Fearing a Supernatural Boogeyman

Fearing a Supernatural Boogeyman December 16, 2011

I’ll resume my Christmas series on Monday, but I wanted to take a moment to look at another issue. Those Christians who hear that I am an atheist often ask “but how can you live without God?” A few months ago I realized an important response: Being an atheist isn’t just about living without God, it’s also about living without Satan. I’ve mentioned this before, but wanted to take a moment to expound upon it further.

As a Christian, I believed that God was all-powerful and that Jesus had conquered sin and death. I don’t want anyone to think that my faith was one of constant fear – it wasn’t. I believed that Christians would ultimately be victorious, and that I would go to heaven for eternity. However, Christianity comes with its own built in boogeyman, and the fact that that boogeyman is destined for defeat doesn’t change that he exists.

It is only since becoming an atheist that I have been able to sleep in a room alone without being afraid. Nighttime was always the worst as a child, and even in college, because it was then that the idea that demons could appear before me at any time became most real. Even in college I was afraid of them. Any noise in the night could be that of a demon. I would close my eyes tight and will the night away, pray for sleep, and wish my roommate were in so that I would feel safer.

Today, I no longer fear hearing or seeing demons in the night. Sure, when I’m the only one in the house I sometimes fear buglers, but I don’t fear that imaginary beings will jump out and get me, because I don’t believe such beings exist. It’s really amazing what a difference this makes.

No longer believing in the supernatural means not fearing supernatural bad guys are out to get me. This is a critically important point. As a Christian, I believed that demons were out to get me. Ever read C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters? Ever listened to Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s Father Gilbert mystery series? Ever read This Present Darkness? Try reading or listening to these believing that while fiction they are very much representations of reality, and then try going to sleep at night. Sure, I believed God had ultimate power, but I also believed that he allows Satan and his minions power on earth in the present and this meant living with the very real possibility of being attacked, spiritually, mentally, or even physically, by a supernatural bad guy.

Someone pointed out on a previous thread that she was afraid of wolves at night as a child, and that all little children will be scared of something. Well sure. I was also scared of wolves. We used to hear them at night and I would imagine them climbing the house to my second story window and breaking in. The thing is, my parents assured me that this was impossible. I knew that this was my imagination run a muck, and could NOT really happen, and that helped keep the fear under control. Not so with demons. My parents assured me that they were real and could actually seek to lead me astray or even appear to me. I absolutely believed that they were real, and this gave me no way to check my overactive imagination. And the result was fear.

Everyone fears something. It’s just that today my fears are of things in the natural world, not the supernatural. Today I’m fear things it makes sense to fear, like buglers or rapists, and even then I’m aware that the chances of running into them are low and that they have only human powers and abilities. I’m no longer afraid of supernatural bad guys who can teleport, defy the laws of nature, and read my thoughts. And I have to be honest: that makes my life a whole lot less scary.
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