Is God-fear a good fear?

  • By Dr. Neha Agrawal

Fear of God is taught to help us live righteously, let it not become a phobia.


Let us start with a flashback. Please go back to a day in your childhood, think of a conversation with an older family member, probably a grandparent, and what did they say to you about God.

It is irrelevant which religion you follow and what is your faith, there is one reality true to all. Everyone is given the reasoning of ‘fear God’, especially when you think, say or do something wrong. From an early age, we are conditioned to believe that God is watching our every move, He knows what we think, and keeps a track of all our activities. Even when we think no one is watching, God is. And hence, one must live in the fear of God, respect the holy message and teachings, do no wrong and lead a virtuous life. This fear is instilled basically to keep one away from the bad deeds and live righteously. But what happens when things go overboard and the fear crosses a line?

It becomes a phobia. The fear becomes a dreadful obsession. It is a continuous state of mind for this person. It is like a neurosis, the same things run on their minds again and again, and again. This creates chaos in their mind and results in an irrational thought process and behavior.

The technical terms used to describe this condition are Theophobia and Zeusophobia.

People suffering from this phobia are scared of anything related to God – the image or idol of the deities, holy places, places of worship like temple or mosque or church, rituals, etc. These things incite a reaction of anxiety from them – sweating, difficulty in breathing, nausea, rapid breathing, fainting, etc.

Does it need treatment?

Yes, it may. Instead of treatment, let’s call it therapy. Such fears originate from some specific life events and occurrences. Painful or traumatizing past experiences, childhood influences, social influences, act as triggers for these fears. Alternatively, there may be no direct explanation. They can be a result of genetics.

Fear of god for the sake of righteous living is a good way to be. But fear to the extent of phobia is unhealthy, not only for the mind, but also for the body and social life. Strong phobias bring down one’s ability to handle social situations, leads to conflicts in relationships and may cause physical harm, directly or indirectly.

Counselling sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist will help. Support groups encourage the people to open up and accept the problem, which is the first step towards overcoming it, and often the most difficult. Exposure therapies and hypnotherapy are other methods found to be effective in managing the phobia.