Monday, June 21, 2010

Atheistic and humanist worldviews cannot deal with guilt

Our society has become terrible at handling guilt. That's because without God, how can we feel forgiven? I believe guilt is one of the main reasons for the high rates of depression and anxiety in our society. Here's the situation. Someone does something terrible. They start to feel really bad about it and feel they are a terrible person, a subhuman who is unlovable. They go deeper and deeper into this feeling. TV and media only reinforce that everyone is always happy and that no one makes mistakes. How can this person feel they are still loved despite all this? There are ways of coping, but these only lead to greater problems.

One way of coping is to try to find fault with everyone else. Look at the news. It's full of stories of celebrities "gone wrong", people involved with illicit activities like drugs, sex, alcohol, etc. We watch hours of this and eventually feel better because at least we're not that bad! Or we might look at crime shows, which have become very popular. They show people doing things which are beyond our comprehension: sexual abuse, murder, etc. This takes us into another world. Suddenly, in contrast to what we see, we're not so bad.

People will even get very upset and angry over things they see. This is a show of righteous anger. Those acting this way feel, well, if this outrages me, I can't be that bad. They take on this cause, perhaps in a bid to redeem themselves. It's kind of like the old native american technique of masking one pain by creating an even greater one. But the problem is, the small pain still exists. No matter how passionate people become about other issues in the world, in the deep recesses of their soul, they still feel the guilt.

After being unable to cope with their transgressions, they finally go to a psychologist or psychiastrist. Of course, these professionals can maybe help, but they cannot eliminate guilt. Instead, they may appeal to several different psychological models. They may tell the person that what they are experiencing is normal, or that they were temporarily insane, or that due to the stress they were experiencing, they could not be accountable for their actions. People go into denial. They start to dissociate and believe it was someone else who made the decision and not them.

Our society as a whole has found another way of dealing with guilt as well. They proactively change something which was previously a sin into a non-sin. Abortion, euthanasia, pornography, masturbation, contraception, many sex partners, divorce, drug use, etc. have all had a status changed in society at large and have gone from grievious sins to "stuff everyone does". By changing the status, the hope is that these most common vices will lose their power to make people feel guilty. Unfortunately, the guilt remains, but it just presents itself in a different light.

Now that these former sins are no longer sins, some transgressions have become unforgivable. This assuages the populace's need for justice. No people can survive thinking that everything is permissible. Anarchy is not in our DNA. But the crimes which are considered heinous are all things 99% of people would never do. Things like child sexual assault, murder, rape. People can get all up in arms by these things and that helps them continue to believe they are moral people.

Only the Church has a solution, a real solution to guilt, and that is God's forgiveness. We cannot attain salvation through our actions, by doing certain activities. We achieve salvation because God wills it and gives us His Grace. Just as we do not merit salvation and closeness to God, we also are not responsible to forgive our own sins. God forgives them because for him all things are possible. We just need to seek forgiveness. We must also ask forgiveness from those we've wronged, but often no one is wronged, but we still feel bad. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He took all our misdoings and brought them to his crucifixion. It's through this action that we are saved.

Modern society can only downplay sin or mask it, only God can truly forgive. Many are skeptical. But I will tell you from experience. After much time of not going, I went into a confession at my church. At first I was nervous and wondered how the priest would perceive me or what he would think about my sins. I went in anyway and felt nothing but God's love and forgiveness. I am not exaggerating. Afterward, I felt free, clean, pure. I truly felt like a new creation. You could ask anybody who has gone to confession and they would recount a similar story. It truly is a feeling no psychologist could ever give.

1 comment:

  1. People lament over "Catholic guilt" but guilt is a necessary reaction to a bad action. With the absence of God, how can guilt truly be removed, particularly in the fluid whims of man?
    Just my thoughts.