Fear as a motivation for choice

As a young child I had an extremly powerful dream.
In my dream I had a vision of two figures, one of Jesus and one of the Devil.
In my dream I had an extremly intense feeling of fear, the likes of which I have never felt since and do not wish to.
In my dream I was being asked to choose between good and evil, to choose a path to follow.
I have never completly shaken this feeling of fear inside me.

I chose to try and be good, but I deeply resent the fact that this choice was made out of a sense of fear.

I ask the community if they think God would use fear to get someone to believe in God.

While I did not have a particularly Religous upbringing, we did not go to church or have any religous instruction, I remember being more aware of Hell and the pain and torture and flames and fire, punishment for being evil, than God, what God stands for and the rewards of Heaven.

I ask How many folks found Religion and how many others continue to find Religion, through fear of what will befall them if they do not?

And I also ask, what kind of God needs to use fear of punishment as a tool to gain respect, belief or whatever else may be gained through it?

As a result of my early experiences I am not Religous, that is to say I follow no Religion. I am however quite spiritual. I believe in good and Evil, try to be good and try to do good, even though, in many cases it is detremental to myself or my best interests. I have tried to throw off this fear, but I find myself asking myself just how much this fear still controls my life?

I see so much that is unjust in the world, so many people who follow organised religions being ignorantly evil.

I find myself lately questioning my values, examining my reasons for trying to be good, and beginning to ask myself, ‘does trying to be good and just really matter?’ Society in genral shows me time and time again that self promotion and self gain are what seem to matter the most?

I am beginning to feel I have been given a promise, and that promise is a lie.

Views on my situation would be welcome.



Sooo, you’re seeking answers to questions you have not yet fully understood.

You are human. Get over it.

well one thing I have come to understand quite clearly is the fact that so many people don’t want to believe in a God who claims to be love and then show a tryannical side that scares us or makes us doubt him. Unfortunately too many people haven’t made the effort to know God personally and decide to fall on the conclusions of others, or what their priest, rabbi, teacher, parents, or friends tell them. In other words, if I sit at home and I just say I believe in a God and that he is there somewhere in the vast universe will not really do much for me. Knowing God is an active participation of the mind, character, and heart. I know a lot of religions out there claim that for any screw up you will be tormented forever and ever in hell with no possibility of hope. The real fact of the matter is that God is a better forgiver than we are sinners. Of course the question of the matter is, how sincere are we with our repentance. Will we fall back into the same thing again after we just said sorry. As human beings we have a limit to how much we can forgive, but not so with God. God emphasizes all through the bible that his way is one of compassion, sympathy, and love for us. He also goes on to teach that the government of oppression, force, and manipulation of the will is all characteriscs of the devil. Two powers fight over the whole human family and they want to drive us either to perdition or to heaven. God wants humanity to have an intelligent understanding of who and what he is all about. The less we know the more silly doctrines make logical sense to us and we detest or simply give up on God altogether. The devil knows this so he works behind the curtains concealing himself and playing most of us like puppets. The devil is the first to rebel and in him grew vanity, pride, and selfish motives. The result was his expulsion and sentece to death because he would be miserable in heaven without satisfying his selfish desires. The devil knows how just and good God is and thats why he is trying to obliterate that image of God on earth. The devil and evil don’t’ exist because of karma or there is good so there has to be evil. The devil wasn’t immediately blotted out because he deceived so many and he made God look like a despot who wanted to control the will. So he let the devil live and mature his plans and let him reveal his character as it truly is. God could of controlled lucifer and reprogrammed his mind or something but God will never control the will. Not yours, mine, or the rest of the world, but will let you decide what you will believe or won’t believe. Life of course is full of consequences and there is results to what we do in this life whether it be good or bad. God has appointed a time where he will judge and justify his love for all humanity. It will happen once and all evil will be eradicated and not tormented forever and ever in hell. The question now is how important is heaven to us? You can earn your place there or lose it and earn your rank among the devil and his followers. But God will never threaten you if you turn away but he rather do the impossible to change your mind so you can live with him. That’s why he gave himself as ransom because that very act proves how much he loves us that he is not there to condemn but save as many as would come to him. God will encourage your heart and he will speak to it and plead for change, but we can harden our hearts and block out that voice. The less you get of God the more evil things become ordinary and not too offensive. The devil seems to drive the whole world but one day there will be a great contrast. Don’t be among them that goes with the flow of the crowd because the crowd usually doesn’t run to do good. I always encourage people to read their bible diligently and the meaning of life and our purpose becomes incredibly clear. All the lies concerning God and his character are fully reveal in their true light and the devil is exposed. We might have several bibles at home but the devil will give you hell if you pick it up. In any case, I hope you take this with an open mind and your views on God change.

Thanks for that Rafajafar.
You sound very intelligent and mature to me. Just wish there were more in the world like you.


Sincere thanks to you Koheleth.
I have read through what you have written, although I can’t say I agree or disagree or even understand what you are saying, It is great and I feel very happy you have taken the time to put to me, your views on the subject.
I thank you for being aware of what I am going through right now and even go as far as to see me as capable of having an open mind on the subject.

Unfortunately, I find it harder and harder to believe in a God, in the way that Christianity sees him.
I have descided that all I can say when asked by someone if I believe in God? Is to say No I don’t, for I feel that of the Religous people I have met and talked with in my life, most have an idealistic view, taught to them by what ever church they belong to, and have never really thought about ‘thier own personal God’, the way they personally think s/he, it, is.

I do however, believe in an all encompassing power, a force, and so thers can understand this concept I would call this force ‘God’, just so they could relate to it. In my mind ‘God’ has no gender, ‘God’ is not he, she or even it. The power/force is just that, given the name of God, due to the fact that humans love to label things, meaning they no longer have to think of the thing itself but only the name and the ideals attatched to that name.

But I suppose I must strive to be as wise and understanding as Rafajafar, for s/he seems to imply by saying I seek answers to to questions I have not fully understood, that s/he can enlighten me as s/he has those answers I seek.

Mantra for today:
I am Human, I must get over it… :unamused:


Well I suppose you didn’t ignore me, which I do appreciate.


well thanks for having an open mind, but I want to be clear that anything I say is personal beliefs in deep rooted truths. In other words, I am not saying to you what a priest or my religion told me to say, because to be honest the majority of churches out their began with selfish motives. I follow my bible and frankly if the bible weren’t a good source or truth then many churches would not change or alter it. For example Jehovah’s witness changed the parts where the orginal uses lord or God and replaced it with Jehovah, Catholics omit verses that speak about not worshiping idols: Saints, angels, figures or Jesus etc etc. Mormons have their own bible and believe a couple of diciples came down from heaven and wrote a book that they have to read call the book of mormons. Pentacostal people briefly touch it because its more singing and healing with them…try to guess their motivation(hint: its green). The purpose of truth is to unmask error because their is an absolute truth. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but making your own personal God puts out the flame in the truth. Because you can shape truth and do as you wish without any consequences. It will allow you to alter what is good or what is bad and thats why the sharp lines between what is right and wrong become blurred. I can’t make you believe in God and I can’t force you to change your views, but what you feel will only get worse. The further you run from truth and make your own truths, the more things become sorta weird. Take the satanist for example…well I mean the actual satanist and not the clowns that wear black clothing and pentagrams, but the real deal satanist. They believe that lucifer is not a real entitiy but a state of thought or a philosophy. Their motto is, “live as you will” the law of thelema as some call it. They believe the philosophy of lucifer is to be your own god and do as you will. Now don’t be fooled these guys are a bad crowd, but they have come to this conclusion of making themselves a personal god which is their own person. Now unlike you they have a personal hate for what is God and at least you believe there is some supreme power out their. If you travel on the path of darkness too long you tend to dwell and maybe not come back. Their is an actual God and he has a form, eyes, hair, arms, hands, and voice, but you will know him only if you want to. Like I said before, its up to you to either believe or not, but I am guessing you want to stick to your beliefs.

I understand your plight. I myself was raised in a Protestant family, with a regular diet of Sunday Church services. And yet, I soon began to realize that the organized Church was more a “den of vipers” than a congregation of good people.

Do not let the “den of vipers” discourage you. God, whatever it may be, is not present in Religion. God is present in Faith and that is all. And faith is a conversation between the Infinite and Finite, between your being and the Being of God. You can find that faith in the teaching of Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Socrates. It requires no mediation through any sort of organized religion. Rather, it demands that you do the searching for yourself.

Hope I haven’t rambled too much.


Sorry, bud. Wasn’t my intention to piss you off, and you’re just going to have to believe me on that.

I’m sorry if my advice was negative, or too concise for you, but…what else do you want?

You don’t understand the questions you’re asking. Neither do I! There’s no implication that I have some divine insight into what you need to know. I never intended for that. I’m blunt, I’m not sorry for that. That was the best answer that I can give you…or that anyone can give you.

Think about it. You want to know what we think about your condition. Your condition is the human condition. We’re given a playing field and gear, but have been neglected to be told the rules of the game. I’m sorry that I’m just as confused as you. But I am.

That is healthy. Not asking those questions is unhealthy. Let me ask you, if you had the answer, would you know what to do with it?

Your post was slightly different from every other post so far that I’ve seen in so far as you expected an actual answer that applied to your life. No one here is your savior. No one has the answers you seek. Keep seeking, though. :sunglasses:

You want to know what I think of your condition.

You’re human. So am I. Get over it.

The only other option is death.

It’s Zen.

I think that this kind of dream comes to us all at some time in life and very often as children. Being confronted with moral perspectives and various forms of threatened sanctions can be traumatic for young children and accompany us for a long time. I had a dream as a child when I visited a cave in Malaya somewhere and was told the vivid story of how British soldiers, who were trapped by Japanese gunfire, tried to get out through a very small tunnel and were buried alive. I still have the dream occaisionally and wake up gasping for air.

If you are asking whether God was using the dream to “scare” you into “being good” I think we can safetly assume that the dream was more a reaction to some kind of moralistic sermon in whatever form, than a revelation of God. God is usually trying to install trust more than fear - although a “fear” of God - meaning a high reverence - is common to religious language.

Something must of grasped your imagination - perhaps an Aunt or Uncle, a neighbour or someone on television or on the radio. Although our brains are constantly sorting information, there has to be some influence that makes this kind of perception to stick so strongly. In my experience it is a man-made system of sanctions that the Bible doesn’t endorse in the way you describe.

Christ’s pictorial examples have more to do with rhetoric questions: what would you expect from God, if he were as you assume him to be? If God were as you think, what would he do if you behave as you do? He rarely implies that God is the way the character in the story acts. In fact, he is recorded as trying to find faith or trust amongst his own people, not trying to scare them in any way.

The OT Prophets warn of social consequences because of certain behaviour - very often the consequences were already traceable in society. In that way, the sanctions weren’t threatened, they were certain. It isn’t as though God continually says: this will happen if you do these things but won’t if you don’t. If things were far enough away that may have been the approach. But very often the warnings had been ignored and ruin was knocking at the door.

I believe in the Good I find in creation, I know that there is that which people call evil, but see it more as the good turned bad. It is difficult to find your own roots sometimes, but I believe that you need roots to take a part in the universal search for truth. That is why I am a Christian.

But Christ didn’t try to make people “good” in the way you describe. Instead he quote scripture that claimed that it was time to celebrate a jubilee and know that God is a loving creator - even if we have many questions. He wanted the Good that God wants to find room in us. It is the Love of God that is looking for a means to express itself in us, not some dualistic fight between good and evil. If we refuse the love or goodness of God in our lives, the good turns to bad - evil. But we are living in Gods creation, which is good, not in a hell that has to be destroyed to extract the good.

I think you were lied to, like most of us. But God didn’t lie, nor did Christ. It was the teachers and theologians who didn’t know better.


MentulZen …

This is a very old dilemma, and one that has haunted me too, so you are not alone in this. I do not have any answers for you, merely my own thaughts and experience that have shaped my own attitude.

Basically the universe is polar, good and evil, right or wrong, love or fear.
The choices have to be made by all of us, so let’s look at them.

If you live in a fearful reality, all decisions will be based in fear. The motivation for doing good will be based on fear of punishment, in fact, anything you do will have that same effect.

If you live for a loving reality, any decision will be based in love. Your reasons for doing good will be natural, and the fear aspect non existant.

The trouble comes in when the fear aspect attempts to influence your good decision, i will not go into that now, but it happens. The church as an organisation has been destroyed by that same thing … DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. They are merely confused. Listen to your own self … if you want to be good, do it for the sake of being good.

Although the fear will always be there, it can only get as far as you let it.

PS The worst possible hell i can imagine … consider this … a country governed entirely by POLITICIANS … can’t get much worse. :laughing:

How much of your faith, or initial drive to be a religious believer, was based on this dream? I ask, because if that’s what got you started, that’s probably the problem. Frankly, you shouldn’t be surprised that as you get older, childhood dreams seem less and less like a good reason to believe something.
Maybe you are stuck in a certain imagery. Perhaps (and disregard if this doesn’t apply to you) when you think of the Christian God, you picture a gigantic old man in the sky, and when you picture the devil, you picture a guy with red skin and a pitchfork. Sure, you realize these things aren’t literally true, but when you think about religion, this is the sort of imagery that springs to mind. Perhaps it isn’t God that you are losing faith in, but the ways in which you pictured him. The spiritual aspects of the religion are very hard to visualize, and seem to have little to do with our everyday lives, so it’s not hard for them to start to look like a series of distant, irrelevant fairy tales.
Similarly, boiling Christianity down to a series of commands, and a series of threats if those commands are not met can also make it seem quite impossible- or at the very least, can make it seem like something people made up to keep others in line. Who knows, when religion was first presented to you, maybe that was the motivation of the people involved.
Honestly, anybody would have a hard time believeing in God if this is all we had to go on. I would suggest that you try to see Christianity, as it exists in the really real world. . Instead of focusing on it being a system about intangible cosmic forces manipulating our lives, or a system of rules and threats that supposedly get us into Heaven, spend some time studying the tangible side of things. Read some about what early church leaders did and said. Read about what missionaries are doing in the world right now. Learn about the history of Christendom, the good and the bad. Learn about Jesus the person, what He said, and what He did. Look at images of what churches and followers of Christianity in other countries look like. In short, make connections between what you think of and the everyday world.
Once you’ve built up an understanding of the tangible side of Christianity, the spiritual aspects become a lot easier to understand, and even a lot more plausible.


I find it hard to believe Christianity too, not just for its followers but for a simple, yet profound idea.

I can’t really agree with anything that would condemn anyone to eternal agony.

It seems quite perverse.

But remember this:
Actions taken in fear tend to be quite unstable. If you honestly try to be benevolent and constructive to yourself and those around you, I cannot see how any diety could condemn that.

Its always possible we have a jealous and vain diety that punishes based on luck and blind faith. I really hope that’s wrong though.

Hi Killer (Uccisore),

They are especially hard to make visual, let alone for people to visualise them. But one method is of course to wrap them up in parables or legends or myths. The older “fairy tales” could have started that way too. It was quite acceptable to do that - for thousands of years these stories were related and understood.

During the so called age of enlightenment which was the liberation of thought from the grips of the clericals and the first chance to really criticise the power of the church over the intellect, we went from one extreme to another. We threw out the mythology (that Tolkien tried to replace) and forgot the ancient stories.

At some time later, the Grimm brothers started collecting european tales - and if you read them you’ll find they are excessively outdated and brutal to boot. That is because tales grow and live, they develop from one generation to another, they mellow with age and become “wisdom” with time. But if this development is interrupted, they are the things that nightmares are made of for later generations.

If you read the OT with this in mind, you may understand more of what is being transported in the stories.

I personally find that the modern criticism of the Bible is very often as naiv as the comments of Biblepunchers. Both of these groups are out of their depth, being as they criticise the surface but don’t try to fathom out the depth of what they’re reading.

A little more respect for people without the benefits of modern technology would do us good - we would expect the same from the following generations who can’t relate to our experiences.


:smiley: ooops :unamused:


But doesn’t Uccisore look so much more eloquent? :laughing:

I think we're onthe same page here. It seems to me, that whenever someone tries to visualize a spiritual matter, they have to use analogy (Augustine, right?). I think atheism afflicts a lot of people when they are presented that analogy as literal fact when young, and as they mature, they see the holes and inconsistancies in it. 
 Now, don't get me wrong- I'm a conservative Christian, not pluralist in the least bit, and fairly moderate in my biblical interpretation. But I know that some of the things the Bible talks about can never be fully understood, and so our conceptions of them will always be somewhat incorrect.  Luckily, those infathomable bits aren't the important parts!

It’s the internet and modern communications. Never before has it been so easy to limit your intellectual life to only talking about or reading things that already agree with your predispositions. Makes people shallow in their assesments.

Hi Uccisore,

Do you think that my Mystic line is dangerously pluralistic? I really believe that the weaknesses of Evanglical faith lie in the fact that the issue is emotionalised unduly and attracts people who are in some way unstable (I don’t mean that as an insult - it’s my profession that colours my observations), This leads to a noncritical approach and immediate identification with the text in question. Essentially it is fundamentalism, and if Islamic fundamentalists are a problem, so are Christian fundamentalists.

We then can’t be surprised when people (especially in America) identify Christianity with this kind of idea. The emotionalised debate is what we have to get away from - although the abiding by the letter is no alternative - and turn more to intuitive understanding of oral traditions that were written down. It is quite amazing to see what affinity exists between the religions on that level.

It is quite amazing really, that we have in the past had so little interreligious dialog. When the experts of each religion (especially Judaism, Christianity and Islam) get together, they invariably disagree at the end of the day - but along the way it is amazing how often they agree. That is where we suddenly get to understand things that have been lost for so long. The methods of oriental discussion, the customs and practice of various folks and nations, the in-depth view of statements of the Bible reveal that these aren’t stories for children, but indeed very rich in wisdom.


I don’t think you said anything explicitly that I would call “dangerously pluralistic”, but we opinions we’re sharing here are common among very pluralistic folks, so I felt the need to clarify.

 If you mean that the Evangelicals spend too much time singing, dancing and talking about hellfire and heaven, and too little time talking about the historical and philosophical details, I used to agree with that stance.  However, as time goes by I'm starting to think that perhaps 'the masses' don't have the time to spend on studying things like that, and if a religion is to appeal to everybody, the scholarly side has to take a backseat to the emotional stuff.  That's not to say that the religion should be irrational, but rather that the rational side should be in the background, making sure things run smoothly.  To use an analogy, I see no reason for everybody who drives a car to be able to repair a car. 

I don’t think you said anything explicitly that I would call “dangerously pluralistic”, but we opinions we’re sharing here are common among very pluralistic folks, so I felt the need to clarify.

 If you mean that the Evangelicals spend too much time singing, dancing and talking about hellfire and heaven, and too little time talking about the historical and philosophical details, I used to agree with that stance.  However, as time goes by I'm starting to think that perhaps 'the masses' don't have the time to spend on studying things like that, and if a religion is to appeal to everybody, the scholarly side has to take a backseat to the emotional stuff.  That's not to say that the religion should be irrational, but rather that the rational side should be in the background, making sure things run smoothly.  To use an analogy, I see no reason for everybody who drives a car to be able to repair a car. 
The problem with pluralism, as I see it, is that it's too easily misread as an excuse to be intellectually lazy.  The idea of 'trying to see the common threads and value in all religions' (which is a good thing) is easily restated as 'all religions are of equal value', which is easily taken to mean "There's nothing wrong with praying to an old tennis shoe, as long as you get your spiritual jollies from it".  That, in my opinion, is an even bigger example of religious emotionalism than then evangelicals- and almost as rampant. 
 Would I be being elitist if I said that pluralism was only a safe track for more advanced/sophisiticated religious thinkers, and not for the lone seeker?

Hi Uccisore,

Fair point, but I really believe that theologians have a responsibility to report their findings (if you like: study for the masses) and not play on the imagination or with words, as I have often witnessed by evangelical preachers. In fact, I have actually spoken to such preachers who have said that they don’t want to know such things, that a theology student is taught. They regard their faith as in jeopardy if they listen to such things.

If you like, there is a turn around to be seen here: Whereas the middle ages were preoccupied with fear, so today the evangelicals are preoccuppied with joviality and praise. Psychologically these are two ends of one scale. But I have another example for you:

I am someone who is very susceptible to literature and can preach or teach my admiration for the written word too. I once preached coincidentally to evangelicals and they started praising the Lord - and I was a little surprised that I could raise this kind of reaction. When I spoke to the people, I realised that they hadn’t heard my message, but had been listening for what they wanted to hear. That was enough for them. That is a sign of intellectual laziness.

Later I was asked to hold a Bible meeting, which I thought would be a chance to be clearer. The participants listened to my exegesis, which pointed to the parallels of the story to present conditions within Church and Society and called for a similar reaction today. Again, they were very happy with the meeting but clearly hadn’t listened.

On a third occaision I decided to be blunt. The Lesson was for me a classical case of allegory, albeit a fine one. Finally I achieved a reaction, but not one I had expected. The participants assured me that my positive attitude was erroneous and that I should not forget the devil, who was snatching the souls away. They then went on to describe what Religions the devil was influencing and gave examples of what we would have called “witchkraft” in the middle ages, as evidence that the devil is very present.

It was at this point that I discarded my attempt to enlighten these people. I realised that the fear-praise scale was firmly in place and that there was practically an inability to hear anything else than what was official line.

No, I don’t believe so. If you have followed my line, I say that all religions portray a universal attempt to fathom the mystery that we Christians call God. The different approaches give witness to the diversity of life and cultures on the planet - which seems “God-willed” to my mind. Some Religions have a diversity of deieties, some have none they speak of. Nearly always there is a “Higher Instance” in the background who has various attributes that are being slowly discovered, sometimes forgotten and rediscovered but the overlook of religions show a lot of comparable points.

I for example see Christ as the archetype of humility (lots of comparisons to Buddha) and opposite pole to the overconfident smirk of power on this planet. Because I believe that the arrogant and greedy are the adversaries, humility seems to me to be the highest virtue. Because the love of God cannot express itself in arrogance, I say that the humility of Christ qualifies him for the Title: Kyrie.

His call for all to follow him is a clear call to boycott arrogant power and grasp the God who discloses himself in humility. Christ shows a number of (admittedly dangerous) methods of humiliating the enemy, whilst remaining non-aggressive and demure. He shows the people of Israel that to have faith in YHWH, means to trust him and allow for his ways in our lives.

Christs death is redemptive because it shows that the faithful can even be victorious on a cross. The Resurrection is like a song of life that is song from out of a grave. Was He a Son of God - undisputedly!
Was he the Son of God? I hope not, but rather that many follow him.


I agree that theologically detailed material should be readily available, and should guide what ministers preach. I’m just not sure that many church goers care to get too deep into it themselves. Maybe there’s a way to present emotional ‘easy-listening’ type religion, without it being BS?

Yup. There’s quite a few ministers and laypeople that consider theology to be practically blasphemous. Kind of ironic, when you consider what it took to found the Protestant movement in the first place.

That’s true. People of all stripes have been trained to feel about religion, and not to think about it.

I take it there was something controversial or convicting in your presentation that they wouldn’t have been to thrilled about had they paid attention?

There’s a good side and a bad side to that. Being open to considering new ideas leaves you vulnerable to being convinced of the wrong ideas, so a person that isn’t smart enough to discern may as well stick with what a seasoned authority has told them. OF course, if these people you were addressing were ministers and such, that’s a different story.

I give many religions credit for that honest attempt, but that only goes so far as "A for Effort". I don't think that honest attempt legitimizes the faith as being co-redemptive along with Christianity or anything- It's right and proper for a follower of one of these other faiths to abandon what they've been taught once exposed to the Gospel. 
Again, I think that the kind of pluralism you're putting forward here is legitimate as least as a side to be argued, though I don't agree with it. But it takes a seasoned student of theology to grasp the ramifications and to present it correctly- as a theory about how God operates, the function of religion in society, and the nature of salvation.  Here in the 21st Century, though, pluralism seems to come as a gut reaction to learning about things like the Inquisition, the Crusades, the recent crap in the Middle East and etc.  People (mostly from my generation and younger) see these things and say "Wow, people who think their religion is the only correct one are all jerks" and resolve not to think that way. That's what I mean when I say pluralism tends to be rooted in emotionalism.  There's a whole 'religion' nowadays founded on pluralism - call it the neo-pagan movement- whose only creed seems to be "None of us think we are right about anything"! 
   Put it this way, I consider anybody who feels the need to put the words [i]right[/i] and [i]truth[/i] in quotation marks as an enemy of proper religious practice. I find value in pluralism when it is expressed as the truth, not as an [i]alternative[/i] to truth. Does that make sense?