Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Self hate with your iPhone

So now you can prep yourself for confession on your iPhone with Confession: A Roman Catholic App.

I hate the Catholic practice of confession, or to put it accurately, the Sacrament of Penance. In fact, it's not entirely exclusive to Catholicism. Chairman Mao introduced something similar when he ruled China, regular self-criticism, or jiǎntǎo (检讨). Whatever you call it, I hate it for two reasons.

Firstly, if you've done something wrong, learn from it, and make amends if they are needed. You shouldn't need someone to give a magic incantation - this does nothing - it's your actions after a mistake that are important.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it's just nasty. Miranda Celeste explains why in her post A dirty little girl, her head hanging in shame (do read the whole thing):
Then there is the guilt. According to Catholic teaching, humans are born sinners and cannot help but continue to sin throughout their lives. The only way for a Catholic to atone for these sins is to confess them to a priest, do the required penance, and be absolved. As a child, I obsessively recorded in a little notebook anything that I had said or done that could possibly be considered sinful. Then, when the time came for confession, I would recite this list to the priest, my head hanging in shame, my cheeks burning. I’d do my penance and be absolved. For a fleeting, blissful moment, I would feel light and pure and holy. But soon I would sin again, the guilt would return, the little notebook would be filled up with a record of my indiscretions, and I would return to the confessional and repeat the process over and over again. 

Or, as Hitchens asks succinctly "How much self-respect must be sacrificed in order that one may squirm continually in an awareness of one's own sin?".

Truly, this is an awful practice, and it is a great pity to see this app.


  1. No where does the Bible suggest that man many men can forgive your sins. The catholic religion has missed that mark and led many astray. Forgiveness of sins is by one only, the Son of God the Lord Jesus Christ, by his death on the cross of shame. Sins forgiveness is through a person not loss of self respect.
    John 3
    14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
    15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
    16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved from their sin.
    18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

  2. Although different people obviously react differently, actually I think on balance for more people a formal process of confession acts as catharsis, and results in leaving you with fewer guilty feelings than without it. It's a kind of cheap and institutional therapy. Clearly it doesn't work for everyone though, and the identity of the confessor may be important. (I'm not a christian by the way.)

    Maoist self-criticism had some important differences, in that what they were being asked to self-criticise were often quite reasonable actions. Mao often defined his offences so broadly and vaguely that almost anything could be construed as an offence if you annoyed someone with power.


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