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Living in Hell: A Diary of My Escape from Christianity

All my life I was afraid of going to hell. It wasn’t until I was about thirty years old that I realized I had been living in hell. That hell is not some place people go when they die; rather it’s a state of mind people reside in when they’re not living.

By “Yeshua” — Joshua Halinen

One of my earliest memories is hiding from my parents under the buffet table in the dining room when I was “supposed” to be getting ready for church. In blue gym shorts and a red t-shirt, I was not ready. I felt the tan carpet under my knees and forearms as I quietly prayed that I wouldn’t have to go.

I wish I could have articulated to my parents at that age how I felt at church. Yes, I felt bored and shy. But the real reason I didn’t want to go was because I didn’t feel safe. I felt like I was in spiritual danger and I didn’t understand why my parents who were supposed to protect me would take me somewhere that left me feeling so sick inside.

 Yeshua outside Faith Presbyterian Church in Washington State.

I remember hearing from a pew I used to chew on – I can still recall the taste of it in my mouth – that hell is a place painted with fire, brimstone, (What the fuck is brimstone anyway? Twenty-five years later, I still don’t know – okay, I just looked it up, it’s sulfur, which burns as it’s mined and is hence evocative of “hell”) and gnashing of teeth.

Maybe that’s why I was chewing on a pew? I was gnashing my teeth?

All my life I was afraid of going to hell. It wasn’t until I was about thirty years old that I realized I had been living in hell. That hell is not some place people go when they die; rather it’s a state of mind people reside in when they’re not living.

This fear is drilled into so many – only every Sunday if you are lucky. The less fortunate get double drilled on Sunday and then once or twice more during the week at youth group or Bible study just for shits, giggles and social control.

At about eight years old I recall sitting on the toilet repeating over and over and over what I could remember of my church’s confession of sins. Sunday morning we’d all pull down the kneelers and read the confession of sins printed in our bulletin: “Forgive me Father for the things I have done and the things I have left undone…” As soon as I would finish, I would begin again. This went on for years — on and off the toilet.

Some of these pastors who tell people that they’re in danger of going to hell are really scary — with the seriousness they embody when they’re talking about it. It’s as if they are driving that concept of hell so deeply into people because they’re so afraid of it themselves, passing it on as if it will lighten their own burden.

One day I shared with my mom how afraid I was of going to hell and how often I would confess my sins. I could tell she felt compassion for me. She told me I didn’t need to worry that much, explaining that once God forgives you, you stay forgiven. I didn’t really believe her. Why would we confess every week then? It still lingered in the background, but I learned to push it further out of mind. After all, she had a lifetime of more practice at it than I did.

The real kicker or what really got me was that I was told I’d be completely alone, separated from God and everyone. It made my stomach drop but it wasn’t fun like a Disney roller coaster.

 Sulfur mining must have given bible “scholars” the idea of what hell must be like, and what it must smell like. All that steam is sulfuric acid.

Some of these pastors who tell people that they’re in danger of going to hell are really scary — with the seriousness they embody when they’re talking about it. It’s as if they are driving that concept of hell so deeply into people because they’re so afraid of it themselves, passing it on as if it will lighten their own burden. It’s the nature of fear or dis-ease to spread.

When someone, particularly a child, is told that they are in danger of hell, this fictional hot and stinky place where they are utterly alone, of course their reaction is, “Fuck! I don’t want to go there!” That person is then told anyone who doesn’t believe this or that, or do this or that, is going there, but if they believe the “gospel” they’re told, of course, the only sane thing to do is what they’re told.

And in one fell swoop their power of choice and their attention have been taken, all for a cracker, a thimble of grape juice and a promise that once you’re dead, life will be clouds and sunshine. This is reinforced every Sunday, at every Bible study and youth group or gathering with other people whose power has also been taken. Feeding one another’s fear, a deeper and deeper pattern becomes engrained in their psyches.

One day I shared with my mom how afraid I was and how often I would confess my sins. I could tell she felt compassion for me. She told me I didn’t need to worry that much, explaining that once God forgives you, you stay forgiven. I didn’t really believe her.

This is a deep fear that can become all consuming. It doesn’t allow for personal exploration or power, rather, it reinforces a pattern of victim – abuser – savior; a triangular broken record – a hit called Hell. It’s a record mixed and mastered by different religions manipulating society into doing what they want. Its most popular songs – Stealing all their Power and Pawns.

This is what organized religion has done. Hijacked spirituality, for its own purpose and gains; and manipulated masses into believing that they are hopeless sinners, deserving of hell. If one believes that they deserve hell they will settle for very little in this lifetime in exchange for heaven in the afterlife.

How convenient for anyone pitching this old con. Taking your life in exchange for the promise of a better one that you will never see.

Anyone who is sexually free poses a threat to the story that religion tries so hard to maintain. It is why in religion self-sex (masturbation) is the ultimate sin. Once someone is in touch with their own body and sexuality, understanding their power, they cannot easily be controlled.

Part 2: The Sex Connection

If this has happened to you, the question is: what do you do with this information?

True spiritual growth is about taking your authority back. Deciding what is best for you. This is an experiential process, and requires people to know themselves and what motivates their actions. It requires becoming embodied and learning how to feel again.

Now, sexuality ties into all of this. How? Sex is how we all came to be. It is the force of creation and people’s power to create. It is what religion shames the most.

 Minister, priest or other officiant handling the “host” or body of Jesus, which supposedly gets a person out of hell.

Anyone who is sexually free poses a threat to the story that religion tries so hard to maintain. It is why in religion self-sex (masturbation) is the ultimate sin. Once someone is in touch with their own body and sexuality, understanding their power, they cannot easily be controlled.

Now, religion does this, but it’s not the only one. The effect of advertising is similar: putting an image up that everyone feels they must look like. Again comes constant shame and judgement, turning people against themselves.

No life will ever feel good when this is the case. We all have to find our own purpose for being here. No one else can tell you what it is. It is for you to discover. This process of self-love and self-actualization is the process of becoming one’s true self. It is reclaiming yourself as divine; an extension of Source.

Hell, as I am defining it, is a place where we are never enough. A place where we feel unworthy, helpless, wounded, distrustful, and alone. Being afraid of hell is like a black hole that sucks people in. Following organized religion results in giving up personal authority.

I am not discouraging a spiritual path, but rather encouraging one that empowers the seeker through self-understanding. Your life is your own and no one else can walk it for you. Blessings on YOUR journey!

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Lesson 71: Only God’s plan for salvation will work.

A Course in Miracles

You may not realize that the ego has set up a plan for salvation in opposition to God’s. It is this plan in which you believe. Since it is the opposite of God’s, you also believe that to accept God’s plan in place of the ego’s is to be damned. This sounds preposterous, of course. Yet after we have considered just what the ego’s plan is, perhaps you will realize that, however preposterous it may be, you do believe in it.

The ego’s plan for salvation centers around holding grievances. It maintains that, if someone else spoke or acted differently, if some external circumstance or event were changed, you would be saved. Thus, the source of salvation is constantly perceived as outside yourself. Each grievance you hold is a declaration, and an assertion in which you believe, that says, “If this were different, I would be saved.” The change of mind necessary for salvation is thus demanded of everyone and everything except yourself.

The role assigned to your own mind in this plan, then, is simply to determine what, other than itself, must change if you are to be saved. According to this insane plan, any perceived source of salvation is acceptable provided that it will not work. This ensures that the fruitless search will continue, for the illusion persists that, although this hope has always failed, there is still grounds for hope in other places and in other things. Another person will yet serve better; another situation will yet offer success.

Such is the ego’s plan for your salvation. Surely you can see how it is in strict accord with the ego’s basic doctrine, “Seek but do not find.” For what could more surely guarantee that you will not find salvation than to channelize all your efforts in searching for it where it is not?

God’s plan for salvation works simply because, by following His direction, you seek for salvation where it is. But if you are to succeed, as God promises you will, you must be willing to seek there only. Otherwise, your purpose is divided and you will attempt to follow two plans for salvation that are diametrically opposed in all ways. The result can only bring confusion, misery and a deep sense of failure and despair. 

How can you escape all this? Very simply. The idea for today is the answer. Only God’s plan for salvation will work. There can be no real conflict about this, because there is no possible alternative to God’s plan that will save you. His is the only plan that is certain in its outcome. His is the only plan that must succeed.

Let us practice recognizing this certainty today. And let us rejoice that there is an answer to what seems to be a conflict with no resolution possible. All things are possible to God. Salvation must be yours because of His plan, which cannot fail.

Begin the two longer practice periods for today by thinking about today’s idea, and realizing that it contains two parts, each making equal contribution to the whole. God’s plan for your salvation will work, and other plans will not. Do not allow yourself to become depressed or angry at the second part; it is inherent in the first. And in the first is your full release from all your own insane attempts and mad proposals to free yourself. They have led to depression and anger; but God’s plan will succeed. It will lead to release and joy.

Remembering this, let us devote the remainder of the extended practice periods to asking God to reveal His plan to us. Ask Him very specifically:

            What would You have me do?

            Where would You have me go?

            What would You have me say, and to whom?

Give Him full charge of the rest of the practice period, and let Him tell you what needs to be done by you in His plan for your salvation. He will answer in proportion to your willingness to hear His Voice. Refuse not to hear. The very fact that you are doing the exercises proves that you have some willingness to listen. This is enough to establish your claim to God’s answer.

In the shorter practice periods, tell yourself often that God’s plan for salvation, and only His will work. Be alert to all temptation to hold grievances today, and respond to them with this form of today’s idea:

Holding grievances is the opposite of God’s plan for salvation. And only His plan will work.

Try to remember today’s idea some six or seven times an hour. There could be no better way to spend a half minute or less than to remember the Source of your salvation, and to see It where It is.

**Please see full lesson in A Course in Miracles for practice. These posts are intended to show what ACIM is and how it might be helpful, however I recommend if you make it your own practice to start from the beginning and to use the book.