Positive Atheism Forum
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Do You Suffer From
Anthony Burgess's
'Vestigial Fear Of Hell'?

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: J. Gaslin
Subject: Re: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: Thursday, September 14, 2000 11:22 PM

First, we do poke fun at religion, though I have been moving away from this approach. Our "Coverage of the Inevitable Apocalypso" is a collection of news stories along these lines, and my column called "You Intellectually Dishonest 'Thinkers'!" still makes me laugh, as does my piece, "The Animated Thinking of Rev. Jerry Falwell." Most of my humor is far from tasteless, but I reserve the option of not being polite to superstition, but tackling it "with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous" as Scopes trial reporter H. L. Mencken said. Sarcasm also was the approach of Voltaire and Twain, but is much more subdued today than it was in Mencken's heyday.

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To overcome the "vestigial fear of hell," as Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess so aptly described it, would be quite an accomplishment. Just look up vestigial in the dictionary and you'll have half the problem licked. Burgess was right on the money when he used this word!

Author Isaac Asimov says he never had Burgess's problem, but I have this problem something fierce -- and be aware that I was not raised religious at all. I control it the way Burgess did: I keep reading and re-reading the classic Freethought literature. You could do a lot worse than Robert Green Ingersoll, who attacks with precision and ferocity the notion that a loving god would condemn anyone to an eternity in the Christian hell. We have posted almost all of the "Ingersoll's Greatest Lectures" collection put together by Joseph Lewis, and we've also posted the original edition of Lewis's book-length collection of Ingersoll quotations called Ingersoll the Magnificent. (The American Atheists' reprint is highly flawed: avoid it if you can get your hands on the original; it's not impossible to find.)

Thomas Paine also had some choice words on the matter. Both were easily the finest writers of their respective times, and both used their skills to deal with this problem that many of us endure. We also have posted Joseph Lewis's book-length collection of Paine quotations called Inspiration and Wisdom from the Writings of Thomas Paine. Paine's book on religion is called The Age of Reason.

I went to the trouble of converting this material to e-text and then to HTML for a reason: After reading from either author, I feel almost whole again. Having gone through the process of editing, re-editing and then giving it a third once-over, this material has now become an integral part of me. I must read a piece four different times in order to post it.

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and Oscar Wilde also had some very pertinent things to say, and both are heavily featured in our Big List of Quotes. Log onto our List of Quotes for general inspiration, or to find out who you want to start reading next, but dig into Ingersoll and Paine when you want to deal with the "vestigial" spooks!

That's the best I can do, and what I do for myself is the best I can recommend to you.

Perhaps Asimov knew something we didn't; perhaps Asimov never learned the dogma of hell-fire like we did; perhaps Asimov was not being candid about his thoughts when he told Burgess (?) that this was never a problem for him.

(Or perhaps a few of us who endure these thoughts suffer from something similar to a panic disorder or some other form of depression. I'd pursue this angle if my problem was seriously impairing my quality of life or was threatening to prompt me to join a cult. But I'd place my problem only into the hands of a skilled and seasoned psychiatrist; I'd never go to a family physician to diagnose a problem such as this. But this angle has crossed my mind a few times, and this is the way I would approach it if I thought there was something to the depression idea.)

An understanding of the origins of human superstition may also help. I have found it helpful. In his book Physics and Psychics, physicist Victor J. Stenger described how religion was used to keep people in line with the advent of the cities (Chapter 4). Those who tended toward credulity survived, and those who tended to think for themselves were suppressed and systematically executed. (The word heresy, by the way, means "choice.") Thus, the tendency toward superstition has been "unnaturally" selected into the human species for at least ten thousand years. This is one way to explain why humans are so superstitious in this age of reason and scientific advancement.

With this understanding, I don't have to think there is something "wrong" with me for lapsing into the fears you describe, or for feeling a tug every time I drive by a nice looking church building. True, I don't like it when my mind plays these tricks on me, but I now can avoid the harrowing experience of thinking that there is something wrong, or that I am wrong for not going along with these reflexive urges which are nothing short of hallucinatory thoughts.

Finally, one of our list subscribers wrote a tiny piece countering the Pascal's Wager bit that you mention. I will repeat it here:


"Why Don't You Just Be An Atheist?"
by Austin Cline

Why don't you just be an atheist? If there is a god, and it is moral and loving and worthy of respect, then it won't mind if people have rational doubts about it and have rational reasons for not believing in it. This god won't punish people for exercising their critical thinking skills and are skeptical of the claims of other, fallible humans. Thus, you wouldn't lose anything.

And if there is a god who punishes people for rational doubt, why would you want to spend an eternity with it anyway? Such a capricious, egotistical, and nasty god wouldn't be much fun. If you can't trust it to be as moral as you are, you can't trust it to keep it's promises and make heaven nice or even let you stay for long. Not spending eternity with such a being doesn't sound like much of a loss.


Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Serving those without theism for five years

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From: "JohnPaul Slater"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Monday, September 18, 2000 1:26 PM

Cliff --

The fear of Hell is it? I tell you there's worst things than Hell.

Back in the 50's in county Cork, I was placed in the tender educational care of the Good Sisters.

To digress, my Gran said that when she was a girl on the farm they always called the fairy folk "The Good People". Not that they were "good" mind you. Far, far from it. But they might be lurking about, out of sight, planning on doing you harm, and you had to watch what you said.

So anyway, I was going to school with the "Good" Sisters and one morning Sister says to us "Boys, one of the worst sins a boy can commit is the sin of self-abuse! What sin is it boys?"

"Self-abuse, Sister," We chorus back.

Hmmm, I think to myself, I wonder what class of a sin she's talking about? You don't think -- gasp -- she couldn't mean -- how could she even know about that?

"Boys who abuse themselves are sure to be stuck blind," she declares and then goes on to prove it by explaining that this is how the blind man who Jesus healed became blind in the first place.

Yikes! The sweet Lord Jesus isn't going to wait till you're dead to make your life miserable, this is such a grand sin. And it's my new hobby, I'm doomed.

"Plead to the Blessed Virgin to intercede with her Son, you boys, before it is too late!"

There are no whiter skinned boys than Irish boys. And no whiter Irish boys than a class whose blood has drained to their feet. Is it any wonder that so many turn to the drink? A Guinness and cookie break would have been welcome at this point.

I believe Sister went on to become science adviser to the Kansas Board of Ed.

So it's not two weeks latter that I find myself standing in the back of the classroom with a scrap of cardboard over one eye squinting at Sister's eye chart, muttering the names of letters that I don't see.

"You, boy," she snarls at my depravity, "you need glasses."

Hell? I'll tell you about Hell. Not one of my classmates didn't know why a boy would need glasses!!! And me with no Saviors wandering about the streets curing those who had been struck myopic for their sins.

I was saved only by a timely move to the States where there are a lot of sinners so I didn't stick out with my horn rims.

Now it's almost half a world and almost half a century later. If I'm a bit vain of my intellectual achievements, if my sophistication isn't that of the old country, well who can blame me. The Blessed Virgin Mary and her Loving Son are neatly tucked in the same trunk, in my mental attic, that holds the Fairy Folk.

But -- but --

When you get to be a man in his -- mmm -- ahh -- prime -- yes, that's it, his prime, the doctors like to give you extensive exams. Sure there's more poking and prodding than is seemly. And how did this child get to be a doctor anyway? And when he smiled and stuck his hands on his hips and shook his head and said, "Well, it looks like it's time for bifocals."

Yikes !!!!

-- JP

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From: "Gregory Tinker"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Friday, September 15, 2000 10:24 AM

First of all, although I have decided that theism is false (or is it "theisms are false?"), I cannot agree with the statement that "atheism is the answer". I know it is almost old hat to rehash this, but atheism is not an "alternate viewpoint" -- like Islam or Judaism, etc -- at its basest level, atheism is the complete lack of a viewpoint. Atheism in and of itself provides no answers. I think that once I realized this, I was able to finally set the vestigial fear aside, because I realized that theism in and of itself provides no answers either.

I think that somewhere in here is the reason why people of most all religions will put aside their differences long enough to gang up on the atheist -- deep down they may know or suspect the same, but their religion doesn't allow that. Their leaders tell them otherwise, and it is ground in from birth: atheists are evil, they lie to themselves, their lives are hollow shells with no meaning. Your religion puts meaning in your life.

The reality of the situation is quite the opposite. Most atheists I know -- except for a few extremely hedonistic types -- are quite satisfied with the amount of meaning that they can pack in. They also know from past experience that the meaning they ascribe is far superior to the ubiquitous meaning that somebody else's notion of a god gives them. The theists I know, for the most part (I would say 80 percent), are the ones who lack contentment and satisfaction. Some of them are quite happy, but most of them are always looking for meaning, for "God to light the way," etc. The ironic thing is that they are just as hedonistic as the minority of hedonistic atheists that I know. They refuse to accept that just being a Christian or whatever has no inherent value. It confers no moral superiority, it provides you with no special insight into life's problems.

Just because I'm a Bears fan doesn't mean I get to play on the team.

The ones who work at their lives are content. Bottom line. For the rest of them, fear tends to be the motivation. Sometimes the only motivation. Scary.

You want to put the fear aside? Fill your life up. Make it so good and rich that no one can take it away from you with simple religious rhetoric.


PS -- if that doesn't work, then just resign yourself to the fact that you're gonna burn. There's quite a few Jews in line ahead of you for those 144,000 slots. Better convert now.

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From: "Satan"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Friday, September 15, 2000 3:33 AM


I have never had a fear of hell. Ever. I liked the imagery though. I loved it! I've drawn more demons than anything else. I just consider them to be really good metaphors.

I did believe in hell on occasion though. Just it always sounded appealing to me. I always thought that Satan got a bad rap (never did much wrong in the bible) and God (did all the evil) was spreading lies about the coool-ass party that was going on. I mean, all the really cool people they say are going to hell. Just think, all the porn stars would be there! All the rock stars! All the cool celebrities! There'd be orgies! There'd be drinking and drugs! The more I thought about it, the better it sounded!

At the very worst, I thought of hell as a boot camp for demons. This didn't scare me either. At that point in my life I was very depressed and angry. It made me happy to think that I'd get to hurt people and be a kick ass demon that everyone was intimidated by. Fuck yeah! The idea kept me going.

Now, though, when I think of hell I just laugh. There is no hell. I'm 100 percent positive. Life is the only place that hell can exist. And I do fear that. But I cannot be afraid of imaginary things.

~ Matt

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To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Sat, 7 Oct 2000 22:15:20 EDT

I am not an atheist, but neither do I believe in an eternal hell. Once one understands about group dynamics and how people can and are manipulated to do things they don't want to do, the idea of an eternal hell becomes even more inapplicable. I believe in more of a purgatory, which is hinted at in psalms. Spent most of my life terrified of hell. Now I believe in a loving God.

Speaking of judgment, ever notice how sex tends to vent the exact same emotion? The "sex addicts" I know tend to have better social skills, though.

Good luck,


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From: "Tom"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial' Fear of Hell?
Date: Wednesday, September 20, 2000 2:42 AM

Dear Cliff,

One good way of combating the "vestigial fear" is to talk to a liberal Christian (Jew/Moslem/etc) about it. These people rarely condemn unbelievers, and many of them are very lovely people to boot.


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From: "Boyd Dunford"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial' Fear of Hell?
Date: Monday, October 02, 2000 10:50 PM

If you have truly decided that theism is false then there cannot be a hell, as hell can only exist along with a belief in theism. I have truly decided that theism is false, therefore I have no fear of hell, vestigial or otherwise. The downside of it is that I don't anticipate going to heaven, but I at least don't have to waste a lot of time wondering or worrying about either.

Boyd Dunford

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From: "Yevgenya Shevtsov"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial' Fear of Hell? 9450
Date: Tuesday, September 19, 2000 10:40 PM

About Asimov: He was raised Jewish, and Jews don't believe in Hell. I wonder if that might have affected Sagan also.


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From: "Bill Garrett"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial' Fear of Hell?
Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2000 8:14 PM

I suffered that vestigial fear for a very long time. Early conditioning is the hardest to break. It was worst when I was considering atheism. After I became convinced of the unreality of god and the impossibility of the vengeful old testament god, the fear vanished. But it took quite a long time.

If your mind is looking for a half-way stage to rest in, you might take a look at a book I've been reading, The Jesus Mysteries by Freke and Gandy. It explores the esoteric and Gnostic teachings of Jesus and St. Paul, among other things. An interesting concept of the Gnostics was that they considered the literal interpretation of scriptures to be false, and the stories of the wrathful punishing god to be tales to scare children. The true god, they said, did not have personal human-like attributes or even an individual existence. I found these kinds of concepts useful in making the break from the fundamentalist version of god to no god at all. Sometimes you have to get there in small steps.

Hope this helps,


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From: "Kay F Gibbs"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Friday, September 15, 2000 9:43 AM

It's funny you should ask this specific question. First let me introduce myself. My name is Kay and I am neither a committed Atheist nor a committed Theist and I'm not "riding the fence" but more to the point, I'm searching for the truth. Let me say now, that "there is no physical hell." If you make a mistake or commit a crime, I cannot say that you will not suffer some emotional response or maybe go to jail, but "God will not send you to some fiery Hell."

If you go to jail, it may "feel" like hell. I struggled with this "psychological" problem for nearly twenty years of my life. I was tormented by the movie "The Exorcist" for 15 years. I don't just mean scared but suffered such a degree of unbearable mental anguish that I nearly destroyed myself from abusing alcohol and drugs because I was afraid to go to sleep at night for fear of being "possessed." "My" fear lead me down a road I would never wish on anyone.

The best years of my life were wrecked. Why? Because I didn't understand anything beyond what I had been taught. The only thing I had been taught psychologically was religion and I just couldn't get it until now. The minister we had when I was growing up taught us ... tried to "control" us with his "hell fire and damnation" sermons. Before that, in order to become a "member" of the church I had to read the first four chapters of the New Testament. I was only 12 years old. I didn't understand anything I read but I believed it. I didn't understand the difference between "belief" and "truth". I never discussed it with my parents.

When I was a Junior-Senior in high-school I still attended church until I realized how hypocritical the members of the church were. This I did not understand. People were judging other members of the church and passing judgment on other Religions. We were not suppose to do that. That was the last time I attended church on a regular basis. I tried other religions, Catholicism, Unitarian, Baptist, etc. I tried reading about different religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc. None of them seemed to give me the answers or understanding I was looking for.

I joined Alcoholics Anonymous, still looking for answers. I read the "Big Book" and "worked" the 12 steps. That opened a door for me, but it didn't keep me away from alcohol. I ended up in a treatment center. There I met Dr. Mary Ann McNeil. She was the first person in nearly 6 years of attending AA that finally helped me understand I could possibly be "addicted" to alcohol. I had studied Psychology in college and some in highschool, so I decided to give it a shot. This is when I began to "feel free", because I began to understand "myself."

In 1987-88 I discovered Bertrand Russell's book, "Why I am not a Christian." Finally, here was someone I could identify with, even if it was only through a book he had written and it seemed he was honest. Then I discovered Carl Jung. The first book I read was "Man and his Symbols." Here, Jung helped me understand "my fear of being possessed." This opened up a whole new way of thinking for me. I also read "The Power of Belief," well I could take up a lot of space listing books I've read. Some of the titles I've even forgotten.

To move on, I eventually came across the Psychiatric term "catharsis." I then realized the AA 4th step was the same thing. One of the helpful aspects of the 4th step is "writing things down." So you can rid yourself of the thoughts that cause your fear by writing them down and telling someone, which in essence is what you have done here. I keep a journal now, and I keep a dream journal. I would like to say one last thing.

In my pursuit of "is there a God or isn't there," I gained some insight. After pondering the book of Genesis, I concluded that the person who wrote the book, was giving an account of his own personal experience with the understanding that he had at the time and I believe that person to be Moses. The Hebrews chose Moses to be their leader and Moses then became "God" to his people, and lead them out of Egypt. I also believe in his efforts to save his people, he wrote the ten commandments. For example, when he wrote, "Do not take God's name in vain, I think he meant, "I will give you my name, honor it. So, let me say this, in this respect God does exist, as today we have many elected and many self-appointed "Gods" or leaders.

They can lead you any where you want if you allow them to, i.e. Bill Wilson, creator of the AA 12 steps, David Koresh, Farrakhan, Malcolm X, Jim Jones, our President, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Linus Pauling, Bertrand Russell, Jesus Christ and so forth and so on.

So to answer the question "Do you suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'"? The answer is emphatically, no.

May the Force Be With You,


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From: George Wolf
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Friday, September 15, 2000 4:52 AM

We are "driven to Hell" by our own guilt. How simple it is to remember the days when you thought that a ritual act of forgiveness or other prayer was the remedy for whatever you thought was bad behavior. Now that you know that some behavior has consequences that go far beyond any such act, you have hopefully learned something that those who still perform those rituals have never learned. I think an Atheist has as much or more of a conscience because of this than a Theist.

I feel no guilt when I pass a church. I instead feel resentment that the people who built the church make their living by tricking themselves and their followers.

I feel no pang when I see missionaries on the street offering to "save my soul." Instead, I debate them. Whether I "win" or "lose" is immaterial to me. I am glad I've wasted their time and made it a little harder for them to spread their sweet poison any further. I consider it a civic duty.

George Wolf

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From: "Larry"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Hell
Date: Friday, September 15, 2000 4:46 AM

The fear of hell has never been a problem because the cult I was in as a child did not believe in a hell . I had no idea that the idea of hell could remain a problem even after a loss of belief in a god.You had some good ideas how to overcome this.

The problem I have had is facing the idea of eternal nothingness , eternal death. At times it seems to be a cosmic joke. We are given a taste of life only to realize that it ends in eternal darkness. Its really quite a shame, isnt it.


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From: Art Haykin
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Friday, September 15, 2000 12:20 PM

In my view, the rapidly emerging "memetic theory" seems to address the "vestigial" element in persisting, irrational fears and beliefs. The book "Thought Contagion" covers this well.

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Art responds:

Good question.

Of course, the meme is not a palpable entity, only a "process." The saturation of an idea (or a jingle, or popular song, for that matter) will embed itself into the psyche and remain, often in spite of one's loathing of it. Have you ever caught yourself humming a hated commercial jingle like "You deserve a break today, at McDonalds," or "Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint, Doublement, Doublemint gum?"

No doubt a self-generated imperative could do the same ... I don't know. The "big lie" thing comes to mind: If you tell it long enough and often enough, not only will many around you believe it, but you'll come to believe it. Stuart Chase said it best "Habits of a lifetime are hard to break." My 75 year old sister said something to me recently that drove the point home: "Ya know, little brother, when I clean house, I still do it as if mother was watching!"

First we are human, then we are everything else.

Losing an illusion makes one wiser than finding a truth.

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From: Ken Whitley
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Fwd: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Friday, September 15, 2000 2:18 PM

This is a common fear of ordinary God loving folks. War caused some men in Vietnam to find God while in my case it was the exact opposite. Prior to when I switched religious sides in 1969 and for sometime afterward I read books such as "All the Religions of the World Made Simple." I thought for a time I might find God through another system of Religion other than what I had been raised with from childhood. I read "The Immortalist," by Rex Harrison. I read "If You Meet The Buddha On The Road Kill Him."

Eventually I became personally convinced that my God didn't exist. Once a person is convinced there isn't a God then there is no longer any fear from God. My fear now is more from God's children here on earth who despise those who differ from them. They preach love and life after death to control and manipulate the masses. Religion is the drug of choice by the masses. God is nothing more than an invisible father figure and there by forcing people to become children.

It takes God's to create Gods. I am neither a sinner nor a child. I am a man.

Ken Whitley

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To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Sunday, September 17, 2000 4:19 PM

I wish to take a shot at addressing this vestigial fear of Hell, from which I have suffered from myself. The best way to deal with this is to get to know the Bible. It presents the case that God is an all-knowing, all-powerful supernatural being who created the universe. He is also portrayed as being merciful and righteous being. However, the Bible present us with information that contradicts these assertions.

God tells the Israelites, before entering into the promised, that when the time has come for them to have a king, the king should not accumulate much wealth or gold. However, when Solomon pleases God, God gives him the very things that He has said earlier that the king should not have. To me that would be a lot like God saying that we are not to fornicate but then turn around a provide us with a prostitute.

God on one hand says that only those who commit a sin should be punished and that there descendants should not be punished. But the Bible is full of examples where God punishes the descendants of the guilty party.

God's mercy comes into question after reading Judges chapter 19 to the end of the book. There you find God helping to avenge the death of one concubine, but as a result, thousands upon thousands are killed in battle and one atrocity follows another. It is a "beautiful" story and I wholeheartedly suggest reading it. This story also calls into question the efficacy of prayer to God.

Francis Bacon once said that "knowledge itself is power." The best way to gain power over this fundamentalist Hell is to have knowledge of the Bible itself and to look at all the contradictions that the Bible presents us with.

If there is a God, then it can not be this cosmic screw up that we find in the Bible.

I wish all who struggle with this vestigial fear a good nights sleep from now on and forever.

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From: "Henry Burke"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2000 12:57 AM

I would imagine that you are coping with it by recognizing that you have been subjected to a sort of brain-washing.

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From: "Janet Voska"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Tuesday, September 19, 2000 6:11 PM

I am alive -- I have no memory beyond 2 or 3 years from my birth.

I will die -- I know not when.

My earliest memories are of curiosity and a sense of exploration of my world by my own wits -- I was in "heaven." I was alive.

I had no wish to harm another -- I had no desire to destroy, or to prove my supremacy over my environment -- I only saw what I envisioned.

And it was good.

And I met others who told me I was "odd", and "selfish" and "bad."

And I was introduced to "Sin," and shame and guilt.

But I was not introduced to reason, to justice, to fair-play, to nobleness.

Mercy I came by naturally, love I came by naturally, forgiveness was a stretch.

I have loved the "unsaved." And I have known their "sorrows". And I know that at one time in their lives they were as I was as a gift of the universe and I spit in the face of any "God" who would so cruelly manipulate such innocense to "His" everlasting "glory."

But, it is Man's "God" who would condone such cruelty, and that "God" is not mine.

I am without a "god" system of belief.

But I am with love, with charity, with hope -- I am with curiosity, with awe, with knowledge.

I am a Freethinker.

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From: "Bobbi Needham"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Friday, October 27, 2000 12:12 AM

Fear of hell?

How can a rational human being fear what does not exist?

I was raised on hellfire and brimstone as a child, but at some point I realized I had to learn to think for myself. The answers to the religious questions I asked of the priests and nuns in the parochial school I attended were utterly contradictory to the professed church doctrine of a loving and merciful god, absolutely ridiculous and unbelievable, even for a 9 year old. So I decided to investigate for myself. I began to read the bible.

That education was far more valuable than anything I ever learned in the school system. I had no go- between interpreting the material according to his biased opinion, and I got a first hand look at the taboos, mandates, self contradictory pseudo-history, and voodoo mentality of the writers of this farce of a document. Only the human male could concoct the vicious savagery, intense jealousy, unbelievable vindictiveness, warped sense of justice, and obvious fear and loathing of womankind that appears in the pages of this abomination.

This book and the mythical deity it is based on are monuments to man's unconquerable fear of the inevitability of death. He will go to any lengths, including hypnotizing himself into overriding his capacity to reason, in order to deny his mortality.

Yes, I do experience fear - profound fear. But my fear lies in the very real possibility of living beyond my usefulness, living with excruciating and unrelenting pain, becoming a burden on family and society, and reaching a point where I am ready and eager to face death, in a society which views ones wish for the peace of eternal oblivion as the ultimate taboo, and is determined to pass laws which would deny me the option of a death with dignity. To find myself in this position would be hell for me.

Death is the perfectly natural, logical and inevitable conclusion to life. Without death, life would be it's own hell. Think about it. Eternity in heaven. Life without end, Amen! Once you've experienced everything there is to experience, done everything there is to do a million times, listened to the same tired tales ad nauseum, groomed your wings and sung the same praises for millennia, looked at the same faces till you want to scream, and realize you still have forever and ever to repeat, repeat, repeat .....death would begin to look pretty good!

As Shakespeare so eloquently put it "'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished".

And as another deep thinker, Forest Gump said, "That's all I have to say about that!"

Bobbi Needham

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Added: May 31, 2002

From: "Mike"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Thursday, April 05, 2001 8:39 AM

My answer might seem strange but whenever I feel that I have crossed some line, I take up my bible. I read the absurd passages, which begin in exodus but end in revelations and I feel better. Once upon a time I feared that my salvation was in question but every time I read the bible I am more secure in my self worth.

Ignorance runs rampant and bloodshed is called for as an appeasement. Chronicles 15:13, kill Jews, whether adult or child. Exodus 22:18, kill supposed "witches" as well as Leviticus 20:27. Leviticus 21:9, burn a girl on a stake if she is thought to have been with a man. Leviticus 24:14, smash the heads of any who do not agree with the Christian faith. Luke 19:27, kill people who do not agree with your religion. Jeremiah 48:10, slice and dice folks of other religions. The list goes on and on, the bible lays it out for all to see. Beyond simply reading the bible, go into a chat room sometime. Last night a compassionate Christian told me that every one of the Jews that died in the concentration camps are now burning in hell. Personally, I think that the Christian belief is a cancer of society.

Were they not so outspoken and active in government, I would ignore them and take a passive standpoint. However, it is impossible to ignore their influence on our leaders and their stance on stamping out everything that does not conform to the so called "holy scripture."


Graphic Rule

From: "Val Henson"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2001 7:31 AM

For me, the very last obstacle to becoming a freethinker was the fear of hell. I now believe with absolute certainty that nothing occurs after death, but it took some work to get there.

My first defense was continually repeating to myself that I had no reason to believe that hell was real despite my extremely real fear of hell. I did suffer a brief setback in college after reading one of those Reader's Digest near-death experience articles. Those are toughies -- light at the end of the tunnel, floating over your body, et cetera.

At the time, I didn't have any explanations for the near-death stories but I was skeptical of relying on anecdotal personal stories as the sole reason to believe anything. Evenutally I did learn non-supernatural explanations for many near-death experiences. For the two I mentioned, "tunnels" are common hallucinatory imagery, and from my personal experience I know that it's very easy to imagine floating over your bed and looking at your body -- try it sometime, it's kind of fun.

Want one more reason not to believe in hell? Transportation to heaven or hell directly after death is incompatible with the majority of Christian belief systems (no one goes anywhere until Judgement Day).

Just keep repeating to yourself that belief in hell is irrational and you will eventually believe it, no matter how scary it is to contemplate at first. Remember how many years you've been indoctrinated to believe in hell and be glad if it only takes a year of de-indoctrination to get over it.

I highly enjoy this little exercise that I learned on the Positive Atheism website: Say out loud and with great feeling, "Satan, come into my life and take control, I give my soul over to you!" Guess what? Nothing ever happens.

-- VAL

Graphic Rule

From: "David Wyndorf"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: May 12, 2002 8:39 PM

No, I don't at all.

There is debate on whether you can actually know that there is no God and no afterlife or not, since you can't prove that there is no such thing. Regardless of that I do feel 100 percent confident that there is no afterlife and no God, and no immortal soul or anything like that.

I have zero feel of hell. I have as much fear of hell as my dog does, or the bird out the window, or the flies on my BBQ.

Graphic Rule

From: "ElizabethAnn"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Do You Suffer from Burgess's 'Vestigial Fear of Hell'?
Date: May 31, 2002 12:57 PM

Yes, and it sucks! Christianity was the worse thing that happened to me. It tortured my mind as a lonely child and made me fearful. When I was a young girl, my Baptist minister molested me. Then I thought I was destined for hell, because what was it about me that would make a holy man do this? I used to secretly read "Why I am Not a Christian" by Bertrand Russell. I hid it under my bed. Christianity might as well have been the Ax Murderer, only he wipes people out all in one clean swoop, where Christianity is an insidious slow way to kill a spirit.


Graphic Rule

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