Published in


Christianity Put the Fear of God into Me at Six Years Old

It was a long road to recovery—here’s my story.

Photo of author, 9 years old.

Picture this.

A precocious, keen, sensitive child. She loves to ask questions, talk, dream, and imagine. Spending most of her time outdoors, this child can be found conversing with “fairies” in the garden, making mud pies, and climbing trees. Deeply thoughtful, this little one learns to read at three (never to be outdone by her older siblings), begins writing short books by five, and is intrinsically aware that the “unseen world” is vibrantly alive with spirits, energies, and colors beyond ordinary perception.

Few things were missed by young Amanda.

I was raised in an environment designed to nurture the intellect, and as a voracious reader eager to catch up to my older siblings’ more advanced levels, I spent as much time collecting data from my environment as possible.

I was also a big dreamer—I foresaw myself traveling the world, investigating forests and natural settings all over the globe, singing and performing, and writing books that would excite and enlighten my peers.

I would speak to strangers and adults boldly, express my opinions and preferences loudly enough to be heard, and enjoyed the adventure of leaving my home and seeing new places and meeting new people.

Young Amanda—around the age of 5 or 6—was dauntless.

Meeting Jesus

At some point in my early childhood, my mother became deeply involved in Christianity.

Because she had chosen to homeschool me and my siblings, this created a unique opportunity: she was able to design our curriculum completely around her religion. In addition to reading and memorizing the Bible each day, we spent our lunches watching Christian television and media, our evenings and weekends attending church, and our free time listening to cassette tapes and CD’s featuring recorded sermons (meant for adults) and Christian-based stories (meant for kids).

My mother was very fired up about her religion, and this didn’t just “trickle down” to her children—it slammed into us like a tsunami, quickly drowning everything else out.

I was told I needed to pray for forgiveness of my sins around the age of 5 or 6, and of course, I did. There was nothing special about the prayer—it was earnest, as I was deeply alarmed at the prospect of spending eternity in hell—but I recall being stumped that I didn’t feel any of the same magic that I could sense when playing outside in nature. I assumed that a spirit at least as real as those that tended to my favorite Impatiens in the garden would make itself known to me, but alas, nothing. I carried on without giving it a second thought.

Within months of that first prayer, however, I was told I needed to pray to accept the Holy Spirit so that I could “speak in tongues” and truly have “the power of God’s hand” on my life. Of course, I did—with identically unremarkable outcomes.

And then—the final nail in the coffin of my young psyche—I was told about the rapture.

For the first time, I felt something related to my “relationship” with Jesus: crippling, paralyzing fear.

“Fear not, for I am with you.” — Anxiety

While the concept of sin and hell was horrifying to me as a child, I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I knew that I’d said the special spell—er, prayer—and I’d been told that was enough to prevent me from spending my eternity in teeth-gnashing agony (yes—I had insisted on learning the definition of “teeth gnashing”).

Somehow, the concept of the rapture was much, much scarier to me.

Left Behind

While my siblings and I weren’t allowed to watch non-Christian media, we were allowed to enjoy our fill of Christian movies. My introduction to the rapture came through a series of such movies: Left Behind, The Omega Code, Revelation, Tribulation, Judgment, and several similar titles.

I recall watching these films with my family wide-eyed as I saw bodies vanish from their cars and homes leaving only a neatly stacked pile of clothes behind. Those who didn’t disappear remained on earth, where they were tortured, imprisoned, and beheaded.

Watching these films, I knew that it was me who would be left behind—after all, if I had already been born a sinner without even realizing it, my redemption was very likely in jeopardy, too.

Taking Precautions

6-year-old Amanda was no dummy.

I realized that preventative measures had to be taken if I wanted to disappear with my parents for the rapture, rather than stay on earth all alone to be tortured and beheaded.

I knew that my parents would certainly go up in the holy smoke—my mother was so devout and certain of her faith that it was no question—but I couldn’t feel anything when I prayed. I felt no connection to God at church, no brotherly closeness to Jesus in my daily life, and could sense no living quality in the so-called Word of God (Bible). This terrified me—surely it meant that I was evil, or at the very least, not worthy of the presence of God. With that concept arose deep guilt and shame, particularly when I looked around and saw other Christians exhibiting their connection to God so enthusiastically.

So, I doubled down.

By seven years old, I was praying the prayer of salvation at least twice a day, once upon waking and once before going to sleep (I usually managed to sneak it in sometime around lunch for good measure).

I made sure to repent—often tearfully—for every sin of the day. These sins included teasing my brothers, or sneaking a tootsie roll after I’d been told not to have any candy. In my mind, each of these sins spelled death—eternal separation from God, or more importantly, eternal separation from my parents, which I feared much, much more.

My Mother Disappears

One day, during a normal homeschooling afternoon, my mother disappeared uncharacteristically. Neither my siblings nor I could find her, and yes—you guessed it—we immediately knew she had been raptured.

I remember standing in the backyard with my brothers, all of us sobbing. We were relieved to have each other, but terrified that both of our parents—and almost everyone we knew—was gone.

One of my brothers had the brilliant idea of checking the TV to see if Benny Hinn was preaching (if he wasn’t, we’d know for sure what had happened), but before we could get to the television, he realized with a mournful cry that the broadcasts were pre-recorded.

We frantically dialed my father’s work number, hoping for him to answer the phone as he usually did. The call went to voicemail. We were inconsolable.

Three sheltered, deeply indoctrinated children stood sobbing in the backyard, holding each other’s hands and praying, for what felt like an eternity.

Eventually, my mother wandered back home—she’d meant to visit our next-door neighbor for a few moments, and had become sidetracked, staying much longer—and was shocked to discover us in our disheveled and frantic state.

I remember holding her and weeping into the nook of her armpit, so grateful that she was still with us. I prayed silently that I’d never lose her again.

Unhealthy Attachment

In the years following that experience, I became unhealthfully attached to my parents. If they left the house without me—even if another adult was home—I was sick. I was always monitoring my parents’ location out of my periphery, and felt agonizing anxiety being anywhere they weren’t, including at extra-curricular events, friends’ houses, or with other relatives.

The anxiety of this unhealthy attachment is something I lived with for years, even once I stopped consciously worrying about my parents’ location. I became accustomed to waking up extremely nauseous, my stomach in knots, hoping that the world was still “normal” and that the rapture hadn’t happened during the night.

During this time, I strengthened my relationship with “God” by continuing to indoctrinate myself with religious dogma. As I memorized Bible verses, read Jesus Freaks: Martyrs, devoured ample amounts of religious fiction, and pored over Jack Chick’s tracts and comics, I fashioned an intellectual understanding of God and Jesus that helped me “realize” my lack of intuitive connection to God was simply the byproduct of my own lack of faith.

Once I believed that I was the problem, it was an easy solution.

Using the masterful power of the human brain, I created my own confirmation bias to support my beliefs.

Any doubts I had about Christianity, I smothered with the name of Jesus (the doubts were obviously planted by Satan). Any time a good thing happened, I thanked God. Any time a bad thing happened, I blamed that old thief, the Devil, or shrugged it off and attributed it to “God’s plan.” I prayed and worshipped constantly, in “tongues,” in “Spirit,” and in English. I didn’t expect miracles or healings, but I certainly prayed for them. Results were hit or miss, but there wasn’t much that could be done about that—God works in mysterious ways.

I couldn’t feel God one way or another, so I developed a brilliant assignment system in which positive feelings like love, gratitude, joy, excitement, and pleasure were from God (and negative feelings from the other guy).

My Crutch

Christianity was my crutch for years, and boy did I need one—ironically, for the fear and anxiety that Christianity itself had created in my psyche.

Christianity was the invisible solution to my invisible problems—it freed me from being left behind, from the chaos and pain of the end times, from the lake of fire and hell—but it didn’t do much else.

When it came to my faith, I got exactly what I put in, and I began to notice as time elapsed that if my enthusiasm for Christianity waned, so did my “connection to God.” In fact, my “connection to God” appeared to be entirely mental, devoid of its own life—the only life it had was the life I gave it, which felt entirely unnatural to me.

I would occasionally reflect back to my early childhood, when I spent time in the garden perceiving a very real magic that asked nothing of me, nor required anything from me—it simply gave unconditionally, offering me peace, joy, and love. Nature had always been where I’d felt the Divine, but now I lived in a strange reality where the Divine was in an alien book with strange rules, strict demands, and disturbing prophecies.

My reflections and intuitive nudges were always immediately silenced by my intellect, which was well-trained to snuff out doubtful thoughts and follow them up with a brief, silent prayer for forgiveness. Other things my intellect snuffed out were the dreams of my childhood. Suddenly, my future looked very small indeed—I grappled constantly with the guilt that I yearned for careers which didn’t fit appropriately into my religion.

The Road to Recovery

For more than fifteen years after I prayed that first prayer of salvation, I suffered under the burden of my Christian beliefs.

Along the way, I had many experiences that provoked internal questions about the motivation behind my allegiance to Christianity, but fear—always disguised as faith—would flood in and glue my feet even more firmly to my path.

It all came to a head when I began to learn about other religions and belief systems as a young adult—not through Christian resources determined to paint them as corrupt and misleading, but directly from the sources themselves—and something began to awaken inside of me.

For the first time, devouring the Bhagavad Gita and Autobiography of a Yogi, I felt something stir in my heart—something that wasn’t intellectual, but deeply intuitive and alive. Suddenly, I felt as if the Truth had been distilled into a language that I could finally understand, one that electrified my entire body and cleared the fog of fear from my mind like a crisp wind. I was alive—and I was eager to be alive—because I could suddenly feel the Divine again, just like I did as a child.

Finding Truth is A Unique Experience

Once I started exploring other religions, I realized why other belief systems exist: because to get beyond the intellectual mind and into the heart, Truth may need to be delivered differently for different people.

For me, Christianity was something that resonated with one thing, and one thing only—my mind. My “faith” was borne of fear, and it was something I had to constantly feed with all manner of mental gymnastics and psychological puppetry—a constant sort of self-brainwashing that was exhausting and painfully unfulfilling. The crippling anxiety and shame that came with it was something I learned to live with, even to associate with my faith, and there was no end to the doctrine-based mechanisms of prayer, praise, and repentance I would concoct to normalize and live with that discomfort.

When I discovered yogic philosophy, meditation, and metaphysics, my heart came alive—much to my mind’s disgust and disapproval. The dauntless child who had existed in my early years reappeared, resonating deeply with the message of Truth as it was presented in this completely new format. The deep conditioning and indoctrination of my mind struggled and strained against accepting something new as Truth, but it was no match for the heart.

With my new realization of Truth, I finally understood why anyone would ever allow themself to become a martyr: their conviction was such that it couldn’t be shaken by pain or death. Martyrdom was something I’d always been terrified of as a Christian—a byproduct of the lack of peace in my heart, a peace that was now surrounding me unshakeably.

I’ve learned that finding truth is a unique experience for each individual. For some, Christianity may be the thing that lights their heart on fire—that makes them become electric, full of joy, and vibrantly alive. For me, it was the opposite—and that’s okay.

I dream of a world in which there is no stigma attached to letting go of the beliefs with which one is raised.

When I reflect on the years of my life spent as a Christian, my heart aches for the girl covered in fear, guilt, and intense shame, whose faith was a brilliant performance, but never quite brilliant enough to convince the actor herself.

Now, I live a life of peace—not without its struggles, of course. But the difference is that today, my beliefs are no longer a crutch: they’re wings that help me soar to new heights of gratitude, bliss, and expansion all the time.

It is my fervent hope that every individual discovers the Truth that allows them to do the same—beyond the mind, and into the heart.

Photo of author, today.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Amanda Dollinger

Amanda Dollinger

The highest purpose of words is that they be used to connect one another.