Logic’s Last Stand

August 7, 2008

Religion, Guilt and the Culture of Shame

Filed under: Life, Philosophy — Tags: , , , , — Zurahn @ 7:33 pm

I’ve lived in southern Ontario my entire life, and have never been outside of this 600km radius. Having been in one culture so entirely can make it very difficult to recognize and distinguish one’s own cultural eccentricities and shortcomings from things that simply are accepted as what has to be or what is right.

North America in general is shaped by Christianity, whether or not you ascribe to those set of beliefs. As I stated in an earlier blog, the religious beliefs of those from before Canada was even founded shaped the funding of religious schools to this day–I didn’t even really think about the fact that there were Catholic schools seriously until just a few months ago.

Understanding this, it then becomes clear when evalutating all aspects of living and growing up in Canada just how those values have shaped acceptance of what is proper behaviour.

The number one issue that throws the western principles for a loop is sexuality. Admitting any semblance of physical attraction is tantamount to treason. Any lustful desire must be draped in shame and suffocated. Regardless of the fact that I have no personal problem with sexual displays from a logical or moral standpoint, I still feel uncomfortable to this day with any movie/game/tv show that does.

When religion takes criticism, there will be many on both sides of the issue saying how we all need to respect personal beliefs and have constructive discourse. But the thing is that the personal beliefs here are not simply a matter of choosing what seems plausible. It’s not a matter of what you personally feel. If you choose not to be religious, it is by doing so against the will of society; it takes extra effort because even here in Canada while there is much more religious tolerance, there’s an equivocation of religion with being a proper citizen.

If you are someone who is in a relgious family, even worse. Combining the above ubiquitous sentiment of morality with a family who insists upon it makes resistance a rebellion an order of magnitude beyond underage drinking or a tattoo. To outright disregard what is held personally as what is right, required and a simple matter of respect as wrong, indignant and irrational is a declaration on the family itself. This is why you’ll find those such as Richard Dawkins suggesting indoctrination could be considered a form of child abuse; aside from inhibiting the standards of critical thinking, it’s a guiltful weight on the child’s shoulders that they be considered a horrible person for merely doubting what they’re told.

The culture of shame that can be found here could be traced partially to the heavy American influence on popular culture. In American media, good children and good families go to church. A proper child reads the Bible. The most honourable man in the city is the priest, and rejecting church should be punished.

I felt all of these things growing up, and I come from an upbringing completely devoid of religion. It simply wasn’t mentioned. I am a case study for the result of personal religious choice without familial influence, and entirely on experiences in what is a heavily Christian culture.

A child does not have the worldly knowledge, political opinion or philosophical insight to understand the effect and placement of religion on society. In my case, for a long time I didn’t even recognize the concept of religion. So to then have outside pressures from ideology dictate ethical behaviour with the justification of divine providence is entirely unfair to the child.

Should someone feel the need to call me an immoral, hateful person doomed to torture for not being apart of their club, I can handle that. But when that’s subtly ingrained into the culture itself, it’s not just the adults who are subject.

This is something I hadn’t really evaluted until just a few weeks ago, so it’s a new perspective for me. To that end, I add one last point that I do now have a further respect for those who were raised in a religious home to be able to stand for a principle regardless of the stigma and repercussions. To place an ideal before oneself is the epitomy of honour; so for those who have, you have my utmost respect.

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3 Comments »

  1. I share a lot of your views about religion. Being an atheist, it is almost frustrating trying to explain myself to people with blind belief in god. They point to faith which to me isn’t a convincing answer at all, rather a cop out! What’s worse is that some theists act like god exists by default and that the whole concept is totally beyond science. In some cases, the attitude is even patronising, as if there must be something wrong with someone who does not accept god. Like Dawkins said, religion should not be beyond criticism simply because it is so widespread.

    Comment by Greeshma — August 7, 2008 @ 8:29 pm

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I was raised in a very religious family in the southern US. I am bipolar, I have tendencies toward OCD, and I have major anxiety issues. I am realizing that all of that is exacerbated by the fact that I cannot be who I feel that I am. My work, my family, my “friends” – there is no solitude. I just have to try to appear “normal.” And it’s really taking its toll. Even though EVERY FIBER of my body screams that it’s all a bunch of BS, I still have to pretend to accept it and be a part of it. It’s the guilt. It’s that lingering question in the back of my mind that someone else’s religion put there – is Christianity really right? Am I just bad? Am I being controlled by an evil being who is at war over my soul? I mean seriously…when I say it, it seems ridiculous, but I can’t help wondering. So I just keep playing along. And in the meantime, my sanity is completely unravelling.

    Comment by bpvirgo — September 27, 2008 @ 9:43 am

  3. “The number one issue that throws the western principles for a loop is sexuality. Admitting any semblance of physical attraction is tantamount to treason. Any lustful desire must be draped in shame and suffocated. Regardless of the fact that I have no personal problem with sexual displays from a logical or moral standpoint, I still feel uncomfortable to this day with any movie/game/tv show that does.”

    i really like this sentence. I think that this might be one of the main issues that Christians have with Muslims, in particaukar the hijab. The hijab implies the existence of carnal desire and the taking of practical steps to prevent unlawfil sex. Chriatians, i think hate the Muslims’ acceptance of desire as normal so long as it is not acted on.

    Comment by over there — February 25, 2010 @ 10:58 am


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