Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Guilt and sin and indoctrination

At her website ex-catholic girl, Miranda Hale has written a smarting piece about what damage her catholic upbringing did to her childhood and adult life. Don’t worry she doesn’t talk about any of the nasty stuff the current Pope is covering up. But nonetheless her story is quite compelling and well worth the seven paragraphs if you want a read.

. . . Catholic childhood religious indoctrination is chillingly effective. Its most powerful weapons are guilt and the fear of a literal hell. When a child is taught that the simple act of doubting or questioning any of the Church’s teachings is a sin, and that even the tiniest of sins can result in an eternity spent in a literal hell, they quickly learn to suppress those doubts and to feel intense shame, guilt, and fear when they fail to do so. . .

Then there is the guilt. According to Catholic teaching, humans are born sinners and cannot help but continue to sin throughout their lives. The only way for a Catholic to atone for these sins is to confess them to a priest, do the required penance, and be absolved. As a child, I obsessively recorded in a little notebook anything that I had said or done that could possibly be considered sinful. Then, when the time came for confession, I would recite this list to the priest, my head hanging in shame, my cheeks burning. I’d do my penance and be absolved. For a fleeting, blissful moment, I would feel light and pure and holy. But soon I would sin again, the guilt would return, the little notebook would be filled up with a record of my indiscretions, and I would return to the confessional and repeat the process over and over again. . .

. . . The Catholic Church loathes children. Loathes them. To the Church, children are Catholics first and humans second, and the lifelong trauma caused by childhood indoctrination is mere collateral damage in the Church’s battle against the outside world.

I can’t help but feel this teaching is rampant in other parts of Christianity today as well as Catholicism. I for one was told, although not nearly as brutally as experienced by Ms. Hale, that sin was inherent in our lives and was indeed a real thing. As a child the guilt of everyday issues and problems, especially as one grows older, becomes more vivid and acts as a plague on the mind. Christianity does not try to divorce any of the ‘normal’ happenings of people from their potentially ‘sinful’ corollaries. Everything either not done ‘right’ is a sin (whatever the right way turns out to be) or even if it’s done at all can potentially be a sin. I can totally sympathise with Miranda and the mind-plague that the doctrine of sin and guilt is that can chip away inexorably at the self.

No comments: