Let The Guilt Go!
“Our hearts may want to root us in friendly soil for ever, but our mind or our will or forces we neither welcome or understand may call us away”
Richard Holloway (Leaving Alexandria)
All the lying and cheating will surely bite you
Dishonesty tears you apart and will eat you
All the anger and pain and the suffering and the shame
And the voices in your brain will surely haunt you.
Let the guilt go, let guilt the go, let the guilt go, let guilt go
Korn – Remember Who You Are (2010)
Guilt is a horrible feeling. To be more accurate guilt is a horrible emotion. It is one we can neither escape from nor eradicate from our being like some treatable virus. Guilt is, by definition, a cognitive or emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes (accurately or not) that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. For a child raised under the banner of the church and Christianity guilt is a natural part of life. It is also as deadly as any virus yet without a cure. Referred to by some as ‘Catholic guilt’, religious guilt or more specifically Christian guilt is a soul-destroying emotion that seeks to control those whom it imprisons. I use to be controlled by this emotion, by the prison guard of god, by the big stick of ‘the man upstairs’ but then, as in the words of Jonathan Davis, I “let the guilt go”. And as with Richard Holloway it was by forces I neither welcomed nor understood that called me away.
Dr. Bart Erhman, in talking about his own move from fundamentalist evangelical Christian to agnostic, describes the experience as “emotionally painful” and not one that he would encourage anyone to pursue nor would he wish anyone to go through it but in his case it had to be done. He could not resolve or understand how a supposedly loving god could be so removed from the suffering that was taking place in the world. How could god stay silent, stay so absent? How could heaven stand by and not intervene? He could not accept this and so his journey from fundamentalist evangelical Christian to agnostic professor of religious studies began.
One aspect of this journey that I have yet to hear Dr. Erhman speak about is the deep, deep guilt that racks the mind, soul and body when you are stepping away from what you have always known. To step away from the church, deny the existence of god, refuse the divine nature of Jesus and the inerrant truth of the bible is to be branded a ‘backslider’, an apostate, your destination, according to some is now hell, eternal damnation and separation forever from the presence of god. Christopher Hitchens in his book ‘god is not great – how religion poisons everything’ points out the lunacy but also the sadistic and inhuman, if not immoral, nature of a religion that promises you eternal bliss if you accept their terms and conditions but if not, your demonstration of ‘free will’ will buy you a one way ticket to eternal damnation. It isn’t really a choice. There is no ‘free will’. It is blackmail. It is a guilt driven product of worst tyrannical mind.
Yet it is this guilt that has taken the lives of more young people than can be imagined. “And too much blood has flowed from the wrists of the children shamed for those they chose to kiss”. It is not just those people, young and old, from the LGBT community who have died because of this guilt. Many straight men and women, young and old, have taken their lives or lead lives of misery and pain because of the guilt invoked by god created to condemn.
For many years I struggled with depression. I still struggle with depression. I always will and I have finally accepted that now. In examining the causes of my depression (not just because of the more recent diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with its associated Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder) I found that I struggled to live up to the expectations of the bible, god, Christians. I use to say I envied those Christians I knew who seemed to have a strong sense of faith. I realize we only see what others let us see and there are plenty of ‘black marks’ on their souls as described by Death in Piers Anthony’s novel On A Pale Horse. However when one is continually seeking, begging, for the promised ‘peace that passes all understanding’ or when you try ‘casting all your cares on him and struggle to ‘be anxious about nothing’, day after day, getting no relief, the guilt that wrenches through your mind, body and soul is indescribable. If there is a hell it is here on earth and it shows itself in the deep seated, gut wrenching, soul-destroying, murderous religious emotion GUILT. I am a failure. Why does god not answer my prayers? Why can I not feel any relief? Why do I feel like I am running and running and running and never getting to the finish line? Who keeps changing the goal line? Is there a goal line? Is it me? Have I done something wrong? Am I doing something wrong? “Constantly thinking and thinking and thinking, And thinking and thinking and thinking… All the anger, the pain and the suffering, and the shame, And the voices in your brain will really haunt you”. Whose voices are those that haunt me? My mothers? My fathers? My sisters? My brother-in-laws? My best friend? The preacher? God? Jesus? The Holy Spirit? Who are my accusers? And you are constantly thinking, and thinking, and thinking, until you can take anymore and you beat yourself up to the point where you no longer feel. The guilt takes over and saps what life you have left right out of you. Let the guilt go.
"Guilt." Encyclopaedia of Psychology. 2nd ed. Ed. Bonnie R. Strickland. Gale Group, Inc., 2001. eNotes.com. 2006. 31 December 2007
Make It Stop (September’s Children) – Rise Against
Let The Guilt Go (Remember Who You Are) – Korn