Wanted: A Secular Alternative to Confession

I think she has missed the entire point of atheism.

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?

Reading the piece though you get the idea this writer doesn't know what guilt is. She writes, "I feel bad about everything, from little things such as not laying socks properly flat on the radiator to dry to opening an extra tab on my computer." That's OCD maybe?

What this is, is a desperate plea to be happy. I actually feel sorry for her because somehow she believes that some secular form of confession might do the trick. But it won't. I think her heart is crying out for peace but she refuses to consider the one thing that might provide it. Sad.



  1. Exactly the right question. Who would she confess to?

  2. Since she believes man can solve all his problems alone.

  3. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheenl...

    “A few decades ago, nobody believed in the confession of sins except the Church. Today everyone believes in confession – with this difference: some believe in confessing their own sins; others believe in confessing other people’s sins. The popularity of psychoanalysis has nearly convinced everyone of the necessity of some kind of confession for peace of mind. This is another instance of how the world, which threw Christian truths into the wastebasket in the nineteenth century, is pulling them out in isolated secularized form in the twentieth century, meanwhile deluding itself into believing that it has made a great discovery. The world found it could not get along without some release for its inner unhappiness. Once it had rejected confession and denied both God and guilt, it had to find a substitute.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Footprints in a Darkened Forest)

  4. I think she feels guilty because somewhere in heaven there is a grandmother praying for her and her conversion.

  5. Guilt is the inadequacy we feel before the failure to live up to a particular standard. But wasn't a generation of self-esteem based curriculum supposed to wash all that inadequacy away along with the standard? I guess that standard must be something - something like a law - built into nature. Hmmm... what could we call it?

  6. Poor lapsed Catholic. Now that the Holy Spirit has her attention, what's a girl to do. And it's so close to Lent too...

  7. I have to laugh. Atheists' head will do a 360 and spew vomit if you call their cult a religion. THen they occupy churches for humanist feel good talks once a week. Then they want support groups because 'people always look to Christians after a tragedy.' A means to confess guilt. Add this to the litany of things they have coopted (hospitals, education, science, A.D-->CE, charities, etc.).
    Ya know, maybe what they need is a spirit. One that could come and guide them and the entity that unifies them in a sort of communion-like thing.

  8. Faith is a gift - be grateful for it you don't know what you have. It's truly miserable and joyless being an atheist. I know from experience. Don't be so hard on her.


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