something new every day --
dizzyduckie - from where I'm sitting, it seems to me that your problem is in two parts. First, you're afraid God is going to punish you for leaving your religion. To answer that, I would refer you to Kirstyn Wood's answer, which to me, gives the whole answer to that question. You've really got nothing to worry about. I can well understand that you've had those ideas hammered into you all your life, and it's very difficult to exchange a lifetime's education for the opposite view. It takes time and effort and it's scary, especially considering what you've been told.
Perhaps the second part is, how do you discover your own thoughts and views? How do you become truthful and authentic in your own right? I would say, the shortcut to wisdom is to observe reality for yourself. Look, listen, observe, your internal world and the external world. Don't draw any conclusions or make any opinions. Don't judge what you find. Just let it all appear. That's what scientists do. They gather raw data. When they've got plenty of data, then they can start to formulate hypotheses and eventually build mental models and maps of how things work (always subject to being changed if new information comes along). Observations about reality are something you can know: something real. Please don't listen too much to other people's theories. They usually don't know what they're talking about. If they do, it probably doesn't completely apply to you.
Other people love to tell you what to think, what to feel, what to see, and how reality is supposed to be. I love telling them to f*** off.
I have just been reading an excellent book which I am sure would set your mind at rest on the first question. "The Forty Rules of Love" by Elif Shafak. I highly recommend that you read it. It's actually a wonderful book, never mind the theological implications, which I believe would answer all your fears.
As for demons - well, it is my honest and frank belief that while there's no such thing as demons like the ones I saw, I do believe there are psychic entities and not all of them might be very nice. However, it is my observation that if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone. The only reports I've had of people being bothered by them is people doing Ouija boards, seances, Qabbalah pathworkings, people disrespecting the Tarot cards; stuff like that. I don't touch that stuff. This world is plenty for me. I think it is highly possible that if religious people decide to dabble in that world and bother the psychic entities, then they will stir them up and provoke the very problem they're trying to prevent. If your youth leader was attacked by demons - then maybe she did a Steve Irwin on them and was deliberately bothering them. Either that, or she was depressed like I was but she didn't realize that the demons were just hallucinations. Really, I've never come across anyone getting a demon attack unless they started it.
Simon - RE: "I've never come across anyone getting a demon attack unless they started it." -- You've never met my ex-mother-in-law, have you --?
Was she the one on horseback?
With a scythe --
She's coming for your knackers.
She's finally where she can't come for anyone's knackers, ever - and no, I had nothing to do with it --