The nightmare

Spoiler alert: I’m writing about a nightmare I had, but it’s incomplete because I forgot part of it. This probably won’t be of much interest to anyone; I mostly posted it here for myself. But if you’re curious, read on to get some insight into a godless mind. 

In seven or so years of being godless, I have never once been afraid of hell or of having made the wrong decision to leave the faith. I’m always hearing about others who left and who had terrible doubts and fears of having made a big mistake. But that has never happened with me. At least, it hadn’t happened. Then came The Nightmare.

It was two nights ago. I should say that I almost never have nightmares. I thoroughly enjoy my dream time generally. I’m a lucid dreamer and love to experiment. One of my favorite things to do when dreaming is to fly. One of the ways I become lucid during a dream is by flying. Usually what happens is that something bizarre or impossible occurs and I have trained myself to recognize these situations. So when I’m in a dream where something really strange happens and I suspect I’m dreaming, I simply will myself to begin floating upwards and usually it happens. Then I’m certain it’s a dream and the fun begins.

Back to day before yesterday. I was having a rather mundane dream about being back in church. I have these from time to time. But this time was different.I was in a church that I didn’t recognize. I didn’t know anyone around me, save for my wife and two grown sons. All of us are atheists or agnostics now, and my sons are both living on their own, so that was strange enough. Still, I was not aware that I was dreaming. I remember wondering why I was back in church but didn’t ponder it too much.

We were singing a hymn from old fashioned paper hymnals, something I hadn’t done in many years. I don’t recall what exactly we were singing but I do remember that I was mildly amused. I was laughing inside at the absurdity of me back in church. Then I started laughing out loud. I looked at my wife, who gave me a glare, but I continued to laugh. I was thinking how ridiculous it all was. How very strange the words to hymn sounded and how I couldn’t believe I was actually singing along.

The next thing I remember I was driving home after the service with my wife. We were discussing our experience and she was expressing doubts about her having left the faith. I told her I was not impressed by the service, the music, or the sermon — although I don’t recall much of anything except for the scene I described above. Then she asked me pointedly, “Aren’t you afraid of going to Hell?” Again, I just laughed.

Next, the scene switched to me being at home and alone. It was night time.

I wrote the above in a dream journal on 11/30/2017. Maddeningly, that’s all I wrote. Something interrupted me and I never finished the entry. Now, almost 8 months later, I’m wracking my mind trying to remember the rest of the dream, but it’s no use. The details are long gone. All I am left with are two impressions of what happened after that.

One is of sheer, unmitigated terror, the likes of which I don’t ever remember having had in a dream, or in waking for that matter. The other is I remember that I kept doing that dream thing where you wake up and think that it’s over and then something else happens and you later realize that you had “awakened” several times within the dream. Each time I remember being relieved that it was over, then some other terrifying thing happening and being doubly terrified, thinking that this for sure must be real.

But for the life of me, I can’t remember what those terrifying events were. Did I dream I was face to face with God? Or that I was actually in Hell? I can’t say. But when I finally awoke it was because my wife roused me up as I was literally yelling out in fear. Thinking for sure that I’d remember this very vivid dream, I waited until the next morning to start writing about it. Apparently, I actually didn’t start writing until the day after that. But then came the interruption, whatever it was, and now it’s gone. All I am left with is a vague sense of sheer terror.

I do recall one other thought from that night — it occurred to me right after my wife woke me up. I remember thinking that I needed to re-evaluate my beliefs. I was thinking that perhaps God was real after all, along with Heaven and Hell and that he was trying to send me a warning message. By morning, that thought no longer seemed relevant as the fear had faded and my rational mind reminded me that it was all just a dream — the result of random neurons firing in my brain.

But despite forgetting the details, I’ll never forget how I felt. I hope to never have one of those dreams again.

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