During a recent panel discussion that I moderated, I found some organized religions moored to fear, seemingly scaring their parishioners into submission.

Once an evangelical, I constantly monitored my actions and thoughts for good Christian behavior. What I was told to do, I did. What my pastor said not to do, I didn’t. I was convinced he knew the strategy I needed to follow to one day ascend to heaven. I feared a misstep, one that would land me in hell. I possessed a healthy fear of God. Or so I thought.

Can’t love be enough motivation?

I now know my fear had built a wall between me and my Lord. By ridding myself of apprehension, I’m now open to experience God’s wondrous love. The result? I’m closer to the Great I Am and share a real relationship—such as receiving the Supreme Being’s guidance and feeling its divine presence.

When I love someone, I want to please them. For God, I’m driven to live a positive life, one where I respect and care about others (the Great I Am’s creations) and try to bolster people.

Perhaps I possess a stubborn streak; I don’t want to be told how to live my life righteously. God gave me a brain and compassion to make my own choices.

The apostle John emphasized the importance of love:

1 John 4:16 “God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in him.”

1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in God.” (NIV)

Are humans so flawed that we need incentive to please God?

Perhaps some faiths reasoned that if we weren’t constantly worried about our damnation, we’d stray. I realize mankind is imperfect. As children, we need parents to guide and sometimes discipline us to differentiate between right and wrong.

But do adults need that type of guidance? My instinct shouts “no.” But it also occurs to me that society has laws and police to enforce them. Our jails burst with people making bad or immoral decisions. If we thought we could get away with anything and still go to heaven, would we still look to God? Then again, are the morally bankrupt people—those who commit heinous crimes—even seeking out God?

I don’t have the answer to this. What are your thoughts regarding fear-based religion?

See my related post Who’s Heaven Bound?