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Excerpted from Friendship with God by Neale Donald Walsch. Copyright 1999 by Neale Donald Walsch. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

"This is the God I grew up with. You may think I'm making this all up, but I'm not."

Neale Donald Walsch, Friendship with God, Part 2

How could God, who is supposed to be the most benevolent creator in the universe, want to punish my mother, who was the most benevolent creature in my life, with everlasting damnation? This, my six-year-old mind begged to know. And so I came to a six-year-old's conclusion: if God was cruel enough to do something like that to my mother, who, in the eyes of everyone who knew her, was practically a saint, then it must be very easy to make Him mad -- easier than my father -- so we had all better mind our p's and q's.

I was scared of God for many years, because my fear was continually reinforced.

I remember being told in second-grade Catechism that unless a baby was baptized, it would not go to heaven. This seemed so improbable, even to second-graders, that we used to try to trip up the nun by asking pin-her-in-the-corner questions like, "Sister, Sister, what if the parents are actually taking the baby to be baptized, and the whole family dies in a terrible car crash? Wouldn't that baby get to go with her parents to heaven?"

Our nun must have come from the Old School. "No," she sighed heavily, "I'm afraid not." For her, doctrine was doctrine, there were no exceptions.

"But where would the baby go?" one of my schoolmates asked earnestly. "To hell or to purgatory?" (In good Catholic households, nine is old enough to know exactly what "hell" is.)

"The baby would go neither to hell nor purgatory," Sister told us. "The baby would go to limbo."


Limbo, Sister explained, was where God sent babies and other people who, through no fault of their own, died without being baptized into the one true faith. They weren't being punished, exactly, but they would never get to see God.

This is the God I grew up with. You may think I'm making this all up, but I'm not.

Fear of God is created by many religions and is, in fact, encouraged by many religions.

No one had to encourage me, I'll tell you that. If you thought I was frightened by the limbo thing, wait until you hear about the End of the World thing.

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