All fear of hell ever did for me was keep me from giving up Christianity.
The reason I didn’t do things like smoke, drink, have sex, sneak out of the house, etc. when I was younger was because I was too scared to–both of the danger of doing those things, and of the repercussions of getting caught. I hated punishment, of course, but I hated disappointing Mom and Dad more. My goal was to make them proud of me.
Of course, I wasn’t exactly pristine. I started getting weird ideas when I turned 15 and found Bulletin Board Services like The Night Watcher. In fact, the first time I considered sneaking out (but didn’t do it, of course), was because I wanted to go to a party hosted by a BBS friend, and I didn’t think Mom would go for it.
There were also private things that I was going through that made me truly hate myself. I don’t know why, but I never quite bought the absolution from all sins thing. Either that, or I was too prideful to accept it. I didn’t want to need to be forgiven. I thought I was a sucky Christian, and because I was unable to force myself to be worthy–or I was too lazy to do so, as I often thought–I was absolutely miserable. The whole thing about not having to be worthy, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, well, that just didn’t apply to me, because I was supposed to be better than that.
It was those things that started me down the road to losing my religion–and getting cancer, facing death, and surviving was what gave me the courage to actually discard it. Because, yes, for years I was forcing myself to “believe”, out of a fear of hell. There was a moment in the hospital when I had a fever of 105. I remembered Mom saying that you could die from a fever that high. As I lay there, closing my eyes against the dizziness, feeling my consciousness floating hazily around, I thought, “I could just go ahead and die.” And for the first time, it didn’t scare me.
I don’t think I ever actually stopped believing in God, though, because I hated him for years thereafter. My most frequent question was, “Why did he let me live?” At the time, I didn’t see the point. Not if I was going to be childless.
Sean was the one who pulled me out of my despair and gave me a reason to live. Seriously. He forced me to stop moping around, to embrace life, and I am so glad he did. I wouldn’t have any of the wonderful things I have now if I’d continued on like that.
So now I consider myself agnostic, because there might be a God and there might not, and I have no idea what the nature of that God is. I at once like and dislike the idea that “everything happens for a reason”. If there was a reason for me to have cancer and to become possibly sterile, I don’t know if I find that comforting. I can think of two huge “reasons”: so Dad would stop drinking, and so I could meet Sean. And those two things are great, and you’d think I could live with making a sacrifice for such wonderful things, but I’m selfish. Everyone who reads this journal knows how much I want kids.
Having cancer also gave me the time to learn web design, and kick-started my college career after a relapse. So these are also plusses. But in the face of never being a mommy, those things seem pretty pale.
If there is no reason for anything, on the other hand, then that puts the responsibility on me to add meaning to my life, and I’m scared that all I’ll do is drop the ball.
At any rate, I don’t think I can ever go back to Christianity. My self-destructive personality does not thrive under that religion. I don’t know that I will never go back to religion in general. The unitarian universalists, for example, are pretty interesting. Right now, however, I just feel like I want to let things “sink in” some more.