I can totally relate. This is why I like how Dr. Ray uses the virus analogy in his book. I was pretty darned brainwashed . . . . I went through a 4 year indoctrination in a fundamentalist bible college. I more or less lost my faith about 18 months prior to leaving the ministry. Some might say I had "lost my salvation" . . . . I just say that I "gave it back." :)
Even though I have been able to dissect the bible for what it really is, from time to time small elements of that virus still stir in my brain. I took a break at work about three years ago . . . . I was sitting out on the patio at the clinic where I was employed looking at a maple tree. I suddenly heard the words "Every tree that bringeth forth not good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire" go through my mind. At first it scared the shit out of me . . . .It was almost like one of those star trek episodes when the Borg try to call former members back to the collective.
It then dawned on me that when I was a fundy the same thing used to happen much more often: I would think I was hearing "the still small voice of god" when really some external stimulus had simply activated some old programming.
It still happens from time to time. I even have occasional dreams that I am trapped in fundamentalism. These events are rare, and become more and more scarce as the years go by.
It makes me want to thank "god" that we have this forum where we can share our experiences! (Drat, there it goes again ;)
I know about it seeping into your dreams. Pisses the hell out of me. And sometimes, you don't even know what those snippets were supposed to mean. I remember a dream I had a couple of years back, of being possessed by a demon (probably another episode of sleep paralysis except I was more in the dreamstate than being awake). This demon had a buddy who was just hanging out, and was elbowing him, saying that I'd call on Jesus to cast him out. The possessor said something like, "Nah, it's okay. She's already given up the ghost." The dream ended when I pretty much calmed myself down, called it a dream (and B.S.). I didn't remember what "giving up the ghost" meant, so I googled, found out it meant dying, then remembered another part of the dream saying it was the unforgivable sin. I didn't remember what -that- was, so I looked it up... I guess it made religious sense (meaning none at all in any reasonable sort of way) that blaspheming the H.G. would be, in a way, giving up the H.G. and dying the second death. It just boggles me that I didn't consciously think of all that and it noodles its way into my dreams.
I guess it just proves that what we hear can stick around even when we've forgotten most of it.
I had to make a list of the main things that convinced me there is not god so that I could go over it when I have moments of doubt. Those moments happen often for me because I am new to Atheism. I still get a sinking feeling when I hear christians go on and on about hell and I have to pull out my list and remind my self of the facts. Pascal's wager gets me too. Sometimes I have to read my list twice when that gets thrown in my face. I also have to remind myself that an all knowing god would know if I am really a believer or if I am simply just trying to believe so I don't go to hell.
I've been out for 3 years now. At first I would find myself wishing I still believed that praying might make a difference. As a family member was leaving for a trip or a difficult exam, I had this impulse to "bless them". It's really just a matter of wishing them well, as they head out.
We've also had some deaths in the family, and I felt a sense of compassion for others who sincerely believe they will see the one who has died again. I now realize that's a form of denial, but that's OK.
I guess things like this are more a matter of old programming (as other's have mentioned) then of doubt.
Reflexively I still occasionally wish someone a Merry Christmas or say "Bless You" when they sneeze!
Lol, nothing wrong, in my humble, with bless you and merry christmas! I don't believe Jesus was a diety, but i still love a good party, and a believe in wishing people well when they have a cold! What i find hard is when people say stuff like, pray for so-and-so... he is not well. I usual say something like, I am keeping him in my thoughts, or something lame like that. :)
I think you should feel free to reach for the bible. There is a lot of good stuff in there, from beautiful prose to some lovely thoughts on love and peace. Just remember there is a lot of evil stuff in there too, and that is probably what lead you into doubt in the first place. If you keep in mind that the bible is a book, written by humans, for humans and read it as such, you can gain great insight from some of it... or freak yourself out by the creepy bits. Cling to logic and humanity! Be a good person and don't worry about whether joining this or that sect, religion or cult will get you into heaven in the end. Every religion thinks they are the one true path, and everyone else is going to hell. They can't all be right! Besides, you wouldn't join a exclusive resort that only let in one race, would you?
I'm laughing! I've been having some wonderful time with my daughter, who is 15 and found her own way to nontheism. We've been listening to The Thinking Atheist podcasts and discussing the different ways that christians argue their beliefs, and the common fallacies. She recognized fairly quickly that there were a limited number of arguments and it can actually be quite irritating to listen to them over and over again. We are now becoming familiar with "face palm" and some of the other atheist lingo developing as a result of the movement.
However, yesterday I was riding in the car and we were listening to the most recent podcast, and I suddenly started to have the beginnings of a panic attack. I suddenly feared that I was actually leading my child to hell! Early in my atheism I had lots of doubts, and still feared hell. Slowly, after constantly reminding myself that "it doesn't exist", I began to overcome that argument. I think Pascal's Wager re-gained a foothold in the emotional centers of my brain because I wasn't only risking my own soul to hell, but I might be damning her to hell.
After a little breathing I was able to shake it off. I think I uncovered a repressed fear though, that can partially explain why I have never come out to several people, have never engaged in activism, etc despite several years as a nontheist. I haven't been afraid of rejection, hurting their feelings, or losing the argument. I guess I've been afraid to damn them to hell.
The brain is a funny thing and I hope someday that my frontal lobes and the emotional centers of my brain reconnect!
This is an old thread, and I don't know if anyone is watching it anymore, but here is Christopher Hitchens talking about this exact issue. The link is to the video at 22:04, though the entire interview is well worth watching. At the time, Hitchens had cancer and knew he had little time left to live. He died just over a year later, and he never took Pascal's wager.