Wanted: A Secular Alternative to Confession

I thought the whole point of atheism was that you weren’t supposed to feel guilt.

If there is no objective right and wrong, then what’s the guilt over?

From Creative Minority Report

Lucy Mangan, writing at the UK Guardian, says that she feels lots o’ guilt. But she needs a secular alternative to confession, somewhere to put all this guilt.

But my prime motivating force, the engine that powers all else, is guilt. You don’t have to be Catholic, of course, to suffer the same fate (though if my anecdotal evidence gleaned from nearly four decades’ membership of a family of mentally-convulsing freaks is anything to go by, it does help). It’s a temperamental thing. And for those of us who are daily wearied by the ever-accumulating burden it brings, the idea of having somewhere to go every Sunday to be absolved of all your sins (perceived and unperceived, just in case you overlooked something – what catch-all bliss!); and being ascribed a penance has a charm all its own. Just once, I’d like to feel fully shriven, like the bedragoned Eustace in The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, after Aslan scores through his scaly hide and tears it off to leave him standing there “smooth and soft as a peeled switch”, and free.

We need to develop a secular alternative. “I can see it now,” Toryboy says – and I won’t lie (can you imagine the internal contortions if I did?), there is something faintly contemptuous about his tone. “Queues of liberals outside a recycled cardboard confessional in a community centre. ‘Forgive me, Father/Mother/Caregiver of either or indeterminate gender, for when somebody made a joke at my dinner table about immigrants, I did not fully ascertain that it was meant meta-ironically before I laughed; nor did I later offset the carbon I emitted while doing so.’ ‘Write four articles on intersectionality and walk to Waitrose with organic peas in your shoes, while checking your privilege as penance,’ your soggy, proportionally represented elected excuse for a father confessor will say. ‘And forgive me for being in a position to forgive you.’ God almighty. Who art in heaven, actually, and is much better.”

You would think that being an atheist would be liberating, but in fact it doesn’t make sense. If you believe that there is no god, and that religion is an agglomeration of useful traditions and practices that has evolved to manage our desires and fears, then paralysing panic when these are stripped from you by the rational parts of your brain are entirely logical responses.

I thought the whole point of atheism was that you weren’t supposed to feel guilt.

If there is no objective right and wrong, then what’s the guilt over?

Read here

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