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The physical manifestation of guilt

A guilty conscience can have a measurable physical effect on someone - stomach pains, headaches, insomnia, etc. It can also have emotional and mental impacts like increased anxiety or depression.

On one hand, a lot of religions advise that it's best to get things off your chest - Catholic confession, prayer, or rituals where you write down a problem and then dispose of it some way like lighting it on fire. On the other, a lot of times this guilt is due to the specific precepts of the religion, especially the ones that are more demanding or restrictive than the societal norms someone is surrounded with in the real world.

Is a religion healthy when it becomes so demanding, a follower becomes physically ill over not being able to live up to its expectations? Is that ultimately the fault of the religion, or the practitioner's inability to temper doctrine with common sense?

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 6:09 PM on Mar. 8, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (16)
  • I always wondered that growing up as a Catholic. When my daughter was blamed for something as petty as making an oragami and putting it in a desk while she was in Sunday school... (a totally harmless piece of paper)... and having the Nun telling me she needed to punish her... I called it quits. WTH? That's when I dropped out of Catholicism. I spent years thinking I was a bad person because I had a baby before I was married. That's not something I want to spend my life worrying about, ya know.

    Answer by m-avi at 6:20 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • Anything, including religion, that becomes a source of stress to the point of physical illness, is harmful.

    Answer by Ballad at 6:21 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • That's a cycle that adds a whole additional layer to it - if you're raised being steeped in that guilt, is it possible to develop the outside, common sense perspective without leaving the religion?

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 6:21 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • I don't believe so. My mother gloats in guilt...


    Answer by m-avi at 6:29 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • I was just listening to someone talk about this. His comments spoke to me. He said "you are more. More than your past mistakes. More than the negative way you see yourself. More than the lessons you didn't learn." His point is that is the way God views us. As more "better" than we see ourselves. I loved hearing that because a lot of belief systems can be overwhelming in their portrayal of a judgmental God who's only act is to smite you... :) (I had to throw in that "smite") LOL...

    God is not a part of guilt or anything that becomes unproductive...

    Answer by Nimue930 at 6:30 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • God is not a part of guilt or anything that becomes unproductive...

    But religion is, and while there is that rising number of "nones" they love talking about on the news, most people who have some kind of faith prescribe to a specific doctrinal religion.

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 6:32 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • I think a few people accept the burden of guilt that some religions place upon them, a lot of people ignore that part of their religion as useless and unproductive, and some n between number of people look for some other religion that doesn't call for judgment. I took issue with Catholicism myself because a priest told me y disability was a judgment on my family for some sinthat hd happened during the past seven generations. My question was, why didn't every family have a blind member then? But later, I figured out that it was just one psycho priest who took a Bible verse out of context and used it in his own twisted way. I couldn't blame the entire Catholic Church for that.

    Answer by Ballad at 6:35 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • But later, I figured out that it was just one psycho priest who took a Bible verse out of context and used it in his own twisted way.

    You'll find clergy of other religions who preach similar things, too. They've been posted about here before, along with all the other variations - you lost the baby because your faith wasn't strong enough, you can't walk because you're not praying hard enough, etc etc.

    Those are extreme examples, but some of the others are less obviously extreme, but can be just as stressful - take tithing. In some churches, you are shunned if you don't tithe, and it's made common knowledge among the congregation who does and doesn't, others simply take that verse to heart so much they inflict it upon themselves, even if the church doesn't expect it (I have a cousin who falls in the 2nd group).

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 6:39 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • Your beliefs IMO should be uplifting, beneficial, emotionally gratifying. This is a tough one for me I see some of my friends feel not good enough and they feel they let god down and it's sad. When your called to be this modle of perfection and fail I'm not sure what's more to blame. At so e point a person has to realize perfection is not attainable so why beat yourself up or why stay in a religion that makes you feel so bad about yourself. It's almost like staying in a emotional abuse relationship.

    Answer by skinnyslokita at 6:41 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

  • People have their own way of coping. Some people will have stomach pains and ulcers no matter what because they are just prone to worry. It's hard to say anyone thing causes it. Some get these same symptoms from going to school or work. I don't think the answer is to not go to school or work. Prayer or confession hardly compares to all the other stresses in life. Actually prayer and meditation are a great antidote to worry.

    Confession is meant to be a introspective. If it's causing someone that much stress they could do group confession or they could work on their own using St. Ignatius spiritual exercises that emphasize contemplation.  There are options, no one is promoting making yourself sick over prayer.


    Answer by RyansMom001 at 7:20 PM on Mar. 8, 2013

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