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3/24/08                                                                                       View Comments

I was paralyzed by the fear of hell

Sent in by Jacolyn

I'm a 29-year-old female who has been an ex-Christian for about six months now after being a very devoted Christian for at least 20 years!

I was brought up in a Christian family (Baptist), and when I was 18, I started going to a Hillsong style church, and never looked back until six months ago.

The short story is that I could never understand why a good and loving God would send people to hell, no matter what the reason. Not long after I changed denominations (when I was 18) I was forced to think about hell in a more pragmatic way, as the church spoke quite openly about hell. I went through a period of depression, as all I could think about was, "Most people around me are going to hell.” Every day, with every person I encountered, I looked at them thinking, "They're probably going to hell," and I kept thinking, “What's the point?” I managed to get past that phase; I think I just tried to put it out of my mind. Eventually I managed to stop thinking about hell, and I continued going to church and being a devoted Christian.

I went through another period of depression a few years later, perhaps when I was about 24-25. I went to a youth conference where they talked about hell and urged us to think about our "unsaved friends and family” and to "cry out to god" for them. Well, I cried, but just to myself, depressed, thinking everything is so pointless because most people in the world are not Christian and are going to hell.

Again, I eventually got past the depression.

After a few eventful years, and after my strong Christian grandpa died, I decided to go to Japan as a missionary. I felt "God" calling me there. This was a time in my life when my faith was the absolute strongest, and I guess also where I put Christianity to the test the most. This was when I was 27.

After about 15 months in Japan, I came back to Australia for a short visit for my cousin’s wedding. While I was back in Australia, I attended church; the pastor preached a very awful, awful sermon about hell. He actually said, "People often say to me, ‘If God loves people, how can he send them to hell?’" His response was, "God sends people to hell BEACAUSE He loves us so much!" That made absolutely NO sense to me whatsoever!

But again this made me confront hell in my mind and again I got depressed, and I went back to Japan depressed. In Japan I would often walk passed funerals of old Japanese people -- most of them probably not Christian, as Japan is only about one percent Christian. As I walked past these funerals, my mind was in turmoil, my faith was in turmoil, and I was thinking, "How is it possible that that Japanese person who just died is now in hell for all eternity? That's just not acceptable!”

Let me just stop and say here that the one thing that stopped me from turning away from Christianity was a complete and paralyzing fear of me going to hell. Finally I overcame my fear of hell and have decided to leave Christianity. I don't fear hell anymore, and I don't get depressed about others going to hell either.

There is some stuff I miss of course: the church family, hope in heaven, believing that there is a God out there looking after me. But those things are not enough to make me believe again. The thought of hell is just absolutely unbelievable to me.

Does anyone out there have a similar story?