It has been nearly five years since I considered myself a Christian and about two years since I decided I no longer believe in God, heaven, hell, or devils and demons. During that time, I have expressed those thoughts aloud a few times, but only to close friends. I never felt “weird” about saying them. People have asked me if ever had a moment where I feared going to hell or otherwise being chastised or punished by God and I honestly replied that I had not.
But something weird happened to me recently on the way to work. I was listening to an episode of the excellent Human Bible podcast with Dr. Robert M. Price. At one point, Dr. Price said something about a particular atrocity of God as described in the Bible — to which I impulsively said aloud, “That’s because God is an asshole.”
At that moment, for just a split second, a sort of panic set in as what I had just said out loud registered consciously. It wasn’t that I was scared or terrified. Just a bit uneasy and somewhat astonished at myself. I suppose it was decades of religious indoctrination kicking against me at the basest level of cognition. I was talking about a god I had once praised in worship! To have uttered such a thing would have been unthinkable a few years ago. But there it was. “God is an asshole.”
(Of course, I don’t really think God is an asshole, any more than I think Satan, Darth Vader, “all of the other reindeer”, or any other fictional characters are.)
The panicky feeling passed quickly and soon I was back to feeling nothing at all emotionally about God. But for just the briefest of moments, the old programming in my brain kicked in and I remembered what it was like to fear God.
That was powerful. And it helped to remind me why it is so hard for people who are still under the influence of religious programming to break free of it.
It also reinforced how freeing and stress-releasing it was to lay all the old religious baggage aside and embrace a life of freethought. There is enough real stuff in life to stress over without worrying about bronze age mythology.