The Big Cop-Out: An Examination of Christian American Society

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The Big Cop-Out: An Examination of Christian American Society

Note to reader: This blog is an examination of a social phenomenon of Christian America. It is not meant to debate the existence of God or to change anyone's personal beliefs, however you should keep an open mind while reading. Whether you agree or disagree, your comments are welcome. Also note that this is a first draft.
 

Introduction

 

    Why do people, who have committed immoral, indecent acts (according to society's norms) in their lives feel compelled to turn to religion? Does religion give them a clean slate or a new start? Is it necessary to involve religion in the reformation of ones identity?

 

    I've known many people who have done things that they were not proud of, and were frowned upon by others who then proclaimed themselves as a "new person" because they had accepted God. For example, I met a self-proclaimed Christian preacher at Western Kentucky University's main campus (where I am a student). For those of you reading who also attend WKU, you may know this person as "the crazy religious guy who shows up every semester to threaten students with eternal damnation". I engaged in conversation with this person out of curiosity. Somewhere in the conversation I asked him what kind of person he was before he accepted Christianity. He professed that he had been a cocaine addict, whore monger, murderer and addicted to porn. He then claimed that when he accepted Christianity, that he was no longer a horrible person. If you can not already tell, there is a horrible flaw in this logic. Converting to Christianity in no way makes him a better person. I will explain more thoroughly:

 

Mortification and Transcendence

 

    One process that the church uses to convert new members can be described in sociological terms. It consist of two simple steps and they are:



Mortification

:Rituals of entry, especially in total institutions, which debase the old identity in order to impose a new institutional identity.

 

   In the case of religion, the total institution (being the church) harshly judge and criticize the convert in order to debase their sense of self or identity. This is usually done by accusing the person of various sins (or deviant behavior) that bear the consequence of eternal torture in Hell. After completely destroying the convert's sense of self (making them feel helpless, depressed and in turn vulnerable) they move to the next and final step of the conversion process...



Transcendence

:A re-construction of one's identity which allows them to share the identity of the group.

 

   Following the mortification phase which leaves the convert feeling frightened, helpless and alienated, the church deploys the transcendence phase which builds the convert's identity (which was reduced to nothing by mortification) up from nothing. During transcendence, you will usually hear the preacher/pastor/priest say something like "If you accept Jesus into your heart, he will forgive you of all your sins". Now to someone who has just had their sense of self completely obliterated by unrelenting criticism and dogmatic threats, this presents itself as an opportunity to escape their past, regain an identity (by accepting the group's identity) and most importantly (and this leads to my next point) be accepted by the group.

 

Social Acceptance

 

   What motivates people to adhere to a certain lifestyle? Why do people behave a certain way or dress a certain way? Why do people act in accordance to the people who are near them? It's simply because they desire to be accepted in society. Think about all of the things you do in the course of a day and then ask yourself why you do these things. They are all motivated by a subconscious need to be accepted by some form of society whether it be a certain group of people or a certain sub-culture.


 

Fear and Guilt


 

   Where does guilt come from? Does it come from God? Is it innately implanted in our brains? Neither, it is the product of a Christian Society. A society establishes it's own morals and values and labels everything which falls outside of these morals and values as deviance. Of course there are extreme accounts of deviance which are considered crime. From the time you are a child, you are socially conditioned to follow the norms of your society. When a person indulges themselves, giving into vice and fulfilling their carnal desires, others will inevitably criticize them (often hypocritically). When a person commits cruel acts, then they are likely breaking a law and risk punishment. There has always been a fear of consequence, but not until Christianity was there guilt.

 

   It is important to understand the difference between fear of consequence and guilt. Fear of consequence has always existed, guilt has not. Humans have the innate desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain, it is a basic instinct that can be applied to almost every motivation in humans. Just as fear of consequence has always existed, societal laws and norms have always existed as long as society has existed. The laws and norms of societies are what enables that society to function in an orderly way. If that society's laws are broken, then there are consequences that the lawbreaker must face, and if any opportunity occurs to a society to give them even more control over it's people, then that society will not hesitate to incorporate it. This is where the line between fear of consequence and guilt becomes visible. With fear of consequence, one who has committed an act of deviance or broken a law may try to avoid facing the consequences of their actions. An example could be: In a society without guilt, one steals food in order to survive. By stealing, they have broken a social law. In fear of the consequence, this person will deny that they have stolen in order to avoid the consequence, in turn letting their deviant act go unpunished. The person may reflect on the act, and consider why it was a good or bad decision, but they do not feel guilt.

 

To explain guilt, I will use the same example under different circumstances: In a Christian Society that has guilt, one steals food in order to survive. They are not caught stealing and have the opportunity to escape the consequence. However upon reflection of the act, they feel guilt and voluntarily submit themselves to punishment. This is the reason Christian Society manufactured guilt, for social control. Christianity used one of it's most powerful tools being

emotional appeal

(which distorts ones emotions causing them delusion) in combination with the human instinct of fear of consequence. They took the pre-existing fear of consequence, combined it with dogmatic emotional appeal and effectively reversed it's psychology to create a feeling of guilt in those who break social laws or commit acts of deviance.

 

fear of consequence + emotional appeal= guilt

 

So when one commits a deviant act in a society dominated by Christian norms, they feel guilt and the only way to rid themselves of this depressing feeling is to submit to the consequences of their actions. What a clever trap.



Why One Turns to Religion

   I have made the points that are necessary to understand this phenomenon, now I will explain how they apply. As an example of this process in action, I will refer back to the self-proclaimed evangelical preacher that I mentioned earlier. So let's go back in time, before he was a man of God, when he was still a cocaine addicted, whore mongering murderer. He stated that when he was living this deviant lifestyle, he did not feel ashamed of himself or regret what he was doing. Upon his own reflection, his behavior was serving a positive function. In his perspective, he was simply pursuing his own pleasure; however in society's perspective, he was committing deviant behavior. So if he was not ashamed of himself at the time, what happened that made him ashamed of himself? It was society's rejection of his behavior. One does not feel guilty for their behavior, until society disapproves that behavior. Facing social exclusion is what made him feel shame and guilt. He then experienced mortification: His identity was broken down and dismantled by a society who viewed his actions as immoral and indecent. The consequences of his actions were found in his identity and sense of self being destroyed by society. In other words, it was society's disapproval of his behavior, not his own that caused him to feel shame and guilt. So as an act of desperation to be accepted by society, he found his escape in conforming to the dominant norms of society and accepting Christianity.

 

   Did his acceptance of Christianity automatically make him a good person? Was his conversion to Christianity necessary or could he have simply expressed regret for his actions without accepting the dominant religion? Becoming Christian does not make anyone a good person, however in Christian America, this is an absurd misconception, a misconception that many people, like the deviant turned preacher take advantage of. In a Christian society, if one "merely" expresses remorse for their actions but doesn't convert to Christianity, then they are still seen as an indecent person by Christian society. Many Christians think that those without religion are also without morals, and this could not be further from the truth (there are countless accounts in history where murder, rape, torture and genocide were all justified in the name of the Christian God).

 

   One who turns to religion in the face of guilt does so out of fear of social exclusion. Their conversion to the dominant local religion is the transcendence of their identity and sense of self. The approval of a deluded society based on religious belief does not make someone a better person, nor is it necessary to make someone a better person. One should not have to take on the identity of the dominant social group (in this case Christianity) in order to improve themselves, nor should they use such a cop-out to proclaim themselves a better person.

 

Closing Statements

 

By converting to Christianity in the face of guilt, one is subconsciously and ignorantly adhering to the absurd mechanics of an illogical society driven by a delusional religion.

 

If one truly feels remorse, based on their own reflection of their actions and not society's reflection of them, then they should make the decision to improve themselves and not merely conform to a religion which only gives them an illusion of an improved self identity and a false mask of self-righteousness.

 

    In closing, guilt is a trick, being Christian does not make one moral nor respectable and proclaiming yourself Christian in the face of social disapproval is a masquerade and a huge cop-out.


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xoriginx wrote:There has

xoriginx wrote:

There has always been a fear of consequence, but not until Christianity was there guilt.

This is false. Guilt is a universal human emotion. Even chimps display guilt (and shame). Many different religions exploit our natural capacity for guilt, not just Christianity. Every society on the planet has, and utilizes for control, the human emotion of guilt.

Also, I would recommend the book The Mind of the Bible Believer by Edmund Cohen for a good book which explores the same ideas you're exploring. It's quite good, IMO.

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   This point was brought

   This point was brought up by a friend of mine as well. It sounds like you are referring to empathy rather than guilt.

By definition, guilt is:the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation or wrong, esp. against moral or penal laws.

This implies the pre-existence of strict social laws.

Empathy by definition is: the intellectual identification with vicarious experiencing of the feelings, or attitudes of another.

Empathy is a natural trait and has always been present in humans.

I'm not disagreeing with you, because I'm still doing the research on whether guilt and empathy are different myself.

 

I will look into the book you mentioned, it sounds like a good one.


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xoriginx wrote:   This

xoriginx wrote:

   This point was brought up by a friend of mine as well. It sounds like you are referring to empathy rather than guilt.

By definition, guilt is:the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation or wrong, esp. against moral or penal laws.

This implies the pre-existence of strict social laws.

Guilt is just the feeling that I've done something bad or wrong. It doesn't imply that the transgression was against some external law, nor that the law must be a strict law. It could be a 'law' of my own choosing, such as a principle or moral code. Or it could simply be an intuitive feeling of wrongness, not having any clear idea of what 'law' was transgressed.

For example, I tend to be a perfectionist. When I finish something I get the urge to go back over it and make sure there are no mistakes, and that it's as perfect as possible. If I don't do that, I get this nagging feeling of guilt. I haven't actually done anything wrong, but I *feel* like I have. There is no particular *law* that I've broken, not even a personal code or principle, just this feeling that I've somehow transgressed, or done something wrong.

I do not even think that perfectionism is a good thing. In fact, it's quite harmful most of the time. However, I still feel the guilt associated with it.

 

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I'm in agreement with

I'm in agreement with natural on this.

Guilt exists independently of religion.  Whether you want to think of guilt in Freudian terms or view it in the more contemporary sense as the all too human feeling of being bound by our own human limitations or a general feeling of powerlessness, it clearly appears to be a part of the natural human condition.

I like to think of it as the conflict between the limitless feeling of "the self" or our own consciousness and the bitter reality of our own bodies limitations.  We can clearly see what lays in store for the body....ie, old age, sickness and eventual death.  Fear over this reality leads many to try and make some sort of sacrifice by limiting or eliminating pleasures of the flesh (body) in exchange for a feeling of immortality (the self), even if we have to manufacture (fictionalize) an ideology to support this feeling.  Even so, this conflict is independent of religious ideology. 

I'll grant you that I'm certainly unaware of any institution that has ever exploited the human condition of guilt with more success than the religiously inclined.  That I'll agree with.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."
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I have found guilt to be

I have found guilt to be synonymous with anxiety. After 30 years, they still feel identical to me. I have to search out the source in order to cancel out the emotion. If guilt is not linked in any way to anxiety, then I have never felt guilt. I've actually begun to wonder if guilt exists as a distinct and separate emotion at all.

Empathy is something entirely different. One might feel anxiety if one does not act on their attempts to empathize, but that does not intrinsically link the two subjects.

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Vastet wrote:I have found

Vastet wrote:

I have found guilt to be synonymous with anxiety. After 30 years, they still feel identical to me. I have to search out the source in order to cancel out the emotion. If guilt is not linked in any way to anxiety, then I have never felt guilt. I've actually begun to wonder if guilt exists as a distinct and separate emotion at all.

You can have anxiety about future events which you do not feel guilty for. What if I get laid off? What if my sick family member dies? What if the election goes to McCain? Etc. I tend to think of anxiety as a fear of some possible future event that is negative in some way.

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   I want to thank all of

   I want to thank all of you for challenging my article. It will help me improve it's content. While your comments about guilt are all logical, I still disagree slightly. I am doing research now that will support my claim that religion created guilt out of exploiting a pre-existing human emotion with the help of a few Philosophy professors. I will post an updated version in the next few days or weeks and we can continue the discussion.

Thanks


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natural wrote:Vastet wrote:I

natural wrote:

Vastet wrote:

I have found guilt to be synonymous with anxiety. After 30 years, they still feel identical to me. I have to search out the source in order to cancel out the emotion. If guilt is not linked in any way to anxiety, then I have never felt guilt. I've actually begun to wonder if guilt exists as a distinct and separate emotion at all.

You can have anxiety about future events which you do not feel guilty for. What if I get laid off? What if my sick family member dies? What if the election goes to McCain? Etc. I tend to think of anxiety as a fear of some possible future event that is negative in some way.

Granted, but are the two subjects actually different emotions for you? They are not for me. They feel identical.

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Response to the guilt argument

Everyone must keep in mind that the society we live in is the result of centuries of religious domination. Our society's values are all derived from religion, it is embedded in us. We are hardwired to think in the context of religion, even if we oppose it. So even institutions that lie outside or are seemingly unrelated to religion, are undoubtedly influenced by it, and it is almost impossible for us to imagine a world where guilt is non-existent. I will elaborate on this more later in this response.

All of you seem to be describing empathy, which is a biological trait in our species and many others. Empathy is part of our natural psychology, and necessary for the survival of our species. However guilt and empathy are not one in the same. While Natural seemed to be describing OCD (which isn't a bad thing.) in his analogy of being a perfectionist.

I will attempt to articulate my point as best as possible: Think of the last dominant culture before Christianity took over. It was ancient Greece. So we could look at this era of Greece as an example of a society without religion. There is no Greek word which translates to "guilt". There is the word "Tuche" which translates to "luck" or "fate" or "chance".

The concept of guilt and the affects that go with it would have been inconcievable to Greek culture. In the Greek world view, we are all part of a cosmological whole, what is is and cannot be otherwise. When something goes wrong, it is the result of "chance" or "fate" (and not the sense of "fate" that we know). Now this makes the Greeks sound like fools, drunk on a cosmological concept of reality, with no sense of right and wrong. On the contrary, they had a natural sense of right and wrong, they had empathy and as all society's, they had laws and a fear of consequence for breaking these laws. However (and this is very hard to imagine simply because we are hardwired to think a certain way by modern religious inspired society) there was no such thing as guilt, it was simply impossible. It wasn't until Christianity went from a sectarian movement, to a totilarian form of government when Constantine declared Rome a Christian nation, that our natural empathy and fear of consequence was horribly exploited and guilt was created.

If my response seemed to vague, I could recommend some reading material that better articulates this argument.


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Of course the Greeks had a

Of course the Greeks had a sense of guilt. So do the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, etc. Every culture on the planet has a concept of guilt.

What you are doing is re-defining guilt to mean 'the kind of guilt that Christianity uses', and saying that's the only kind of guilt, there are no others. This is ridiculous. You are assuming what you are trying to prove.

Quote:
All of you seem to be describing empathy, which is a biological trait in our species and many others. Empathy is part of our natural psychology, and necessary for the survival of our species. However guilt and empathy are not one in the same.

None of the descriptions I've seen in this thread have confused guilt with empathy. I think you're the one who's got it confused.

Quote:
While Natural seemed to be describing OCD (which isn't a bad thing.) in his analogy of being a perfectionist.

The two are not mutually exclusive. OCD, which is a behaviour, can be caused by excessive guilt, which is an emotion.

You also did not answer the fact that I can feel guilt for transgressing a personal code or standard, for example if I drink too much or some other thing.

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Upon further reflection and

Upon further reflection and research, I realize that I was wrong to claim that Religion invented guilt. What I meant to articulate was the way that religion uses guilt to attract people to it's cause and how before Christianity, guilt had not been exploited in this way. To say that religion invented guilt was a rhetorical error on my part, and the bias that it implied caused everyone to automatically throw up a defense wall.

However all of you that suggested that guilt has always existed are also wrong. Contrary to what Natural claimed, the Greeks did not have a concept of guilt. Nor did they have a concept of the self as we have now. Their "sense of self" was reflected to them by society, it did not function the same way as the sense of self functions in our modern society. For example, a eudaimon person could not be aware that they were eudaimon if society did not reflect to them that they were eudaimon. In ancient Greek society, the absence of the "self" as we know it in our society goes hand in hand with the absence of guilt.

I realize that it is hard to comprehend an entire society with no concept of guilt because guilt plays such an important role in our society. However you can't observe this concept in the context of your own society because it will never make sense. Until you observe this concept in it's correct context, you will never understand it.

I myself am still doing research to better understand this intriguing subject. Currently I am reading about Epicurus and the more I read, the more it becomes evident that there was really no concept of guilt in Greek culture prior to religious dominance.


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If guilt were peculiar to

If guilt were peculiar to humanity, then why is it a dog demonstrates guilt when it has done something it knows its owners consider wrong? Guilt existed long before the Greeks. And in far more species than humanity alone.

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xoriginx wrote:However all

xoriginx wrote:

However all of you that suggested that guilt has always existed are also wrong. Contrary to what Natural claimed, the Greeks did not have a concept of guilt.

You are confusing language with emotion and conception. Guilt is simply the feeling you get when you feel you've done something wrong, transgressed someone or something, such as a principle or moral code. Whether or not the language specifically has a word for that is irrelevant. The feeling is still there. Concepts and feelings do not have to have words to go with them in order for them to be real. Before I knew the word for 'happy', I could experience happiness. After learning the word 'happy', I could now express statements about that emotion (such as "I am happy" ), but the emotion existed prior to my learning the word.

Are you telling me that the Greeks did not have a concept or feeling of transgression against people or principles or codes of conduct? It is a ridiculous position to hold. You can find expressions of guilt in any culture in history.

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On the contrary Natural, the

On the contrary Natural, the feeling you get when you've done something wrong is fear. A society defines what is wrong within that society and assign consequences for these actions. So when you "do something wrong" the feeling you get is fear of the consequences that you must face for breaking a social law.

Religion may not have introduced the concept of guilt, but it was the first to exploit it on such a level as it did. It is one of the many natural human emotions and motivations that religion has turned on it's ear to create a tool of control.

You argued in a previous post that you get a feeling of "guilt" when you feel something you are working on is not perfect. Are you sure this feeling isn't fear of consequence (consequence being that you have not put forth your full effort and the end product is mediocre).

As for the Greeks, of course they had codes of conduct, however they had no concept of guilt. What binded them to these codes of conduct were the consequences of going beyond them. The Greeks had a completely different way of thinking, which helped them acheive the Axiom age (which I think and many argue was the high point of intellectual society thus far). They reflected on their actions in a way that people in society since the dominance of religion do not. They did not have guilt because they had no need for it.

The tragedy of Epicurus can be an example. It tells the story of a man who killed his father and took his mother as his wife. After reflecting on his actions, he removed his own eyes. This is often misinterpreted as guilt, when it is actually symbolic. It was an act to symbolize that he could not comprehend his own actions (the eyes play the role of understanding; ex. "I see" means "I understand&quotEye-wink. It's been a long time since I've read this story so the details are shady however the main message is there.

It is almost impossible to comprehend the absence of guilt because it plays such a big role in modern society. There is no doubt that there is an emotion present when one commits deviant acts, the argument here is-what is that emotion? My stance is of course that this emotion is merely fear.

How knowledgeable are you on Greek culture?


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Dogs...

Great example. Dogs are not demonstrating guilt, they have no concept of it. Dogs are demonstrating fear because they know that there are consequences to their actions. They know that if they shit in the floor, their owners will punish them. You may argue "Then why does the dog shit in the floor if it knows it will be punished?" To this I would say: At the time they are committing these acts, they are not thinking of the consequences, just the pleasure of the act itself (just as humans do).

If you ever have the chance, examine a dog whose owner does not dicipline it (no newspapers or boots to the ribs for shitting in the floor) then maybe you can see what I mean. In this case, the dog would never demonstrate "guilt"(fear of consequence) because it does not know consequence.


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I spent awhile looking at

I spent awhile looking at this, only to find there's nothing to respond to, because I made an error in my last post due to getting confused. It went from religion creating guilt to guilt being nothing more than a symptom of fear, and my brain tried to bridge the gap. Unfortunately by jumping in the wrong direction.

Lets try this again. You've retracted the idea that religion created guilt, because religion cannot have created fear which is what you describe guilt as being. So your argument is that guilt is a specific state of fear based on consequence, and that religion found this emotional hook very helpful to work with in its spread across the planet.

If I'm wrong, please let me know.

My question therefore would be, can you show me how religion has utilized this more since its inception than anyone else has?

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http://dictionary.reference.c

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/guilt

guilt: 1. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt.

2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

3. conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.: to live a life of guilt.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guilt

 

1: the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty ; broadly : guilty conduct

2 a: the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach

3: a feeling of culpability for offenses

xoriginx wrote:
On the contrary Natural, the feeling you get when you've done something wrong is fear. A society defines what is wrong within that society and assign consequences for these actions. So when you "do something wrong" the feeling you get is fear of the consequences that you must face for breaking a social law.

Alright, so, to clarify, the feeling that you've done something wrong is guilt, and the distress that you feel from the possible/impending consequences is fear. Guilt can be independent of consequences. For example, I can feel guilty for lying to a friend, even if I am certain that I may never be found out. Fear, on the other hand, is completely dependent on the consequences; even the consequences are not the result of my actions, my fear would be dependent on some consequences.

xoriginx wrote:
You argued in a previous post that you get a feeling of "guilt" when you feel something you are working on is not perfect. Are you sure this feeling isn't fear of consequence (consequence being that you have not put forth your full effort and the end product is mediocre).

I'm not really sure how to say this, but you can't single out specific, subjective terms in complex emotions like this. I agree with natural; I think you're confusing our emotions with the language. The person toiling on the project can simultaneously feel guilty for making mistakes in they're work and be afraid that the product will be mediocre, not to mention various other emotions.  

xoriginx wrote:
As for the Greeks, of course they had codes of conduct, however they had no concept of guilt. What binded them to these codes of conduct were the consequences of going beyond them. The Greeks had a completely different way of thinking, which helped them acheive the Axiom age (which I think and many argue was the high point of intellectual society thus far). They reflected on their actions in a way that people in society since the dominance of religion do not. They did not have guilt because they had no need for it.

Ugh, you've completely lost me. We already have moral concepts within us, including guilt, as part of our biological development as a social species, and when we violate our conscience, we receive a negative feeling. We call that guilt. Therefore, the Greeks not only necessarily felt guilty when they did something, but they also necessarily had the concept of guilt; whether there was a term for the emotion or not is irrelevant. In fact, you already stated in the same post that, "It is one of the many natural human emotions and motivations that religion has turned on it's ear to create a tool of control." Well, if it is a "natural human emotion," then how do you "not have guilt because they had no need for it?" If guilt is an emotion, then its existence certainly isn't dependent on the specific human society.

Furthermore, the Greek empire was the birth of one of the first democracies partly because they had an impeccable system of values. If you've heard of Kohlberg's stages of moral development, you'll remember that punishment and self-interest constitute level one. Thus, the success of the Greeks should be tied to a movement away from the first level, not an emphasis on the first level; that would be absurd. After all, that represents Yahweh's moral philosophy as well as his system of salvation and damnation, the very ideology you're criticizing, isn't it? So, how knowledgeable are you on Greek culture? If you look at Greek philosophy, society, and culture, it should be obvious, at least, that people didn't follow these laws purely due to the consequences. Democracy is emblematic of higher moral systems; it is born out of a respect for what is fair and a trust for your fellow man. And, surely, you can't read the Apology and tell me that Socrates is tailoring his actions based on fear of the consequences.

"fear of consequence + emotional appeal= guilt"

Yup, naturally, I agree with all your criticism of religion, but I think you have this emotion thing all mixed up. I do not think that guilt always depends on fear of the consequences. I mean, observe the definitions at the top of this post; it does not appear to mention fear of the consequences. Also, I can't for my life figure what "emotional appeal" is referring to; it seems meaningless. Fear is an emotional appeal; guilt is an emotional appeal. So, what is this mystery emotional appeal? Guilt is not born out of reverse engineered fear by religious dogma. Both fear and guilt are natural emotions, and religion simply attempts to controls both of these areas. Guilt itself is not the trick. The trick here is producing guilt in trespassing on non-existent rules and morals, or, rather, rules based on irrational worldviews that have no place in humanity, such as guilt in losing your virginity or guilt in working on Sunday. In the same way, the trick here is fear of non-existent consequences, most notably, the fear of hell.  

Edit: Oh wait, I forgot I was a moderate libertarian (how do I forget that?). It is healthy and beneficial to follow a certain level of self-interest. So, yeah, scratch some of that Kohlberg stuff.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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Vastet wrote:Lets try this

Vastet wrote:

Lets try this again. You've retracted the idea that religion created guilt, because religion cannot have created fear which is what you describe guilt as being. So your argument is that guilt is a specific state of fear based on consequence, and that religion found this emotional hook very helpful to work with in its spread across the planet.

If I'm wrong, please let me know.

My question therefore would be, can you show me how religion has utilized this more since its inception than anyone else has?

That is the essential concept of what I'm saying, so you're right.

The reason I claim that religion has utilized guilt more than any other faction or institution is because it is a key part in the religious lifestyle and process of conversion. The guilt is constantly played in religious context. It is part of the glue that holds the faithful to the dogma.

The only other institution that I can think of that might utilize guilt as much or more so that religion would be the judiciary system. Like I stated in my article, with fear of consequence alone one who has broken a law retains the will to avoid punishment whereas one who feels "guilt" has a substantially weaker will to avoid punishment and is much more likely to confess to a crime to relieve themselves of the depression of guilt.

If you look at the interplay between religion and the judiciary system you will see that religion plays a big part in the justice system. So I am unsure of whether or not you should draw a line between the two and question which of them utilizes guilt more than the other; or to say that they cooperate.

And of course when I say that religion utilizes guilt more than any other institution, it isn't based on empirical data. As far as I know there have been no empirical studies on the matter but maybe this would be possible to observe in a scientific way. As of right know this claim is based on comparitive observations.


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butterbattle

butterbattle wrote:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/guilt

guilt: 1. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt.

2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

3. conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.: to live a life of guilt.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guilt

 

1: the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty ; broadly : guilty conduct

2 a: the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach

3: a feeling of culpability for offenses

xoriginx wrote:
On the contrary Natural, the feeling you get when you've done something wrong is fear. A society defines what is wrong within that society and assign consequences for these actions. So when you "do something wrong" the feeling you get is fear of the consequences that you must face for breaking a social law.

Alright, so, to clarify, the feeling that you've done something wrong is guilt, and the distress that you feel from the possible/impending consequences is fear. Guilt can be independent of consequences. For example, I can feel guilty for lying to a friend, even if I am certain that I may never be found out. Fear, on the other hand, is completely dependent on the consequences; even the consequences are not the result of my actions, my fear would be dependent on some consequences.

This is a good example. You feel guilty for lying to your friend even if you are certain that they will never find out. One possibility that you would feel "guilt" is that you are not certain that they would never find out, you know that their is a small possibility that they could find out, therefore the consequences of your actions linger in your mind causing a sensation of fear.

Another possibility would be that there is certainly no possible way they would find out. The lie then causes them harm and you feel empathetic towards them; therein lies the consequence.

I know it would be easy to say that you feel guilty for causing them harm, but wouldn't saying that you feel empathetic make more sense?

My argument is that "guilt" is unnecessary. Guilt is an infraction on the free will that can cause one to make irrational decisions. If you look at the core elements of guilt, you see fear and empathy so why attribute these emotions to guilt?

xoriginx wrote:
You argued in a previous post that you get a feeling of "guilt" when you feel something you are working on is not perfect. Are you sure this feeling isn't fear of consequence (consequence being that you have not put forth your full effort and the end product is mediocre).

I'm not really sure how to say this, but you can't single out specific, subjective terms in complex emotions like this. I agree with natural; I think you're confusing our emotions with the language. The person toiling on the project can simultaneously feel guilty for making mistakes in they're work and be afraid that the product will be mediocre, not to mention various other emotions. 

My argument here was, that for someone who is dedicated to their work and takes pride in the results of their work, there are consequences to not putting forth your full effort.

 

 

I'm not dodging the rest of your post, I plan to reply to it since you have a good argument but I have to head to class.


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butterbattle

butterbattle wrote:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/guilt

guilt: 1. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt.

2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

3. conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.: to live a life of guilt.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guilt 

1: the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty ; broadly : guilty conduct

2 a: the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach

3: a feeling of culpability for offenses

xoriginx wrote:
This is a good example. You feel guilty for lying to your friend even if you are certain that they will never find out. One possibility that you would feel "guilt" is that you are not certain that they would never find out, you know that their is a small possibility that they could find out, therefore the consequences of your actions linger in your mind causing a sensation of fear.

If you lie to your friend, don't have a feeling of doing something wrong that is not dependent on the consequences?

xoriginx wrote:
Another possibility would be that there is certainly no possible way they would find out. The lie then causes them harm and you feel empathetic towards them; therein lies the consequence.

I know it would be easy to say that you feel guilty for causing them harm, but wouldn't saying that you feel empathetic make more sense?

How about if the lie doesn't cause them any harm? You would still feel guilty. Where does the fear come from then?

xoriginx wrote:
My argument is that "guilt" is unnecessary. Guilt is an infraction on the free will that can cause one to make irrational decisions. If you look at the core elements of guilt, you see fear and empathy so why attribute these emotions to guilt?

First of all, calling guilt unnecessary is rather meaningless. What do you mean by unnecessary? Aren't all emotions unnecessary? It simply depends on whether guilt is natural, whether it is a real emotion. Humans experience guilt independent of religion. Therefore, it is natural. Therefore, it is no different than any other emotion for this purpose.

Second, what do you mean by "an infraction on the free will?" I must, of course, note that I don't really believe in free will. See here:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/free_will_why_we_don039t_have_it_and_why_that039s_good_thing

But, regardless, assuming free will entails having control over my thoughts and actions, I, again, don't see how guilt is an infraction on free will any more than any other emotion. Fear can cause irrational decisions, as well as pride, sloth, pessimism, optimism, fundamentalism, patriotism, OCD, watching too much Oprah...

Finally, I disagree, for I don't think that the core elements of guilt include fear. Empathy, maybe. But, it's mostly "a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined." See? These definitions contain virtually no mention of fear nor empathy. It's simply the feeling that you've done something wrong, regardless of what you've wronged or why you feel it's wrong.

However, even if guilt did come from fear and empathy, even if religion did create the term, does it matter? To repeat myself, all emotions can cause irrational actions. In fact, if it's an emotion at all, then it is natural by definition and can cause irrational actions by deductive reasoning. All of these words, including guilt, are simply subjective terms invented by humans to describe the emotions that we actually feel. If we attribute a term to a known emotion, then the term is legitimate, for, if you take away the language, the emotion doesn't become any less real, it'll just be harder for you to describe it. It just so happens that we use the term guilt to describe a certain emotion. Thus, that emotion is known as guilt. So, this is all just confusion over semantics; your essay is not waging a campaign against guilt. That's impossible. It's a frickin emotion. If you propose another word to describe the same emotion, it'll still be same emotion. All you did was use a different word. What you're really fighting against is religion's general attempt to control emotions with fairy tales for their respective selfish or supernatural purposes.  

xoriginx wrote:
My argument here was, that for someone who is dedicated to their work and takes pride in the results of their work, there are consequences to not putting forth your full effort.

Ah, okay, point taken.

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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butterbattle wrote:  What

butterbattle wrote:

 


 What you're really fighting against is religion's general attempt to control emotions with fairy tales for their respective selfish or supernatural purposes.  

That was exactly the point of that section in the essay (a section which was just a step in making a larger point). What I'm arguing is the power that religion gives to guilt by implementing it in such a threatening and manipulative way. To demonstrate how guilt is not as powerful as it seems to many, I attempted to dissect it to it's core factors to show that it is something of misinterpreted fear.

 


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butterbattle wrote:What

butterbattle wrote:

What you're really fighting against is religion's general attempt to control emotions with fairy tales for their respective selfish or supernatural purposes.  

xoriginx wrote:
That was exactly the point of that section in the essay (a section which was just a step in making a larger point). What I'm arguing is the power that religion gives to guilt by implementing it in such a threatening and manipulative way. To demonstrate how guilt is not as powerful as it seems to many, I attempted to dissect it to it's core factors to show that it is something of misinterpreted fear. 

I still don't think that guilt comes from fear.  

But, whatever, as long as the next draft clearly explains that religion did not create guilt, but merely controls it, I'll be happy. 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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butterbattle wrote:I still

butterbattle wrote:

I still don't think that guilt comes from fear.  

But, whatever, as long as the next draft clearly explains that religion did not create guilt, but merely controls it, I'll be happy. 

In my experience, I've yet to see and example of guilt that didn't involve fear in one way or another.

I still have a lot of research to do on the subject and maybe my stance will change but as of now fear of consequence and guilt seem to be strongly related.

I'm working on a revised draft, I'll post it when it's finished.

 


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butterbattle wrote:Second,

butterbattle wrote:

Second, what do you mean by "an infraction on the free will?"

 

I just wanted to clear this up- I typed that in a rush and as soon as I typed the phrase "free-will" I knew someone would take it in the concept of biblical free-will. What I meant to say there was "critical thought process" so insert that and see if it makes any more sense.


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xoriginx wrote:What I'm

xoriginx wrote:
What I'm arguing is the power that religion gives to guilt by implementing it in such a threatening and manipulative way.

That, I can agree with wholeheartedly.

xoriginx, my position on this is that humans exist as natural creatures, with a broad set of natural emotions. Religions perpetuate themselves by 'hooking in' to these human emotions. They have stories and doctrines that trigger certain emotions (such as guilt) and suppress others. It is these hooks that religion manipulates. Some religions emphasize some hooks more than others. Christianity, especially Catholicism, emphasizes the guilt hook, while fundamentalist Islam emphasizes the shame hook, while other religions emphasize their own hooks. Religions share many techniques for exploiting emotional hooks, but each one has its own unique 'recipe' of exploits that gives the religion its own distinct flavour.

However, the point I'm making in this is that the hooks were already there, in us humans, waiting for religion to come along and exploit them.

It's like how a virus uses various features on a cell membrane to insert its infectious genetic code into the cell. The cell membrane already had these features, the features serve a useful purpose, normally. It's just that the virus found a way to exploit those features in order to perpetuate itself.

So, humans have a natural emotion of 'feeling like I've done something wrong', which we label 'guilt', and religions have discovered that this is a very effective hook which can be exploited for the benefit of the religion itself.

Quote:
To demonstrate how guilt is not as powerful as it seems to many, I attempted to dissect it to it's core factors to show that it is something of misinterpreted fear.

I can even agree to this in a very general sense. If you think of fear as a very basic emotion, in other words, the 'aversion' emotion (in opposition to very basic love, the 'attraction' emotion), then yes, guilt is derived from an 'aversion' to 'doing something wrong'. However, if we are talking about the more specific emotion of fear, the 'fight or flight' emotion, then I don't think it's accurate to say that guilt is a form of 'fight or flight'.

When I feel guilty I do not feel the adrenaline rush of fear. I don't get goosebumps, I don't start to sweat, I don't start to tremble, I don't feel cold.

Instead I feel a background feeling of 'wrongness', or a desire to set things straight, or a kind of emptiness or dissatisfaction with myself. Possibly a feeling of dread, though not in the general case.

This is why I disagree with your connection between fear and guilt. On one level it is right, but you have to use a very general interpretation of 'fear', which is different from the every-day usage of 'fear'. And so, on the every-day level, it is misleading and unintuitive.

Guilt is natural. It's what keeps us from stepping on each other's toes too often. It helps society run smoothly. Religion has found ways to exploit guilt for more nefarious and destructive purposes, but it did not invent guilt. Guilt is a natural human emotion.

Perhaps what you mean to say is that there are healthy forms of guilt, and unhealthy forms of it. I could agree to that completely. Pretty much any emotion can be unhealthy if triggered too often or in inappropriate circumstances. For instance, my guilt when I feel perfectionistic is an unhealthy form of guilt.

Perhaps you mean that we should find ways of identifying and disarming these unhealthy manifestations of guilt. I would also agree with that completely. This falls under the general umbrella of mental health.

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xoriginx wrote:Note to

xoriginx wrote:

Note to reader: This blog is an examination of a social phenomenon of Christian America.

Does anyone know where I can find the final version of this "blog" entry? Or was this something he did for class, maybe.