Only fear keeps you there
For years I lived a fear-filled life.
I used to believe I was going to be flown to the rock city of Petra in Lebanon on the back of an eagle just before the horrifying events prophesied in the Book of Revelation came to pass.
But if I left the church I’d grown up in, I’d be one of those left on the ground, suffering.
It’s hard to leave a religion when you’re fearful.
So today I’m writing about fear. I know a lot about fear because it was a major part of my life for decades.
I didn’t cower in a corner with fear. I dressed in my best clothes every Sabbath and went to church and attended annual holy days with my birth family, and then with my own family. For years I sang praises to a rather harsh God I’d conjured in my head and listened to sermons shouted from pulpits positioned so that ministers hovered above me, just like God.
If someone I didn’t know looked at me, they wouldn’t say, ‘She’s fearful.’ It was something deep inside me, an ever-present reminder that there was a heavenly eye in the sky watching every move I made and judging whether I was worthy of being saved.
I had to be good, and I had to repent when I wasn’t. I had to control my thoughts and have no opinions that didn’t line up with church doctrines. I had to be careful what I said and to whom I said it. If something I said didn’t line up with church doctrines, I’d be disfellowshipped. This meant I’d be named from the pulpit and church members would no longer be allowed to speak to me. If they saw me in the street, they were to cross to the other side.
All my family except me were eventually disfellowshipped, for either adultery or speaking against the ministry. They were named from the pulpit and never returned.
I stayed a bit longer and then just slunk away, still fearful, but worn down by decades of nonsense.
Then I had a dream that changed everything. I dreamt I met God, and he didn’t know my name. He turned his back on me and walked away, surrounded by a bevy of men in suits and shiny black shoes who hustled him through a doorway embossed with gold and shut the door in my face.
Quite a revelation! So many layers of meaning!
After that, I drifted for a few years, trying to appease the fear that was still inside me by dabbling in ancient New Age modalities like Tarot, numerology, spirit guides, and automatic writing. I attended shows, seminars, and workshops that promised to bring out my inner knowing, link me with angels, or open me to the language of animals. But no matter who I listened to or what I did, I was still fearful little me, wandering the world, wondering who I had to please so I could be eternally safe.
It took me a long time to realise that my search for someone or something to replace God was driven by fear.
I constantly feared I wasn’t enough.
I feared I needed something outside of myself added to me for me to be whole.
Fear is not reality
Fear is something that lives inside our head and attaches itself to our thoughts. It’s not real.
Remember the monsters under the bed that were going to eat us when we were children? The only way to end the fear was to get up, turn on the light, look under the bed, see that the monsters weren’t there at all, and go to sleep.
The only way to end the power fear has over us is to recognise that it is fear – not reality – and let it go.
Fear is a figment of our imagination
Fear is a figment of our imagination. It doesn’t exist outside our head. The more we feed it with our thoughts the hungrier it gets, and the more it controls us.
We need to deal with our adult fears the same way that we dealt with our childhood fears.
We need to drag them out of their hiding place in our minds, give them a shake, hold them up to the light, let them go, watch them drift away and dissolve, and then get on with our life.
In my case, I had to recognise that the cruel, uncommunicative, judgmental, male god in heaven that I’d prayed to and feared for decades was a figment of my imagination. Fearing him wasn’t going to give me salvation. It just gave me indigestion, a throbbing headache, and sore knees from kneeling on them during humble, daily, beseeching prayers.
Three basic steps to take to leave a controlling religion
To leave a controlling, fear-driven religion successfully, there are three basic steps to take.
Face the imaginary fears that are keeping you there, like hell or a vengeful God.
Stop attending. Instead, go for a walk, start a journal, or join a cooking class.
Don’t replace fearful religious beliefs with any other beliefs.
Don’t replace fearful beliefs with other beliefs
When you leave a religion, you might drift for a few years like I did, feeling rudderless in choppy seas. Fear may try to return. If it does, just let it go again.
Don’t replace what you have left behind with anything else.
Don’t replace fearful beliefs with another set of beliefs.
You don’t need to believe anything at all!
Forget beliefs. Just live the best life you can.
You are already complete. You are enough.
You have all you need within your being.
Like everything else that exists, you are already whole.
You’re not here to be a conglomeration of false hopes and servile fears.
You are here to be you.
The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it this way in his poem, ‘As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame’:
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves – goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
You came to be yourself.
You came to express your being.
There is nothing to fear.
With love, Marlane