William Cowper was a hymnodist who suffered the most terrible anguish. Unlike many other people, his encounters with God left him crippled. He spent his days barely functional and disturbed. I’m no William Cowper, and I don’t know what he went through, but I’ve known the deepest religious pain too. I’ve known what it’s like to be in hell on earth. I’ve spent so many nights distraught and clutching onto a semblance of sanity. I’ve made a fool out of myself because of the horrors I’ve endured.

You might now ask me what religious turmoil is. I can say that it’s worse than ordinary depression. It’s torture. It’s an iron maiden of fear. It’s an oubliette of despair. But even these crude medieval metaphors don’t adequately describe the condition. It’s harrowing and debilitating. It crushes you completely. People lose all their respect for you and think you’re this unstable, useless layabout who has wasted his life and will amount to nothing. You become a spectacle. You’re the laughingstock. People on social media wait for the next stupid thing you’re going to say.

Last night I wept and wept for the years I’ve lost trying to fight this battle. But even as I cried, scruples harassed me. They created a loud cacophony in my mind, and accused me, judged me and criticized me. Karl Marx was wrong. Religion is not the opium of the people. It is not the sigh of the oppressed people. Some of us would do better without ever meeting it. It only adds to our burdens; unsettles us and leaves us in a spiritual nihilism that eventually leads to an emotional, psychological, and physical death.

The fear of hell is something a lot of people don’t understand. But I do. I can empathize with a person who fears hell. In Christianity, the notions of hell vary. Some say it’s eternal separation from God; others that it’s a place where God is very much prevalent, but only as wrath. The Bible is full of images of fire, and the angels chopping you into pieces, and agony, and weeping, and darkness, and gnashing of teeth. But none of these words frighten me as much as the word ‘eternity.’ For some of us, life on earth isn’t pleasant. It’s full of grief and sorrow. And the very thought of going to eternal damnation after this only destroys the soul. Imagine suffering all your life emotionally and physically, and then being thrown in unimaginable torment. All you can do is cry out and say: “This is not fair!” But here’s the disturbing truth: You’re not going to say that. You’ll only gnash your teeth while God sets your tongue on fire and agree that it’s just. Why? Because humanity is evil, and one sin is enough to displease God. And we’re born depraved, which means that even infants who die aren’t safe.

And here’s the best part about escaping hell: You can’t unless God has elected you. Many people (me included) come to a deep understanding of theology and even have Christian experiences, but we’re damned. So, what’s the point of living? These were the thoughts that bombarded me while I sat on my balcony and smoked my twentieth cigarette yesterday. Then a deep sorrow overwhelmed me, and I realized that I’m not going to heaven. My feelings and my religious ‘experiences’ don’t count. I’m not one of the elect. And then I wondered what I should do with my life. Must I eat, laugh, sing, and rejoice? Must I live like a reckless hedonist giving into every impulse and passion? The problem is that as much as we cannot escape God, we cannot escape our moral compass. Even if we don’t acknowledge it, we all feel guilty when we do something wrong. And we’re all tied up in these vicious cycles that involve sinning, regretting it, and sinning again to escape the guilt. Take an alcoholic, for example. He beats his wife after drinking and then hates himself for it, and then to assuage the guilt, drinks again, knowing it’s the thing that causes him the most suffering.

These days everything is a disorder, and moral responsibility doesn’t count. But regardless of what DSM says, I don’t believe that we can ever escape ourselves. I’ve often had people telling me that I’m too hard on myself. They tell me that I need to lighten up. But they don’t realize that I can’t. They don’t understand the gravity of my situation. I want to flee from wickedness and guilt, but there’s no way out. I’m John Bunyan’s man in the iron cage.

I’m like Esau who begged futilely for repentance with tears. So, God is going to judge every second I spend on earth along with my apostasy. So, what’s the bloody point of being here! People ignore me. Most think I’m a psycho. I once walked up the university stairs and heard an old professor tell another just that. I’m friendless, lonely, and on a copious amount of medication to help me clutch onto sanity like a man who stumbled from a cliff clutches onto a branch. And I doubt my psychological state is going to improve anytime soon. And I don’t want to try some form of therapy. So please don’t jump in here and say ERP. I don’t even want advise. And the worst part of all of this is that I’m going to hell. Nothing gives me pleasure here on earth, and there’s no beatific vision at the end of all of this.

I’m the Kierkegaardian demon of despair. What that means is I’m the tortured poet with some terrible, raw inner wound who lashes out now and then because the pain is unendurable. If you read Kierkegaard’s ‘The Sickness unto Death,’ you’ll find him progressing from one stage of misery to another greater one before ending with the demonic poet. He then progresses from one stage of sin that causes misery to another greater one before ending with the unpardonable sin caused by the apostate. If you read his other book, ‘Fear and Trembling,’ you’ll find him talking about the knight of faith who’s Abraham and the knight of resignation who’s me. The first grasps God; the second comes close before retiring in defeat, and in doing so, becomes worthless.

I think I’ve bored you enough with this essay, dear reader. I’m going to conclude by saying that I’m tired. I want to disappear. And if God was to grant me the impossible, I’d tell him that I want my name erased from fate’s Gazette. I want the pictures removed; the dates blotted out.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

13 Replies to “Spiritual nihilism”

  1. Exactly why I never liked religion.
    But the living truth can set you free.
    Your thoughts become what you dwell
    upon. What you feed your mind.
    Christ did not come to condemn,
    like the religious self-righteous,
    but to give us the good news of liberation
    from religious & spiritual bondage.
    It is there for the asking, and the taking.
    God’s forgiveness at Christ’s expense
    … Grace. So simple that a child can grasp,
    yet a stumbling block that confounds the
    wise in their own eyes.
    Ive studied the bibles references to hell,
    that have been misused, abused, and
    misinterpreted, by religious manipulators
    for centuries. The Lake of Fire hasn’t,
    intended for the rebellious angels (being
    eternal spirits, that can’t be trusted, they
    need to be put somewhere) hasn’t even
    happened yet. And it was not meant for
    humans. Jesus spoke of sheol, the
    place of the dead, and how there’s the
    comfortable, close to God, part he called
    Abraham’s bosom, and the outer dark part
    for those far removed from God by the
    way they lived. A place of regret (weeping
    and gnashing of teeth). Jesus descended
    to sheol, like any human soul, after the
    crucifixion (Blake did a great picture of
    this) where he preached salvation to
    those in sheol! Then, after 3 days, ascended as the resurrected Christ.
    Hell, in the meantime, is a misused word.
    For God is Love. The term “God’s wrath”
    has been weaponised, and misdirected.
    There is an accuser and a liar, who comes
    to steal, kill, and destroy (if you listen to
    the lies, and believe them) but it isn’t God.
    Jesus come to set the captive free.
    Not to imprison with guilt. Not to threaten
    and bully into submission & servitude.
    God is love, and is always ready to forgive
    us our stuff ups. Believe me …
    Ive made plenty 😎

    1. Thank you for such an encouraging comment David. I was very comforted by it. I plan to stay irreligious for a while because religion is affecting me, but I’ll retain my respect for Jesus like you have. You’re right. He didn’t come to condemn. He came to save. I wish my mind and soul would understand that one day and the gates of paradise will open for me, and I’ll walk right through with joy and never look back. I also didn’t take into account my struggles with Bipolar Disorder and OCD. They wreak havoc and contribute to me viewing God as wrath and only wrath. I agree with you that that term has been weaponised. Puritans are responsible for giving the world a very harsh view of God.

  2. This is pretty raw stuff, Nitin – and I can’t say my experience is in any way similar, but God describes Himself first and foremost as Father (Abba – which is more like a little kid’s Daddy than an isolated father) and for many people (myself included) our own fathers didn’t do too magnificent a job in letting us know what God is like. Anyway – this is not meant as a preaching but as a reflection on myself that your piece has brought about…

    1. My mother always tells me something along those lines. She says that I see God as a punitive dictator because my earthly father was one. I just haven’t been able to see him as love when I look at the big picture. Maybe it’ll change one day. Thank you for your kind comment.

  3. Wow. What a hellish education of eternity and religion! No wonder you self-flaggelate and smoke and dump yourself in the mud of nihilism.

    Speaking of nihilism, I once told a professor of mine that I couldn’t every be atheist because I would become nihilistic. I offended him (an atheist). Then I did end up traveling through that valley… The point is, we all handle life and truth differently. My perspective and advice to you will affect you in ways it never did to me, and vice-versa.

    But since I relate to your conundrums and inner paralysis, I can’t just leave you standing up there with only your mind and cigarettes.

    You are wrong about religion, Nitin. If there is a Supreme Creator, He does not want what you have outlined. If YOU were God, would YOU want that for YOUR creations? Would you give them either heaven or hell? No choice? No understanding? No grace? No love?

    Drop the Marx and Kierkegaard and Everyone Else -EVERYONE!!! What do they know? You need to stop standing on the literary opinions of others and even ANY opinions of ANY others. They do not think as you and do not know you.

    Erase it all and approach God afresh. Read only more positive information about Him if you must read (I don’t know what’s available to you, but I have far less doom-and-damnation messages I could send). Most of all you need to connect with God. Just you. No one looking over your shoulder; not even Him.

    1. Yeah the education is certainly a rough one. But doctrine is so hard to let go off. I know a son who abuses his mother and then goes on and on about right doctrine. I think this whole Calvinistic crap has driven him mental. It’s sadly done the same to me. But what’s terrible is that there is no other way to approach the Bible. If you read it literally from cover to cover (which you’re supposed to) you’ll only find an angry God who might not be fair. He isn’t like us Chelsea. We think differently and we’ll treat creation differently, but his entire way of approaching things is different. The book of Job for example sheds light into this.

      I’m not sure if I want to approach God anymore. I won’t deny him but I won’t let myself be tortured by thoughts of him.

      I’m only going to live once and I think I’m just going to start enjoying life. I might even take a break from blogging and travel.

      As far as people’s opinions are concerned, I read them but I’m not always influenced by them. There are times when I’m so sick of them lol. I’m talking about writers like Kierkegaard and some other harsher theologians.

      Thank you for being there though. That means a lot to me.

      1. The God of the Bible is filtered through the perspective and descriptions of primitive man, translated by medieval man.

        Again, find God yourself. Man’s a screwed-up guy.

        You’re welcome. :) Do what you think best, of the more uplifting choices category.

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