Dreaming of Hell

Question from Huzur:
Hello. I’m a twenty five years old male. I don’t believe in god anymore. Not until 15 at least. However sometimes my mind scares me, such as going to hell for eternity. So my question is: Do other atheists also ever get any christian themed nightmares?

Answer by SmartLX:
I don’t, but many atheists who were raised as Christians certainly do. Here’s a bunch of them talking about it.

I can honestly say that I don’t remember ever dreaming of Hell or the equivalent. I consider myself lucky that my old Catholic primary school and church were light on the fire and brimstone, and my separation from them was not charged with emotion. While I believed, I was very serious about sin and punishment, but now I just get the odd pang of unexplained guilt.

Depending on the severity of your religious upbringing, the fear you suffered as a child may qualify as clinically defined psychological trauma, and you could now be suffering post-traumatic stress. You don’t need to have been to Vietnam to get this, anything which scares or horrifies a person enough can trigger it. Regardless, if the nightmares and the fear keep up you might want to try counselling.

Richard Dawkins talks about this kind of thing a lot. He goes so far as to label scaring kids with hellfire as child abuse, and suggests that it can in some cases be worse than sexual abuse. That sounds extreme, but there is some terrible indoctrination out there (Nate Phelps, formerly of the Westboro Baptist Church, has a harrowing story) and some very mild and ineffectual sexual abuse (Dawkins himself was fondled by a priest as a child, and merely thought it was “yucky”). His detractors have claimed that he wants to have children removed from religious parents, but of course he’s never suggested anything like this.

Although your experience is not universal, you are far from alone. Take comfort in that, and in the fact that it can get better over time. Maybe you could use some help, maybe you’re fine, but I really feel for you.

One thought on “Dreaming of Hell”

  1. My parents’ religion is Hinduism and I studied in a catholic school and often sneaked into cathecism classes at school (we used to have a moral science class for the non-catholic and it used to be so boring compared to the stories I got to hear in cathecism).

    Hinduism has no concept of hell as such. There is supposed to be a god (a god!, not even a devil) called Yama who comes to collect your soul and then puts you in heaven or in netherworld. Nether world involves haunting places, being exposed to evil souls, doing menial tasks for Yama etc (Yama is a bit of a grumpy god). Basically being treated badly for the rest of your astral life.
    And then at the end of your spiritual ill-treatment you get reborn to bear the brunt of your past lives’ sins.

    Different religions tend to have different beliefs about heaven and hell. Dreams of heaven or hell probably occur because we get indoctrinated with the religion of our parents as little children.
    Dreams or idle thoughts should not be taken too seriously in my view. They are probably just the mind throwing up stuff while it processes, files the day’s experiences and does general maintenance work while we are sleeping.

Comments are closed.