Fear, Confidence, and Sin
No, that is not a title for a crazy Venn diagram like this one. I’m writing this post as a reply to one from a blogging friend, preacher on the web. We’ve been talking for a while and I decided that his lessons should have a MAL counter point. Not the usual ‘he got it all wrong’ counter point, instead I want to offer up the ‘how MAL the anti-theist and nihilist does it’ counter point posts. He’s a nice guy and we’ve had some good conversations. I like him, so it is that I feel both obligated and needful of offering the positive nihilist counter point to his lessons or at least a few of them.
Now, having found this I am feeling obligated to find a source to buy this one in the middle
Before we get going, let’s stop by Wikipedia
Fear is an emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running away, hiding or freezing from traumatic events. Fear may occur in response to a specific stimulus happening in the present, or to a future situation, which is perceived as risk to health or life, status, power, security, or, in the case of humans, wealth or anything held valuable. The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat (also known as the fight-or-flight response), which in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) can be a freeze response or paralysis.
In humans and animals, fear is modulated by the process of cognition and learning. Thus fear is judged as rational or appropriate and irrational or inappropriate. An irrational fear is called a phobia.
Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. Self-confidence is having confidence in oneself. Arrogance or hubris in this comparison is having unmerited confidence—believing something or someone is capable or correct when they are not. Overconfidence or presumptuousness is excessive belief in someone (or something) succeeding, without any regard for failure. Confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy as those without it may fail or not try because they lack it and those with it may succeed because they have it rather than because of an innate ability.
Preacher stars out defining the context of the confidence he is talking about. I’m going to paraphrase to try a point-counterpoint format. Feel free to use the link above to read the whole post with scripture references intact. I’m not trying to change the meaning of his lesson. Rat me out if I manage to do so. I added some highlights to focus the ‘point’ being made. This post will be long enough as it is.
CHRIST GIVES US CONFIDENCE
The prophet Ezekiel tells us today that each person will be judged according to his own works … lives in sin, he will die for his sins. Therefore turn from your evil way, and you will live.
[…] God has sent us a Savior, Jesus Christ. […] so that we might really feel forgiven. In this way the peace of Christ fills us and illuminates us from within, rejoicing our heart so that we no longer have any doubt that we have been completely forgiven and can now live in confidence and without fear of the judgment of God.
[…] Christ assures us that it is his merits, not ours, that satisfy divine justice, propitiate God, and avert his wrath against us for our sin. Therefore if we believe in him, we no longer need to live in fear of God’s judgment against us.
Then we must live well, according to God’s will, to grow further in holiness. And we must avoid all evil in order not to anger God against us again and so lose his love and light in our heart.
But if we sin, we can repent anew, confess our sin, and again invoke the merits of Christ’s death to make reparation for our sin and so again propitiate God in our favor.
With Christ we can overcome our fear of God, and rather live in the security of his salvation. If we are in Christ and have confessed our sins, we will live, and we can have confidence in his salvation.
Preacher is talking about the god giving us confidence, yet it is that same god who gives people fear that causes them need of the confidence preacher is talking about. He’s talking about fear of damnation and the god’s wrath. It would be easy to simply say that I don’t believe in a god so have no fear of a god’s wrath. I used to have that fear and now I don’t. Getting rid of religion does not make you free of fear. Never mind the next life, this one has a lot of things which cause us humans to be afraid. Even believers have to deal with these fears. As religious folk say, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. We all have to buy food and pay for a home among many other things. Fear drives most of what we do in this life. It has been said that if the food was delivered free and housing was free most Americans might never leave the house except during commercial breaks on television. That situation rids us of most of the big fears: food, housing, entertainment. Without fear we are often not motivated to excel in life and that is something that I question about heaven as it is described, but that is for another post.
Humans need fear. It drives us to act yet it is also quite bad for us. When we get a fear signal into the brain our brains start shutting things down which are not necessary at this exact moment to get rid of the fear signal. Biologically we are evolved to dedicate 100% of our resources to the task of getting rid of the fear. If the fear signal is not a full blown fear, our brains might not dedicate all our resources to it, just some. It’s a graduated reaction for many things but for many people they have either no reaction or full blown 100% of the resources kind of action. It depends on the person and the type of fear. In any case, one of the things that usually happens is the brain shuts down parts it doesn’t need for the fight/flight reaction to fears. That includes the pre-frontal cortex, the part we do all our long range planning with, the part we do most of our reasoning with. It’s a delicate dance to deal with fear. The fear that preacher is talking about can never be removed or ‘exorcised’, it lasts for a lifetime or as long as you are a believer.
Sin is that tool that the god uses to chip away at any confidence you have, to make sure that you never quite get rid of that abject fear of eternal torment. It’s the tool that ensures the believer lives their life in fear. (That is definitely not good for you) A fear that only the god can give you relief from. Some might recognize that form of relationship.
That said, how do I deal with fear since I can’t kneel down and pray for help?
Many of our fears today don’t require fight/flight response, rather they require a meditated and composed reaction. That requires that we use the parts of our brains that shut down during fear response. Yes, we’re our own worst enemies most of the time. When I find myself in one of those situations where I am confused and in fear, not sure what to do, I have found that I’m most successful when I do the following:
- Calm myself down. Meditate a bit if I can or simply sit and be calm in calm surroundings. Prepare myself to think the problem through.
- Take a measure of the problem. What is it, how far does it reach, how much damage can it do… that sounds odd, but perception is very important. Look at the problem several ways, it too has weaknesses that we don’t usually see at first. Over time I’ve (l)earned the confidence to know I can do this.
- Make a list of the thing that might mitigate the problem, slow it’s effects, or delay the effects
- Make a list of possible things which might happen in the near future which I can take advantage of to fight/defeat this fear
- Organize the list of things I can do, flagging them by time. What can I do right now? tonight? in the morning? I write that list down if needed so it is not forgotten and so I can adjust it as needed. This list becomes my ‘plan’. Sometimes there is nothing I can do immediately but remember to stay calm and all the things I can do are only little ones.
- I work that plan around in my head to see if there is anything else I can add to make it better or things which ‘might’ happen soon which would allow me to change it to plan ‘B’
- I used to think I could hear gods voice in my head but now I know it’s only me talking to myself. So I talk the plan over with myself, one of us looking for weak spots, the other telling us that we can make the plan work and what we have to do to make it work. The discussion usually includes preparation for the emotional and physical blows which are likely to come. Then I practice how I will react to those if they should happen so that I’m not completely unprepared for them.
- The conversation usually includes a worst case scenario analysis as well. This is the part where the believer might say they ‘get right with god’ but it’s when I get brutally honest. What did I do to cause this and what is going to happen if I can’t fix it. In that honesty I prepare myself for that possibility, how I will react, etc.
All of that gives me a plan or three, an honest assessment of what is happening and what will happen. I now have the confidence to move forward, face that fear/problem head on… by myself. I may not know what the future holds but I’ve got the best information that I can get about this problem and the best plan I can afford to combat it. I can and do confidently move forward no matter how bleak it looks. Plan B often works out because that unknown future often enough gives me a new perspective or tool or resource and with my plan and confidence I’m able to take advantage of it when it comes along.
Some of the problems that I’ve faced this way: Death, extended unemployment, financial issues, relationship issues, work issues, not enough money this month for groceries and many more.
This doesn’t make me fearless, just confident that I can come out on top, that it’s possible and if I’m prepared I can make it happen. Yes, sometimes the plan doesn’t work and the worst case scenario comes true. Funny, as bad as it seemed at the time, looking back I can’t remember why I was so afraid. The worst happened and I’m still here, still enjoying every experience of life. There were times that I couldn’t find a plan or even come up with my lists. My inner voice just simply says “Buckle up MAL, it’s going to be a rough ride, there’s no plan and no turning back” so my plan is do nothing and I carry on anyway with a hope that a new twist will happen and plan B will materialize. Confidence for me is not being certain of the world, it’s being certain of myself. No god can give that to you. You have to build your own confidence from the blood, sweat, and tears of all the times you pushed forward without a plan.
The best part, for me, is that when I come out the other side it’s not that I’m triumphant but that I get to mentally pat myself on the back for a job well done. I get to be proud of myself for surviving or avoiding yet another scrape or crash in life. Knowing that I did it gives me that much more confidence next time for the next problem or fear. That little bit of back patting actually helps repel future fears.
My search for truth helped me form this method. I searched for truth knowing the worst case was eternity in hell and with a hope that the truth would set me free. I’m not exactly free, but I’m informed and I have a plan. I’m honest with myself about it. Sometimes those conversations I have with myself end up with me having to learn something about biology or chemistry or some other science field so that I have the understanding and knowledge I need to take advantage of any new twists. This is how I came to be so deeply interested in how we think and what consciousness is.
Failure is always an option. No is always a valid answer. The trick is to be calm, have a plan, practice how to react and be patient and ready for when a twist comes along so you can take advantage of it.
The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet. — Damon Runyon
My planning, self honesty, and practice are exactly to help me be swift and or strong when that moment comes to change the outcome to a better one. That honesty is about not breaking my own rules as well. That is how this nihilist faces adversity and fear with confidence.
I’m neither a doctor or therapist. None of this is medical advice. It’s worth exactly what you paid for it.