Christian Fundamentalism. When I was aged 16, a school friend invited me to a young people's Christian group which preached the following: 1. You have to ask Jesus into your life to be able to go to heaven when you die. If you don't do that and die, you are condemned to hell when you die and hell is a place of great suffering and punishment. The prayer they asked me to pray is, "Jesus, come into my life. Forgive me for my sins." and they said if someone has just done that, they've become a Christian. They converted people to Christianity on the basis of 'if you're not a Christian, you go to hell'. 2. If you feel upset/anxious/afraid/have negative thoughts about yourself (self-confidence issues and self-esteem issues which many teenagers experience), you are being attached by Satan/the Devil (called 'the Enemy') - because the Devil attacks you anyway or you're slacking in the Christian faith (by not reading your Bible/not praying/not going to church) or you've committed a 'sin' and not 'confessed' and 'the Devil takes hold of you'. I had premenstual tension and at 16 years old did not understand why I had mood swings just before my period and this was interpreted as the Devil attacking me or God rebuking me. 3. If you feel/upset/anxious/afraid, you are being rebuked/chastised by God for being undisciplined (slacking in the faith/being disobedient to God) for not reading your Bible/for not praying/for missing church or 'for sinning'. Again I did not understand at this time that I experienced the Premenstrual Syndrone of mood swings. [If you're upset or afraid, there was confusion as to whether the Devil was attacking or God was rebuking here.] 4. Sin, even trivial sins and things regarded by ordinary people as not sin were defined as sin in this church group. For example, when I was aged 16 I had sexual feelings for a boy in my class and my vagina became moist as result and I noticed this when I went to the toilet and I saw a wetness in my pants - the boy already had a girlfriend and I did not have any sexual relationship with him and I was a virgin at this time - the boy did not know I was attracted to him. I told no one in the church about my sexual feelings but one day at a group meeting, I was told if a girl or boy experienced any sexual feelings outside of marriage or masturbated, then it was regarded as a sin of lust which would displease God and would need to be confessed - this was said by a young man (who probably experienced an erection when seeing a pretty girl and probably did not always practice what he preached anyway) - and that is normal adolescent physical attraction for the opposite sex. This fundamental church group became too much for me and I left after being in the group for six months (I'd just had my 17th birthday) and I was 'accused of being a backslider who turned her back on God and that God would never allow me to be happy until I repented and came back to God by recommitting myself to him in this group'.
I'm now aged 47 and I have come to terms with what I experiened in this fundamental church group. I now go to a Methodist Church which I find liberal and tolerant and I feel happy with my Christian faith and the preaching there. I believe in a God of love and forgiveness (AND FAIRNESS AND TOLERANCE). I don't accept that people go to hell when they die as the discription of hell is one of great suffering and punishment which is too outrageous and which no one deserves and which is not the idea of a God of love. In my Methodist church they see God as a God of love who is merciful. Having a sexual feeling is not a sin if you, for example, resist the temptation of sleeping with someone else's partner and handle your own sexuality wisely. I don't think I was actually scared of the God I worshiped. These ideas weren't coming from God himself. These ideas were coming from people in the group who wanted to dictate, brainwash etc. I was scared of young people aged in their teens and 20s preaching these hard and scary things to anyone who hadn't converted to this fundamental Christianity. I was afraid of being rebuked for not following their rules of Christianity and for 'being seen as a bad Christian' because I didn't or couldn't conform to their rigid rules.
One day, I saw a fundamental Christian and an atheist having an argument and it amused me. The atheist's defiant response was: "I don't believe in that garbage you preach. You are a religious fanatic. You're crazy man. There is no heaven and hell and no God and when you're dead, you're dead. You don't scare me mate with your hellfire preaching. I was raised as a Catholic and went to church with my parents. I've never believed in it mate. Now that I'm 18 I have decided not to go to church."
I couldn't be an atheist. I like to believe in a God and in life after death (and that heaven is for everybody and not just for the chosen few).