Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

[Religious Paradigm] Religious Guilt, Shame and Fear… Why It’s A Good Thing

Posted by Lex Fear on June 14, 2008

I suspect that when anti-theists (particularly those who have left religion) list guilt, shame and fear as reasons not to believe in God, they are really referring to self-doubt, confusion and uncertainty that everyone experiences either during their teens, during difficult times or at other times during their lives – especially when they begin to look inside themselves and question their own set of pre-held beliefs, prejudices and bias*.

Taking an example from Steve Pavlina (see my previous post). He asks people to abandon guilt and fear and move towards an ambiguous spirituality of your own. Let’s apply this message to a pedophile Priest (also mentioned in his rant). I would imagine and hope that a pedophile Priest (or indeed anyone, believer or not) would be feeling guilt whilst appearing on the exterior to be a person of righteousness. I would hope they are feeling tremendous guilt.

Guilt is the only way that God can work, through the Holy Spirit to bring an end to the perversion. Of course God could act through others, even the authorities – but how would someone defend their vigilantism, or bring a conviction based on the evidence “God told me he was a pedophile”? What happens when the authorities are implicit in covering up the act? Then perhaps God could stop the man and those involved himself, but this is not usually how God chooses to intervene in human affairs – for many good reasons – but that is another subject that has already been addressed many times elsewhere.

What of shame? Shame is usually the result of having your dark secrets exposed to the limelight. Suppose a thief is caught after breaking into the house of an old woman, beating her and stealing her savings. Should he not feel some shame along with accepting his punishment? What about an act which is not classed as a crime? Should a married who is caught having an affair at the office not feel some shame for his disregard towards his wife and children? Shame is a part of remorse and regret. It’s necessary to make the first steps of reconciliation towards the person or persons you have hurt. How else would we have gotten the phrase “Have you no shame?!”

Fear of God is something that is widely misunderstood. Once again, it is not some sort of control mechanism that the church uses to maintain the allegiance of it’s subjects. Consider the criminal in my example above. He has been caught and sent to jail, but this does not necessarily mean he agrees with the justice system, or that he even thinks he has done anything wrong. Suppose there is a fault in the prosecutions case and he gets away scot free, or his sentence is particularly lenient and it is not felt by the public to be long enough. He walks out of the court/jail and raises his hands, smiling in celebration and defiance. The national newspapers have a field day! There would be calls for criminal reform, columnists climbing over each other to condemn the thief, the judge, the justice system and bemoan the tragedy of it all. Why?

The thief, you see, is not just lacking in shame, he’s lacking in fear.

If a person truly believed in God, believed that he could be angered by injustice and believed that there was such a thing as a Lord of the Earth who will come to judge the quick and the dead. That there is such a thing as Hell (which is simply a place God is not). Would they commit crimes such as the one I speak of above? Would they celebrate being let off by human courts in the full knowledge they had gotten away with an evil act, in the knowledge that there was a heavenly court to come, with a judge who sees all and knows all?

Consider the dictators throughout history and the dictators who are alive now- the leaders of Zimbabwe, the Chinese Government, The Burmese Government and so on. It is irrelevant whether they atheists or not. These people have no fear of humans – no-one is rising up and no-one is attacking them – and obviously they have no fear of God. They are the highest authority of their country, they know this and in some cases they consider themselves to be equal to God**.

If you do not personally believe in God, then it is useless to blame God or religion for their atrocities since they are the highest authority and therefore the non-existent God is not responsible, you may as well blame a pink unicorn or teapot or something. However, if you do believe in God, then you should have a hope that one day there will be a reckoning, and that people like the Chinese troops in this video below, will, in fact, one day come face to face with the Alpha and Omega, ready to settle the score.

When I see things like this, I have to believe there is an angry God watching:

A fear of God is healthy – not for you, rather, for those around you and for those who you lead or serve. Incidentally this is also why we are told to let God have vengeance, rather than take it into our own hands (yes that means the idiots who kill abortion doctors will also face the wrath of God someday too).

We are also told that God is patiently waiting for all to repent and when they do they can put fear to rest, but this is again, a subject for another day.

*NB: I’m not referring to people have been physically or psychologically abused.
** Incidentally this ties in well with original sin and the curse of death. Natural death is a necessary tool in assuring that no human being, no matter how evil, lives forever and escapes injustice. It also benefits those ruled by evil dictators. If no-one does rise up or challenge them, at least we can take comfort in the fact they will eventually grow old and die. No-one can escape natural death (except, perhaps, the very few righteous friends of God)

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3 Responses to “[Religious Paradigm] Religious Guilt, Shame and Fear… Why It’s A Good Thing”

  1. mattghg said

    Great post, ‘Lex. Guilt, shame and fear are appropriate responses in some circumstances.

  2. Andy said

    Now, when I was younger, I seem to remember someone telling me that the word ‘fear’ was wrongly translated into English, originally, and that really the phrase should read ‘love of God’.

  3. Your logic seems somewhat convoluted. Why should we live with the fear of God? It is only the ‘godless’ evil that require it. The rest of us inately possess the proper guidelines re: right and wrong. Although you have made me think that perhaps those people I describe as ‘don’t deserve to live’, should be redefined as those ‘that deserve to die soon’.

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