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zepoman's avatar

Childhood terror of hell, anyone?

Asked by zepoman (159points) February 28th, 2008

Interested in personal experiences and whether “child evangelism” actually borders on psychological abuse (ala Dawkins). How does “eternal punishment if you don’t worship me” jive with a loving God who gives us free choice? Is the concept of “hell”, literally or metaphorically, useful in modern religious discourse?

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18 Answers

xacrox's avatar

I was raised Mormon, it basically ended with me not believing in anything. This happens a lot among kids raised in “the church”.

Spargett's avatar

It’s the same deal as Santa Claus. Be good or you don’t the reward (presents/heaven). Be bad and you get the punishment (coal-no presents/hell). Santa Claus is just a nice practice mechanism for a child to grasp religion and all it’s fairy tales.

Zaku's avatar

I was spared such abuse, thankfully.

johnny0313x's avatar

yeah I feel that religion is just something to control people. Keep them in line, put fear in there hearts and help them to cope with losing loved ones and death in general. Those are just my thoughts and anyone who belives differently I feel that those are your opinions which u r entitled to. I wont deny the possibility of somethng being after death but I won’t live my life in fear of something that may not even exist. I would prefer to live my life doing what makes me happy now because if there is nothing after atleast I enjoyed what time I had alive.

phoenyx's avatar


Mormons are the only Christian religion I know of that don’t believe in Hell as such. After death you are rewarded according to how you lived your life.

xacrox's avatar

yeah in mormonism there is no “hell” just “outer darkness”... Then the other 3 kingdoms.

finkelitis's avatar

Raised Jewish, and there’s not really a hell in that religion either. However, check out Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man for what you’re looking for. The middle fifth of the book is a sermon on the terrors of hell.

Poser's avatar

Hell wasn’t nearly as scary to me as the end of the world, which my biological father and step mother believe is coming soon. It is really tough to grow up believing you aren’t ever going to grow up. I remember them reading from the books of Daniel and Revelation and telling me exactly how each prophesy has already been fulfilled, and what each symbol represented in our time.

Whack jobs.

Zaku's avatar

@Poser: Well I still have that one. Nuclear war nightmares and waking concern of humans destroying the world and themselves by ruining the environment.

Oh and I read Orwell’s 1984 in 1984, and very much dreaded that, and am horrified how much of it seems to be continuing to come true. Cameras everywhere, meaningless wars on concepts, secret police, tracking everyone’s movements and actions, erosion of human rights, NewSpeak, ThruthSpeak, thought crimes… apparently some people thought the way of life in 1984 was a good or inevitable idea.

Spargett's avatar

“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

djbyron's avatar

Fear of hell alone will have no long-term effect on a child. The only way to do truly influence is to provide them with a non-hypocritical example.

Zaxwar91's avatar

Religion can be seen and described to a child many different ways. You could go with the “Santa Clause” theory, or you could go the HOLY ROLLER way and be taught that to sin will eventually mean a firey pit of hell for the rest of eternity. Either way, it realy depends on how, and who influences the child. “Personally” I dont like thinking that i’m pinnochio dancing on puppet strings for some giant, unseen kid.

jz1220's avatar

My parents WERE hell. They skipped the sugar-coated religion stories and just gave me a good ol’ ass beating to teach me right from wrong.

missunderstood's avatar

I have been grown up Mormon and countinue being mormon (with doubts), but i was never given the chance for myself to find what i wanted to believe in. That is probably one of the reasons that i dont know what i believe right now. xacrox said “that in mormonism there is no “hell” just outer darkness,” though that is true, we believe there is such a thing, just dont choose to use it in that term. Savy?

Breefield's avatar

I was taught this from an early age as well – I was taught to believe in God and fear hell much earlier than I was taught to think for myself, weigh the facts, and choose what I want to be. I think this is a psychological hurdle that children can’t really get over until they’re older. Personally, I’m not angry at my parents for teaching me to believe what they believe. They’re devout, bible thumping “god fearing” Christians – well not really, but they’re what I call hardcore Christian. I still have fear of “what If I’m wrong, and they’re right” but I had to push that aside and believe in myself and my choices.

I think now that I have chosen for myseld the idea of hell is the one thing out of all the aspects of religion that push me even further away from it. It sounds like a last minute interjection to a sentance ”You better believe, and if you don’t there’ll be hell to pay.” I think if god truly existed, and loved us, and wanted to have a personal relationship then hell would be a mute point. He’s punishing those who don’t believe in him, yet he won’t revile himself, oh, and you can’t question his existence. Living a life based on the circle of faith and unproven punishments and rewards doesn’t jive in my book.

Breefield's avatar

@Zaxwar91 – I’ve used that Santa Clause reference one too many times. It’s just like Santa really. Coal if you’re bad / don’t believe, and presents if you believe / have personal relationship (i.e. write letters to him which represents prayer).

missunderstood's avatar

In Mormonism, If you dont know what it is that your doing wrong. (like you dont know what was “wrong” or “right” (you never found “the right”) you will not be punished for it after death.

missunderstood's avatar

@Zaxwar91, we were given our own free will to do what we want. He doesnt choose for us. We make our own decsions.

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