God Is Love And Will Torture You Forever

God Is Love And Will Torture You Forever January 17, 2018
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“Fire” (c) 2009 Mahesh Kularatne | via Flickr


Content/Trigger Warning: This post discusses stories of spiritual and psychological abuse.

Tonight on my run, I listened to the latest This American Life podcast, “Chip in My Brain.”

It’s about a kid named Cody who sucked at basketball, so his parents hired a private basketball coach named AJ the way parents hire piano teachers. He was a good teacher who, over six years (grades three through nine) took Cody from barely being able to dribble to being MVP of his team — and also screwed him up in some serious ways.
 
So when I started listening, I assumed that The Bad was that AJ had pursued a sexual relationship with a child. Because that’s how these stories always go.
 
Except not this time.
 
Instead, the abuse began three years in with AJ telling Cody, an avid and advanced World of Warcraft player, that WoW was evil, that the dark elements of the game were real, that there are demons fighting for his soul, and that the game invites them in. And they’d get him and he’d go to hell if he didn’t quit the game.
 
Cody was terrified and immediately told his mom he wanted to cancel his WoW account, to which she laughed and said, “it’s just a game!” When she learned AJ had been having these religious conversations with her very young, impressionable son, she confronted him and basically said, “You’re here to teach him basketball, and that’s all you need to ever do. Capiche?” AJ said, “okay.”
 
Of course he didn’t stop proselytizing the child; He just convinced Cody to keep it a secret.
 
Over the course of three incredibly impressionable years, AJ convinced Cody that he (AJ) was spiritually special and could physically see demons in Cody’s weight room, on the basketball court, at a another client’s house surrounding his dad. There was even a demon standing right behind Cody’s own mom, pressuring her to tell him WoW was okay. He convinced Cody that any bad play in basketball meant demons were attacking him, that the rapture was imminent and Cody needed to be spiritually ready (a sign of which would be Cody’s own ability to see demons), and that the Illuminati was a cult made up of demon-controlled people with a giant super computer in Belgium called The Beast, who wanted to implant computer chips in everyone’s hands and heads at the upcoming Olympics, which would usher in the rapture and doom all the Leftovers.
 
This rightly terrorized Cody, who — despite having all communication cut off once his parents discovered transcripts of Skype conversations in which AJ planted horror after horror in Cody’s mind, even telling him that his parents were going to try and force the implantation of the chip and that Cody’s response should be to call CPS on his abusive parents, “because sending your child to hell is child abuse” — had already internalized everything AJ had told him, and had already been running on amygdala fear for all these years.
 
He’d been thoroughly brainwashed. To the point of hiding under his college dorm bed, barely sleeping. To the point of refusing to go with his parents to London for the Olympics because he was sure he going to be killed. To the point of wanting to kill himself.

Okay, so I’m listening to all this, and here’s the crazy part for me:

To a lesser degree, this is all stuff I was taught growing up in my non-denominational churches. Hell as eternal conscious torment, demon possession, the Mark of the Beast, spiritual warfare, rapture readiness…it’s all pretty Standard Evangelical Doctrine (TM).

And while I’m hearing it, two things are happening:
I’m thinking, “oh yeah, that’s all the stuff I was taught, minus the Illuminati (we subbed in the Masons, but it was basically the same story), and with the extra bonus guarantee that if I was super definitely saved, satan and his demons wouldn’t be allowed to possess me. This isn’t weird at all. These parents may be over-reacting. I mean, I get you don’t want someone proselytizing your kid, but suing him? Really?!”
 
Because listen: I spent the entirety of my childhood repenting of forgotten sins just in case Jesus returned and just in case every sin had to be confessed for the salvation to “take”; And “recommitting my life to Christ” every single day because hell was too great a risk not to pray the Sinner’s Prayer every night. Again: Just in case. And I’m okay!
 
But I’m also thinking, “This is insanely, objectively abusive, and I’m incredibly lucky to have escaped relatively unscathed.” I can look back at it all and laugh at the absurdity, because I wasn’t terribly traumatized by it all. I didn’t walk away with PTSD or crippling anxiety and depression. Somehow, I figured I was saved and Jesus loved me so I was going to be okay, and otherwise didn’t worry all that much — except for my friends, who I proselytized the crap out of.
 
As a deconstructing/ed adult, I can openly laugh at the idea of hell as anything other than an obvious and poor construction of authoritarian religious bots seeking to control the masses through abject terror…
 
But as a parent?
 
I’m not scared of hell, but of those who preach it to my son. I’m not scared of hell, but of the AJs who want to trap my son in his own mind with a terror that I cannot reach and that he may never escape.
 
These Standard Evangelical Doctrines (TM) are vile spiritual/psychological abuses. They are evil on par with years-long sexual abuse — maybe worse, in that they infect vulnerable people with the abject fear of an unknown, unseen, utterly uncontrollable god who will torture them for eternity if they don’t do the rain dance the way he wants it done.
 

TL;DR: I Leave You With Two Truths:

First, if God exists, God is Love and there is no fear in LoveInstead, Love drives out fear.

Therefore, second, anyone whose evangelism or proselytizing carries the promise of eternal torture at the hands of a maniacal, wrathful higher power who delights in dangling you over the pit of hell, is an absolute lunatic, as is their god (which is self), and you should tell them so, then run far, far away.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Brianna LaPoint

    Well, heres my two cents, Ive been trying to say my peace with the progressive christians, most of the time my comments get deleted, more than likely by the person writing the articles. Ive concluded that the words progressive and christian just dont go together, they never have, and perhaps never will.

  • JD

    Can you explain why?

  • Julie Mattison

    Perhaps because many Progressive Christians have been damaged by “Christians” who seem more interested in rule keeping and righteously condemning people who don’t meet their mark. It is difficult to find any grace in your remark.

  • Angela Jones

    I was a devout Southern Baptist who fell in love with a Unitarian. Wow. That was a relationship doomed from the start unless one of us converted. Despite many tries in the first years of our marriage to get him to change, my husband wouldn’t budge because he kept putting forth this same question: If God is Love, how can there be Hell? If God Forgives ( and Jesus admonishes us to do the same), how can you condemn others who don’t think like you.? Why would a loving God punish good- hearted Hindus or Muslims? It doesn’t make sense and I became a progressive Christian. And we coexist very well. He remains a Unitarian who admires and tries to follow Jesus, and I still believe in Christ’s divinity but can’t stomach the hate-filled ultra conservative cults that call themselves Christians. I still cling to the concept of Hell for really evil people…can’t get past that…but…… Thanks for the article.

  • karenw25

    I started deconverting from evangelicalism about 4 years ago; I am currently somewhere between progressive Christian and agnostic. Getting past the belief in Hell was the major tipping point for me, because Hell is the fear that keeps all the other beliefs from being questioned. I realized that if Hell existed the way I was taught – as a place of eternal conscious torment for all those who have not accepted Christ – then I want no part of heaven. I could never be happy knowing that ANYONE was suffering for all eternity for nothing more than believing the wrong thing, and the idea that I wouldn’t care once I got to heaven (as some people would say) made me physically ill.

  • Susan Granade

    My path closely follows yours. I am resentful that I even ever had to hear about Hell.

  • Illithid

    Thank you. I’ve been trying to learn, and emotionally accept, that Christians aren’t all represented by the loud voices of hate. Things like this help.

  • WayneMan

    Yes hell and a loving God are quite the oxymoron. Some people are evil and deserve to be locked away from the rest of society, but even then we’re talking maybe 50 or 60 years worst case. To torture people for eternity, and some believe just for being in the wrong religion, is absurd. Only a monster would think such a punishment was just. And even before we get to that place (hell), millions face random indiscriminate misery and suffering every year from natural disasters and diseases. This is an environment one would expect to be “designed” by a sadistic evil entity, not a loving God. Then look at the sea and animal worlds. Jointly they must brutally kill and eat other creatures by the millions daily for their very survival. Again a blood and guts world “designed” by evil, not a loving God. It just does not make sense.

  • I’m glad I was raised in the Seventh-Day-Adventist Church because they do not believe there is an everlasting hell where people are tortured. There are hundreds of Bible verses that say God will destroy the wicked. There are three or four that seem like it lasts forever, but these are misinterpreted. The Lord says in the Old Testament, “As you have done, so it will be done to you.” Whether that means in this life or the next, it is a just punishment. I am very sorry for children who are brought up by people who tell them God is a torturer.

    I recently read a blog by a group who went to evangelize in Japan. They said people were drawn to Christ, but as soon as they were told their relatives were in hell, they said they could not worship God; they would rather be with their relatives. I don’t blame them! I also don’t believe God will keep everyone who has been raised Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu out of heaven. Paul says in Romans, that those who follow the conscience given to them by God will not be condemned.

  • This reminds me of the time I got into big trouble with my mum for giving my little brother nightmares. What had I done to him? I was so scared that he was going to hell that I’d told him all the stuff I’d been taught at church about the ‘rapture’ and the ‘tribulation’. Apparently it didn’t occur to my mum that this stuff was traumatising me, too!

  • Jeremy

    Thanks for this. I wonder if you can post some links to sites that will help folk be “untaught” on all this hell-bend, demon-under-the-bed kind of stuff?

  • Shirley Blake

    I was not raised to believe in hell (SDA) but we were taught about the great tribulation, l lake of fire etc. Strange how normal it all seemed as a kid. I would spend hours praying for protection and try to imagine how i would give up my life for Jesus and my family. It was actually in college at the private denominational school I went to that I started to learn that even people in my own religion didn’t necessarily believe all the stuff i had learned in private school and church. It gave me permission to recognize how warped my upbringing was and to question my own beliefs, I chose not to raise my children that way. And I always gave them permission to question and to discover what they believed for themselves. By the way I listed to that story also and was horrified. Thanks for another perspective, You are so right. Not so unusual really with church indoctrination.

  • saffiregal

    There is no such thing as eternal torment or suffering after ones death. . Hell fire proponents use that symbolic meaning as a literal condition. The word Hell means the grave and many are raised from it, or given life again in a new body. The word Gehenna means no resurrection.

  • Ron Reeser

    Refreshing, I also heard the same podcast and yes, run run run from the AJs of the world !!!

  • Craig

    There can only be two best moral outcomes for man.

    Either –

    1. There is No God and all life ends at the grave.

    Or

    2. There is an eventual Reconciliation between each and every Human Being with their Creator ( Universalism ).

    Do you disagree ?

    1. Before anyone was ever born…. Did God know for certain “exactly” who would go on into Everlasting Damnation… ( if He was to bring them into existence ) ?

    Yes or No ?

    2. Could God have refrained from bringing that person into actual existence?

    Yes or No ?

    3. Show or Explain how God subjecting a human being to unspeakable horrors and torments for trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions of years to never end … is being morally good TO that person.

  • As a child I was forced to attend fundy evangelical schools which totally turned me against Christianity. The kids were told that God the Father, on account of His righteousness, needed to torture his Son to death for our sins. And He would send little children in Africa to hell for the sin of not believing in Jesus, which was our parents’ fault for not contributing enough money to the missions. That was dubious enough. We were also told that rock & roll music is from the devil, especially Elton John, for reasons that were unclear to me at the tender age of 12. I knew in my heart that could not possibly be true, so I threw out the Babe with the bathwater and became an atheist for several years. In college I began the journey back to faith with the help of comparative religions, especially Hinduism, which gave me a fresh perspective on God. In my early 20s some Christian rock musician friends helped me rediscover Jesus in a new light, and I ended up at home in the Episcopal Church with its emphasis on the Liturgy and Sacraments rather than long-winded bombastic sermons. I can totally understand how people raised in the fundy hellfire and brimstone tradition often grow up to despise Christianity as it has been presented to them.

  • jimoppenheimer

    Great writing. The idea of a God “who loves us, but…”
    That’s the classic God of the literalists. The Bible says it and that settles it, however unsettling the meaning might be. And who believes this stuff? Well, the “Yes, of course — but…” people.
    Oh yes, God is a God of Love, but he is also a god of justice and cannot bear to look upon sin… (“Cannot bear to look upon sin??? Seriously? Who made us? And you seriously think He will send us to eternal torment because — although it goes against practically everything taught in scripture — it seems to be what the Bible says in a couple places, so there ya go….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ8hefESt7c

  • jimoppenheimer

    Great writing. The idea of a God “who loves us, but…”
    That’s the classic God of the literalists. The Bible says it and that settles it, however unsettling the meaning might be. And who believes this stuff? Well, the “Yes, of course — but…” people.
    Oh yes, God is a God of Love, but he is also a god of justice and cannot bear to look upon sin… (“Cannot bear to look upon sin??? Seriously? Who made us? And you seriously think He will send us to eternal torment because — although it goes against practically everything taught in scripture — it seems to be what the Bible says in a couple places, so there ya go….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ8hefESt7c

  • jimoppenheimer

    Great writing. The idea of a God “who loves us, but…”
    That’s the classic God of the literalists. The Bible says it and that settles it, however unsettling the meaning might be. And who believes this stuff? Well, the “Yes, of course — but…” people.
    Oh yes, God is a God of Love, but he is also a god of justice and cannot bear to look upon sin… (“Cannot bear to look upon sin??? Seriously? Who made us? And you seriously think He will send us to eternal torment because — although it goes against practically everything taught in scripture — it seems to be what the Bible says in a couple places, so there ya go….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ8hefESt7c

  • Brandon Roberts

    as a gamer myself these people make me laugh, if there is a god i’m sure he won’t damn you to hell just for enjoying wow and it’s not going to turn you into a baby eating satanist, hell the smt series has you recruiting and using demons to eventually kill either god (who wants to remove all free will usually) or lucifer (who usually wants total freedom) hasn’t turned me satanist and i like what of that series i played

  • Sierra Elii

    Different people are drawn to God by different means. Most people choose a method of witnessing that mirrors what brought them to Christ. Someone who was affected by a tract will praise that method. Some are touched by fire and brimstone preaching, others are won over by gentle gospel truths. Yes, I am using the Gospel Tracts and my favorite gospel tract is the English KJV GO! Gospel Bible Tracts, which I purchased from, http://www.gospeltracts.org who is sharing the message of Christ with all people worldwide.

    Thanks.

    Regards,
    Sierra

  • jamesparson

    I remember being a teenager and someone explained to that as Catholic, I was praising God the wrong way and I would end up in hell.

    Too me that made God very small. It isn’t enough that you tell him how wonderful he his, you have to do it the right way.

    That started to make me doubt all of it.

  • jamesparson

    I not sure I agree. Consider the Zero, One, Infinity Rule (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_one_infinity_rule)

    There could be an indefinite number of Gods. Just to get things down to one God is a huge problem all on its own.

    Then we have to get into all the possible things, in all the possible places, at all the possible points in time that all the possible thinking creatures, could possibly call a God.

    The size of this problem, is too large to be meaningfully discussed.

  • jamesparson

    What if Christianity were a product of human culture. Kind of like music, or art, or literature, or tradition. Then would it make sense?

  • jamesparson

    I am not sending any more money.

    If I am going to share anything, it will be my doubts, because I have so many. Maybe others will doubt the same things I do.

  • -MARK-

    As a Jew

    When someone said you are praying to God in the wrong way and will go to hell.. I would think they were wrong. Though I would appreciate their faith, which was stronger than ours

    My thoughts were if their was a God, God would not care how you prayed (again if God existed) and was more interested in you being a decent human being.

  • WayneMan

    All religions are a product of a culture. Divinity is not required. Born in India, highly likely Hindu. Born in Mexico, probably Catholic. Born in Egypt, Muslim. Religion is most a factor of where you were born and raised. They all make sense (sort of) as long as you recognize that they are all man made.

  • Tim

    “Instead, the abuse began three years in with AJ telling Cody, an avid and advanced World of Warcraft player, that WoW was evil, that the dark elements of the game were real, that there are demons fighting for his soul, and that the game invites them in. And they’d get him and he’d go to hell if he didn’t quit the game.”

    This is still a thing? Wow, er; The 80’s called, they want their satanic panic theology back!

    Honestly, this is no different to what I often heard Christians saying about Dungeons and Dragons back then.

  • Nimblewill

    That’s just great parenting right there. She still allowed the coach to influence her son because he would eventually become MVP?

  • Linnea912

    I’m reading this on a Sunday morning, having just returned from church, where we sang “Don’t Be Afraid”:

    Don’t be afraid
    My love is stronger
    My love is stronger than your fear

    That sums it up for me. God’s love is stronger than the fear that other people try to plant in us. We just have to learn to trust in that love. Not always easy (I speak from experience!) but well worth the effort.