Escaping The Fear of Fundamentalism


In a dream, I was in a primitive cabin, possibly in the mountains where I grew up. A woman named Molly was sitting in a rocking chair near the hearth, where there was a blazing fire. Molly was clearly a wise woman, and she had something to share with me.

But, as can only happen in dreams, Molly stood up and opened the top of her head like you would some sort of pitcher. She came to me, and began to tilt her open head toward mine, as if she were going to pour her knowledge directly into my brain.

Think about this: a wise being, who clearly had good intentions for me, was trying to give me knowledge. But the imagery freaked me out, and the fear instilled in me by my former fundamentalist church kicked in. I panicked.

“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” I began to shout.

But instead of running away or disappearing, Molly just sighed and sat back down in her rocking chair. “Are you done?” she finally asked. And at that point I woke up.

This was a couple years ago, and I have to admit Molly was far from the only entity I encountered in dreams that I gave the “Jesus!” panic treatment to.

Most fundamentalist christian churches teach that any spirit not directly of their god is inherently Satanic, evil, and out to get you. My particular church, the UPC, ratcheted this up a notch by teaching that salvation was a tenuous thing – something you could gain and lose on a daily basis. If the Rapture happened, or you got hit by a car and killed on the one day out of thousands that you committed some sin without repenting, all those good days counted for nothing. You were screwed and on your way to a devil’s Hell.

Pleasant, huh?

It’s taken me quite a while to get loose from the fear instilled in me by this church. And to be honest, I can’t say that it will never pop up again. I still get a little nervous when I’m meditating or doing a ritual that draws up a lot of energy, and I feel like speaking in tongues. When I’m doing a ritual outside, in the dark, with a fire – as I did a few nights ago for Beltane – certain noises can send a shiver up my spine.

But for the most part, I don’t try to cast off helpful spirits by calling on Jesus any more. Even if they present in my mind as typically “ugly” or “demonic” looking. And I long ago quit worrying that I was going to Hell for leaving that church, or even Christianity as a whole.

So how’d I get there? More importantly, how can you?

Everyone’s different, but here are some things that helped me:

Read other people’s experience. This blog in particular, by John Beckett, really helped me. Also, this site – which is focused on the UPC, and geared toward people who want to remain Christian, was instrumental in helping me see that my former church in particular was not as holy and infallible as I’d been led to believe.

Listen to Atheists. I especially benefited from reading comment sections where atheists argued with Christians. They’re fantastic at poking holes in all the fundamentalist arguments, and this really built my confidence. It was sort of like turning the light on and seeing that the monster you’re afraid of is really just a pitiful puppy casting a big shadow.

TV Shows About Mediums. OK this one may seem a bit weird – after all, it’s always possible these people are fake. But seeing, over and over, people get messages from those they’ve lost – who don’t seem to be burning in Hell for not being “Apostolic” or “Christian enough” – helped to reinforce to me that the vast majority of humanity past is not, in fact, currently burning in Hell. This also really helped me when I got my own messages from my beloved dead.

Science. Mr. Beckett mentions this in his article, but really understanding the evidence that the Earth is, in fact, about 4-and-a-half-billion years old – and no, the carbon dating isn’t fake, and that’s not the only way this age is determined – was really helpful. As was seeing archaeological evidence that there were humans tens of thousands of years ago. Oh, and at the time the Great Flood was supposed to be happening, civilizations were flourishing in places like China and Central America, and they didn’t seem to notice being wiped out.

History. Especially religious history. Did you know, in fact, that the Israelite’s were originally polytheist? That the “Old Testament” was in fact edited after the Babylonian Exile to make it seem that there had always only been one god? That there’s really barely any evidence that the historical Jesus even existed? That St. Paul grew up in a major center of Mithraism – a religion that both predates Christianity and shares many key doctrines and stories. Oh and also, there were at least half a dozen dying-and-rising savior gods known in the region before the Jesus story.

Push Your Own Boundaries. There was a reason witches in the middle ages said the Lord’s Prayer backwards, and it wasn’t all about just being anti-christian. It was about getting out from under the fear of that religion. Try it – if it scares you, you know you’re not out from under fundamentalism’s shadow. Think of other things you were told you’d be sent to Hell for. Maybe it’s having a (safe) one-night-stand. Or going to a bar. The first rock concert I went to after getting out of the church (Def Leppard and Styx) I literally cried because I’d been denied this experience for 20 years.

Those are just a few ideas. What has helped you? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!

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