Fear-based Religion or Faith

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).

I was taking a late-night walk with one of my friends the other day when he revealed to me one of his greatest fears. He is a devoted atheist, knows the Bible pretty well, has a critical mind, so we can’t accuse him of ignorance. Near midnight, he tells me, “Vahe, I must tell you that one of my greatest fears is that this (he meant this life) might be the end. How I wish there was a heaven, but unfortunately there isn’t one.”

I started thinking about this issue and came to the realization that Faith is our only argument and that nothing else will vouch for our belief in God.

In my last article about apologetics, I wrote about Martin Buber’s reply to the atheist writer, “But can you be sure there is no God?” This question comes exactly back to saying “But can you be sure there are no Flying Unicorns, fairies, or cosmic teapots revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit?” Similarly, the question about how we can prove there is no God may apply to proving the existence of Russell’s teapot. Many of you will think, “Don’t be naive. It’s not true. Surely, unicorns, fairies and celestial teapots do not exist.”

Death has troubled many souls. I encourage you to read what the philosophers of the enlightenment era have written about how religion was made to give false hopes of life after death. This question of fear has been an issue for as long as Mankind has existed on earth. Philosophers like Voltaire, d’Holbach and Montesquieu have accused religion of instilling fear in people, making them fear a superior being that is watching their every step and move.

Maybe we don’t have to go that far back in time. Christopher Hitchens the renowned atheist journalist/writer who was fighting esophageal cancer and died in December 2011, has said, “The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” ― Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-believer, 2007.

It’s amazing how Hitchens was so sure about the non-existence of heaven and hell. For him and for us death is the only certain point in life, inescapable and so true. If you are honest with yourself, you’ll come to realize that death is also your worst fears: the fact that ‘I won’t exist anymore,’ ‘I won’t wake up everyday,’ ‘I won’t see the people I love ever again’.

You may agree that you are Christian because of your surrounding influence. If you were born in China or Laos, the chances of you becoming a follower of Christ would decrease dramatically. It is my belief that everyone should reconsider for a moment what their actual reasons for believing are. If your reason is based on your fear of total non-existence then it would be better for you not to follow Christ at all. Apostle Peter said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” 1 Peter 3:15.

My friends, this is what differentiates us from other religions. Islam has 99 names for Allah but not one of them is Father. Reading the Bible will comfort you and give you the assurance you need: “Do not be afraid,” we read in Isaiah, for “I am with you. I am your God. Let nothing terrify you. I will make you strong and help you; I will protect you and save you,” Isaiah 41:10. I don’t know about you, but reading this verse makes me immediately forget the fears brought about by this world.

Fear will not base our belief on Faith rather on blind faith. So, if your Faith is based on fear, how do you expect to grow in the Lord? To experience God’s power, you need to lift yourself up to Him and give Him all you have. God doesn’t want to know that you only believe in Him because your eyes are glued to the horror of eternal punishment.

Jesus knows you. He said, “I am the good shepherd and I know my sheep and am known by my own,” John 10:14. Indeed, if you belong to Jesus then your thoughts and your mind are above all these. This is why Jesus came and reconciled Humankind with God, at-one-ment (atonement) was necessary so that earthly things would be secondary issues to us, so that we would not store treasures on earth where thieves can steal them but in heaven where the Almighty will store them for us.

The feeling of fear is normal. Mankind always fears something, may that be human or spiritual. And this feeling will not go away instantly or during your sleep at night. This fear needs spiritual healing, a heavenly touch. As Christians we must surpass these things. Let us not be like our fellow atheists who long for Christ but boldly claim that He doesn’t exist, and they continue to live in fear.

Let His peace reign in your life, “Leave all your worries with him because he cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7.

Vahé Jébéjian