Does Religion Free Us From Fear or Cause It?

Religion is based primarily upon fear. .. Fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death.” – Bertrand Russell

If you haven’t read Bertrand Russell, I suggest you do. If you are interested in his views on atheism, start with the essay “Why I am not a Christian.”

Anyways, I  mostly agree with Russell.Of course, if a person believes they are going to heaven that alleviates the fear of dying. Heaven promises that you will live for ever, and no matter how bad a person’s life circumstances are in the end everything will be okay, but this only works if a person doesn’t doubt God, their belief system, or the after life. However, I also believe there are some fear causing agents within religion, and I think people have found various ways to deal with these fear causing agents.

One of these agents is hell. Believers have to worry about living and believing the right way. I remember being 10 years old and having frequent nightmares about going to hell; because, I was slowly losing faith in God.  However, for most hell believing Christians, they believe they will make it to heaven while everyone else they distaste won’t. Hell is not just a source of fear, but it is a source of othering of people who are different. I don’t just mean among Christians and non-Christians, but also there is othering among Christians and other Christians. For example, some Christians believe it’s either baptism or hell, and some just see it as a ritual. The list could go on drinkers vs. non-drinkers etc.  If there were a hell, people should be a lot more worried about exactly which of the Christians are going there considering the variety of Christians.

Another fear causing agent is sin. Some believers have a great deal of anxieties about upsetting God by their sin, and their “sin” can be very small such as a white lie. However for many, this fear is alleviated by the ease at which one can be forgiven. They can pray a few words or go to confession, and they are free of even large sins.

I think religion stepped in at an early age of our existence to rid our fears of the unknown and especially of death. However, there are fear causing agents within them. I think some people can be more fearful with religion than without depending upon the religious institution they attend and their personality. On the other hand, I think many people have found ways to rid their anxieties.