By Marty McDonald —
Most of my religious fear, bitterness, and resentments are behind me now. I’ve learned a lot from that and want to help others who need it.
The #1 way I want to help is to tell as many people as possible this one simple thing, the thing I wish I had heard while growing up: “If you have religious guilt, fear, or shame, don’t worry. You are good just the way you are. You’re not going to Hell.”
Religious guilt, fear, and shame are awful. It is not OK to burden anyone with it. But I was burdened with it while growing up. It really messes a person up. Fortunately, I recovered.
If you experience these things, it could be because you’ve been told these or similar words: “You’re not good enough. On your own, your life will spiral downwards, and you will go to Hell”.
Those words strike at the very heart of a person. Some people can shrug those words off. But other people (like me when I was a kid) take such words to heart and are devastated by them.
If you have guilt, fear, and shame, you’re more likely to think you are “bad”. And if you think you are “bad”, here’s what can happen:
- You might join a religion that promises forgiveness. You’ll be afraid to leave that religion.
- You might attract controlling people into your life, because people who think they are “bad” often have low self-esteem, and controlling people look for people with low self-esteem.
- You might do things to consciously or unconsciously “make up for your sins” or to “show God you’re trying to be good”. You might donate money, deny yourself goodness, or even harm yourself as penance.
It’s hard to live a fulfilling, rewarding life if you think you are “bad”.
You are good, and you DO deserve a fulfilling, rewarding life.
When I say “You are good, and you DO deserve a fulfilling, rewarding life”, how does it make you feel? Do you feel unworthy of it? Do you feel a twinge of guilt? Do you think it’s wrong? Do you think if you really believed those words and lived by them, you’d be “lost”? Do you think those words are deceitful lies from the pit of Hell?
If the words “You are good, and you DO deserve a fulfilling, rewarding life” cause you any kind of negative reaction, you might be trapped as I once was.
Even though I was trapped by religious guilt, fear, and shame, I still had a small, inner voice. That inner voice said “This doesn’t add up. You are a good, hard-working person. You are a good husband and father. You do occasionally screw up, but you are honest about it and try to make things right. If you were really so bad, your life would show it, but it doesn’t”.
At that point, I embraced who I was, stopped believing that I had to be guided by others, and decided to trust myself. It was at that point I realized I was atheist.
So what’s happened to me since I’ve trusted myself, shed religious guilt, fear, & shame, and have become atheist? Let me tell you, because hopefully it might encourage you to trust yourself too.
As an atheist, I’m happier, more well-adjusted, excited about the real world, and have a keener sense of morality than I ever did with religion.
My wife and I have been married over 31 years! My daughter and son are fine young adults. My career is going great, and my wife and I are excited about our future together!
Rejecting religious beliefs and trusting myself HAS NOT caused my life to come crashing down! Controlling, religious people who spread fear were very wrong about what would happen to me if I lived my life as I do now. Since they are wrong about my life now, I’m sure they are wrong about a supposed “future, everlasting eternity” no one has ever seen.
If someone were to ask me: “Why is this so? Why do you see your life as so much better now? What does atheism provide that religion doesn’t?”
My answer is this: “Atheism doesn’t offer anything extra. It’s that religion took so much away”.
If you feel religion has taken lots away from you, or that you never even had those good things, I encourage you to try something different: Stop listening to those who spread religious guilt, fear, and shame. Live as if you ARE good and that you DO deserve a fulfilling, rewarding life. Live that way even if you don’t feel worthy of it… simply go through the motions if you must.
Over time, you will realize that you really ARE good, and you DO deserve a fulfilling, rewarding life.
If you get scared, just remember: you are good enough just the way you are, and you’re not going to Hell.