Fear and uncertainty

Todays question is from Bishoy who asks…

Name: Bishoy
Message: Well, this will be long but please bear with me as my life is based upon this:

First off a historical background of me, I’m 20 year old guy, have been raised and baptized as Coptic orthodox Christian and I became an atheist when I was 15 because I saw one of my friends being persecuted for being a christian and I asked god why didn’t he defend him and I found no answer, and I stayed an atheist for 3 years because of this moral question, why doesn’t god protect innocent people.

But then when I became 18 years old I entered college and I read about Nick Vujicic (a motivational speaker and a preacher who was born limbless) and I thought that god doesn’t interfere in free will and then rewards or punishes people based on there deeds and I went back to church.

after about a year in church I started reading on the internet about if god exists or not and the reasons with or against that scientifically, and i found the big bang and evolution more convincing than creation (even though I find the big bang and evolution especially evolution imaginary a lot) so I was convinced with atheism mentally, but then i found a void, an emptiness, and also a fear from the christian hell which takes people who doesn’t accept Jesus, So I went back to the church just to fill the void, and to heal my fear, I also joined a course to be a deacon (a priest’s helper or something) but now I just don’t feel it’s right, I mean i just saw a movie about trains that get destroyed in poor areas, the movie showed stories for many train passengers and then the train was destroyed because some people stole the train bars, the movie bonded me with the characters and in the end they all died, and I thought, that happens in real life, those people are not numbers when you hear “100 persons were killed in a train wreck” kind of news and I thought that the world is totally random and if it’s random then there’s no creator nor a preserver for this universe.

I don’t know what to do, I mean should I stick with the church and ignore my mind to fill this emptiness (spiritual emptiness p.s. Buddhism didn’t help I studied it for about a month and was meditating but it didn’t help) and to eliminate my fear of hell, or should I stick with atheism even though I’m not sure 100% that god doesn’t exist just to stop accusing god of causing suffering (and it’s like accusing a unicorn of steeling your wallet, I mean you use invalid and imaginary excuses)

P.S. Sorry if I confused you but English is not my native language, please respond asap I’ve been looking for an answer for 5 years.

Hi Bishoy. Thanks for the question, and by the way your english is fine.

From what I understand from reading your email. your problem boils down to uncertainty and fear. On one hand you look at the injustices in the world, and as a compassionate empathetic human you ask yourself how a god who is supposed to be superior to humans, doesn’t seem to have the same compassion and empathy that you have? Then because of your relationship with christianity which teaches you to fear not believing in it’s god or spend eternity being tortured (which is neither compassionate nor empathetic) you feel a mixture of fear and guilt for not believing. In other words, your mind is telling you one thing, but your emotions are telling you another.

The first thing I want to tell you is to take a deep breath. What you’re feeling is very normal and a lot of others have felt the same way you do. The good news is that there are ways to overcome your fears and accept uncertainty.

First understand this, the reason you fear hell, is because that’s what you’ve been conditioned to fear. Do you fear traveling down the river Styxs and spending eternity at the whim and terror of the god Hades? No? Why not? Is it because you don’t believe in the Greek gods? Is it because you weren’t raised in that religion? Of course it is. Because you were never indoctrinated into it, you have no reason to fear it. Religion, and christianity especially has perfected over hundreds of years the art of motivation by fear. “You better believe or else” has been the war cry of religions since it’s inception. It’s how they keep people coming back.

The way I’ve found to overcome this is to first remember that whatever you have learned, you can unlearn. If you learned to be afraid of hell, you can learn to be unafraid of hell. For me, my fear of gods and their retributions left me when I studied the history of different religions and realized how impossible their gods were. For example when I realized that the christian god is so full of contradictions along with the obvious borrowing from other religions, I came to realize that the christian god didn’t exist. So if there’s no christian god, there’s no reason to be afraid of it is there?

Uncertainty is a good thing. I’m 99.9% sure the abrahamic god doesn’t exist, but I still leave room for error and new information. Now is there a reason to fear this god based on a 0.01% chance that it exists? You have better odds at winning the lottery then that. Do you fear losing the lottery? Of course not! Education is the answer to fear. We fear what we don’t understand and when we understand something we have no reason to fear it. There are a lot of great books and websites out there to help you educate yourself. If you think you’re smart enough, I recommend George H Smiths book, “Atheism: The case against god” as a great way to learn all of the arguments for and against gods. It’s not a light reading by any means, but it IS the closest thing to an atheist bible that you will ever find. Get it, read it, and you will find your fears and uncertainty start to fade away.

I hope that helps. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask in the comment section below. Thanks for stopping by!



2 thoughts on “Fear and uncertainty”

  1. Hi Bishoy
    The problem of theodicy (if there is a god, why is there evil/ why do bad things happen) has always been difficult for religion to solve. Some religions (Hinduism for e.g.) try to explain it through sins of people’s earlier lives effecting them now. But such explanations can lead to further problems (for e.g. people might become unwilling to help others as they may feel that “sins” need to be atoned). Some religious traditions explain evil by saying it is a part of the balance or a great cosmic game, but that ultimately good will triumph.
    There are numerous such odd-ball explanations offered by each religion, but I do not think any religious explanation cuts it.
    As a person who’s wasted a lot of time trying to get a proper explanation of the problem of theodicy from established or new age religions, my advice to you would be to not even bother. Religion cannot consistently explain it – period. Don’t waste your precious time.

    Viewed from a rational/ scientific viewpoint, life is generally unpredictable (a complex dynamical system if we are to use the terminology of chaos theory). So one should expect catastrophes and great events to happen. And they do happen. You can increase the stability of a chaotic system by making a few (sometimes minor , sometimes big) changes here and there. The same applies to life. We can avert catastrophes by making changes to our social structures and to our ways of living.
    And sometimes, things just can’t be solved. We have to live with the problems/ issues.
    This might not be a very comforting world view – but it does compel one to act and make changes.
    Regarding the fear and emptiness you feel – what you seem to to going through is what some religions describe as “the dark night of the soul”. The fear of the devil and hell is a bit childish – its basically like being afraid for some time (days/ weeks) after you’ve been told a horror story or seen a horror movie. I think you’ll gradually get over it.
    Let me try and address the emptiness / loneliness.

    I may be wrong, but I think you are searching for meanings or aims beyond ordinary existence. It would be so nice if a friend in the sky existed for us to cry up to whenever we are lonely. And if that friend had a plan for us which would be revealed to us in due course wouldn’t that be great? That might make our lives coherent and simplified. We would not have to bear the burden of making our own aims and thinking our lives through – everyone would share a universal aim.
    But would such a life be meaningful? At the end of the day we would end up doing the bidding of our “friend” up there – and who knows if he/ she/ it has his/ her/ its head screwed up straight, if it exists.
    Once you step away from the god paradigm, you have to start being responsible for your own meanings and aims. One has to stop looking for dictated aims. Initially, this can lead to sorrow and emptiness and maybe even a sense of meaninglessness. The friend we so believed in is gone … our lives have no aims or meaning anymore and ultimately everyone will die so what’s the point?
    But gradually, after we say goodbye to our imaginary friend and start accepting responsibility for our lives. When we start understanding that life is complicated and things sometimes just happen randomly and start thinking things through, there is an immense sense of freedom. You start being more open, you start learning more, you start understanding things and perspectives better. It may look difficult at the beginning – there is no false sense of comfort or hope to fall back on. But if you persist, you’ll probably find that you are be able to enjoy, evaluate, solve and endure things that life throws up much more easily.

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