Morality and guilt

Sep 4, 2012

Discussion by: Marbles_
Just wondered what your thoughts on this are: is excessive morality harmful in the long-term and is it likely to engender too much guilt?

On a personal level, I wonder if I can ever truly live if I’m too worried about doing the right thing etc? I was brought up as an Anglican Christian, and attended church until I was about 15. At that point I decided it wasn’t really for me as I was having serious doubts about the existence of God. But, by this time, I think my behaviour and personality may have been sufficiently affected by notions of right and wrong to have stunted my growth as an individual, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve become aware of this.

I’m now 37, and for the first time I feel as though I might be able to take more control over my life; but this still isn’t easy – it’s as though once a brain pattern has been set in childhood, it becomes fixed or cemented.

52 comments on “Morality and guilt

  • 1
    Sjoerd Westenborg says:

    Perhaps it helps to realize there isn’t just one right course of action. A religious childhood friend of mine would painstakingly plan out his week according to what was permissible and mandatory in his faith. It was on the border of neurotic and severely restricted his joy in life.

    My advice would be to actively remember yourself that life is there to enjoy and experience, and as long as you don’t harm someone in doing the same thing you’ll be fine. No one is perfect.

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  • 3
    ZenDruid says:

    There’s positive morality, i.e. people are generally decent and can coexist without too much trouble.

    Then there’s Abrahamic morality, which  attacks normal human behavior. There’s a lot of fear, guilt and shame built in.

    To make Baby laugh is good; to make Baby cry is bad; to make Baby too  afraid to either laugh or cry is evil.

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  • The 5 Buddhist precepts if followed, are guidelines which should lead to a happier life for oneself, and others one is in contact with. (& future lives, for those believers:)

    They are  precepts,  promises to oneself, and NOT commandments that some invisible being in the sky is going to punish us for not doing. (And he is watching the actions and thoughts of the countless other beings in the Universe as well!:)
    They are:
    1. Not taking what is not given (i.e. not stealing)
    2. Not killing or harming ANY living creatures. 
    3. No sexual misconduct. (i.e Gay etc O.K as long as no harm to oneself or others.)
    4. No taking of intoxicants – drugs etc.
    5. No false, harsh or harmful speech. (includes lying, rudeness,gossip, etc) 

    I can live with these.

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  • Marbles,

    When it comes to guilt and shame, you Anglicans are amateurs compared to Jews and Catholics. A Jewish mother is a walking guilt machine and Catholics practically invented shame.

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  • 6
    Steve.H. says:

    When growing up, you begin to learn very basic fundamental idea’s about the world around yourself. When your mother tells you adamantly not to touch a hot pan and you do it anyway, you learn that what she says is completely true and that it’s best not to question her. But when in the same voice she tells you that if you don’t obey a list of arbitrary rules that your going to burn forever in “fire and brimstone”, you do the same and believe her without questioning because you don’t want to get “Burned” again.

    While the concept of morality in religion is skewed in some sick and twisted way like “Original Sin” and thus forcing you to feel guilty even though you haven’t done anything, because they get you as a child and they do it intentionally, your brainwashed in the most basic and fundamental aspect of your world so the idea of intense morality and this abhorrent, “Blasphemous” fear that’s been instilled into a child is extremely hard to undo.

    I still struggle with what your talking about. This needless and detestable insertion of guilt into children is wrong but somehow “justified” to the parents. It’s not easy undoing so great of damage that the religious inflicted without knowing better but all I, or anyone else,  can hope to do is not to put our children through the same mental abuse that so many people have and still do to this day.

    I hope the best for you,

    Steve H.

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  • 7
    SelfDiagHFA says:

    It is clear to me that with self awareness comes a set of realities that follow with it.

    I can only consider self when I consider the contrasting ideas – which can only mean ‘others’. And with that come some resulting realities like guilt, psychosis, sociopaths, pathological liars etc.

    So you could say; my self awareness is actually ‘social consciousness.’ As we know we speak with neuro-linguistics for communicating much more basic communal information, our ideas of morality are the result of our becoming aware of others. As we become more aware, we are able to make better sense of our own experiences, and we agree to change what we call socially acceptable.

    This explains why morality changes it adapt to our collective understanding of self AND others.

    Its all in persuit of stronger bonds of trust – until I can become comfortable enough to ‘let my hair down’ I may not share parts of me that would invite that stronger bond that our formalized rule set would allow us to build trust bonds over.

    Over all – I would credit anal consideration of others to be what leads to psychological discovery – so id call it ones sacrifice and if forced is not so good.

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  • 8
    Marbles_ says:

    Perhaps you’re right, ah, i feel guilty now 😉 Can we have some Catholics and Jews in this thread please?! Maybe we can help you!

    I’ve noticed that some Catholics seem to have a split personality – their darker sides seem to gush out because they’ve been holding back their real feelings, but then comes the inevitable remorse and guilt.

    But, it seems plain to me that we humans – religious or not – can’t operate without some guilt (shame we could do without), unless we wish to live a reclusive life with no responsibility to anyone. If we enjoy meeting people then morality and guilt are going to figure in many people’s lives. The question is, to what extent does this inescapable phenomenon blight someone’s life? I think it might first need to be rejected and understood, before being integrated into a more healthy psychology.    

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  • 9
    Marbles_ says:

     That’s so true Zen. There’s such a warped sense of what it means to be a human being – it really is palpable and sickening.

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  • 10
    Marbles_ says:

     I wonder if having a personal morality – i.e. as SelfDiagHFA said, one that isn’t enforced – is life-enhancing in some way. Your advice not to ‘harm someone in doing the same thing’, is, i think, a good personal morality. It is from the Bible as well though (Matthew chapter 7), but i can’t recall if it has roots elsewhere.

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  • 11
    Marbles_ says:

     A sacrifice is a nice way of putting it! And I think i agree with your analysis. But does it follow, therefore, that arrogant pontificators – we all personally know of some – are just in denial about the level of resentment they feel for having to make that sacrifice, for having to cooperate with reality?

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  • 12
    Marbles_ says:

    It is brainwashing and, like you, i’m pessimistic about whether it can be undone – sadly, perhaps not in a contemporary lifetime. But maybe “undoing” is the wrong way to look at it – perhaps it should be more about observing what and who we are; accepting it, working with it and nurturing it.  That might sound obvious to some lucky people, but for me, and maybe you, its taken a lot of time to work out. I’m always learning of course – i’m about to start reading some of Nietzsche’s books, starting with On the Genealogy of Morals.  My irrational and uninformed opinion of Nietzsche is that he is great for people with an imbalance of morally repugnant aspects of their personality, and sometimes people perhaps rely on his ideas too much, instead of seeking deeper truths about themselves. But, in the end, as Bryan Magee says, his ideas can only do us good.

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  • 13
    Marbles_ says:

    Unfortunately these precepts are part of religious doctrine which – you should agree – always needs to be scrutinized and judged. Moral philosophy is a big subject.

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  • 14
    SelfDiagHFA says:

     “But, it seems plain to me that we humans – religious or not – can’t
    operate without some guilt (shame we could do without), unless we wish
    to live a reclusive life with no responsibility to anyone.”

    I would caution against dismissing ANY emotion – I see shame as a mechanism of apology sans language.

    I would fight tooth and nail to keep it actually.

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  • 15
    Steve.H. says:

     It can’t be undone in the individual’s lifetime because it already happened, so I’ll firmly agree with you there. However, I do not wish to work with this ideology if that is what you are implying. I would state that, as you implied, the increasing of our knowledge is the only real way to move forward in our lives, which ultimately led me to the rejection of not only my but all religion in the first place.

    As for you statement of  “That might sound obvious to some lucky people”, for those of us who were involved into a religion as deeply as I was at least, you couldn’t be more right about saying that “it takes a lot of time to work out”. The countless hours of rationalizing each belief and striving to accurately classify it as moral or immoral is not only time consuming, but long and a very complex task that could take a lifetime to finish if at all.  Then there’s the real task of verifying if the belief is legitimate at all, and that there is going to be the real problem of the “faith” that’s been incorporated into one’s very existence. So when you deny your religion, it’s initially seems as if your denying a part of yourself. Then the arduous task of redefining everything in what and who you are, and what you know to be true really can begin. It’s only when you learn and continue to learn can any of us hope to find out who is giving us legitimate information and who is downright telling us lies whether they know it or not.

    I’m almost finish with reading “The Blind Watchmaker” by Richard Dawkins and I’ve already read “The God Delusion” by him as well. I hope in the near future to get more books by him and as well as finishing Karen Armstrong’s “A History of God” which is stopped the read the first book I mentioned. The ideas and concepts in such a tiny book, or object if you will, are astounding. I just wish I could read and comprehend them faster. I hope you continue to question and learn as I do.

    I’ve enjoyed your response and hope you or anyone else responds to my messages because I enjoy this discussion.

    Steve H.

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  • 16
    Marbles_ says:

    ‘I would caution against dismissing ANY emotion – I see shame as a mechanism of apology sans language.

    I would fight tooth and nail to keep it actually.’

    But you wouldn’t fight to keep destructive shame that, if applied from childhood, can stop a person from living a meaningful life full of passion and purpose. 

    If the above has happened, i suggest to you that an overhaul or reassessment of notions of morality might be a very good thing. Accordingly, what we feel ashamed about may shift and change as we appreciate ourselves and the world around us in new ways. So, yes, keep shame, but it might be necessary for some people to reject it for a time, just to allow them to see what it is and where it comes from, to allow them do things that might cause it and to allow them to live!

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  • 17
    Marbles_ says:

    ‘However, I do not wish to work with this ideology if that is what you are implying.’

    It’s difficult to advise without knowing more about you, and i wouldn’t wish to suggest that what might work for me would work for you. I didn’t mean to imply that you should accept the harmful influences in your life, or the resulting personality with which you have been left. There are things we can change, but i also think there are things that are unmovable, and these are aspects that it might be better to love and take care of, rather than force or punish.

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  • 18
    hamilton55 says:

    Hi Marbles,
    I am new to this cite but sympathise with the situation that the practise of your now ex-religion has  left you in. I am a christian skeptic but would stll classify myself as someone residing in faith. In fact one of the contributing reason that has kept me within the boundaries has been my so called perceived existence of morailty. I can’t seem to shake the notion that  if right & wrong are real things rather than merely a matter of individual perspective or taste then God probably exists.
    In relation to your journey  I am totally against any form of finger shaking especially when its done within the scope of religion & unfortunatly its done way too much. It actually leaves me sik to think I’m flyinng under the same banner sometimes… but surely  Religious people cant make you feel guilty unless you 1st feel that there is something to feel guilty about ? we can be pissed off at organized religion for waving the finger & beating the lets all feel guilty about being shit drum… especially if its to the tune of recruitment,entrapment or any other ill motive for pointing  what westenborg mentioned that ‘nobody is perfect’.   but really if there is no such thing as right & wrong why do we feel guilt ?
    Even the notion of evaluating behaviours as perfect / less than perfect can’t actually hold any meaning unless we 1st had some idea or agreement to what perfect is. Why do we evaulate like this if we all aren’t somewhat  bound to the idea that some type of scale between being crap & perfect actually exists outside of what we think about it. Otherwise what the hell are we arguing about
    I know I probably hold a minority persepctive here especially considering the location of this discussion board but lets face it, sharing ideas with like minded people gets you no where.

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  • 19
    DominickG says:

    A little guilt can be a good thing if it prompts us to what is right. Excessive guilt is damaging.
    This is nothing new. The healing miracles in Mark’s Gospel are allegorical tales of pschological fractures
    and the nature of the ailment gives some indication of the psychological fracture.

    One of these is the healing of the paralytic – a man  paralysed by guilt.
    The divine reason or Logos represented by Jesus says to the man   –  “Son, your sins are forgiven” and the man takes up his mat and walks.

    But please don’t think that excessive notions of right and wrong can stunt your growth as an individual.

    The healing of the leper is the story of the healing of a man who takes others for granted. The healing of the woman with the haemorrhage is the healing of someone who avoids or ignores others.

    Selfish thoughts and feelings are not good states of mind. It is all about finding the balance.



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  • 20
    prohealth says:

    I believe the core issues created by the question “am I doing the right thing” are that it 1) creates an egocentric mindset (and we’re never happy when we’re focusing on ourselves) and 2) it begs the further question “according to whom?”which suggests we’re not living a considered life.  I’ve found that the question becomes irrelevant when we’re following our passions or making a difference in the world  because our thinking and behavious are then driven by a single,or at least fewer motivations of our own choosing.

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  • 21
    Danelian says:

    I would tend to agree with DominickG when he says that excessive notions of right and wrong can’t or shouldn’t stunt your growth as an individual. I guess Marbles, in your case being raised in a religious environment may be why you feel this way.

    The excessive, and dare I say obsessive, notions of right and wrong are so skewed and overlapping in the bible (and all the other theisms and their holy books), that they not only cotradict each other, but they are bound to contradict whatever innate emotions and moral feelings that you yourself have. So in this sense I don’t think lots of ideas of what right and wrong are can harm you, I just think that if you have too many of these notions that overlap and contradict each other, it’s bound to make you feel very guilty indeed in certain situations, and maybe this has carried on in your post-religious life.

    I think what I’m really trying to say is that if you have a firm idea of what you believe to be right and wrong, then you shouldn’t feel to much guilt at all, I mean look at all the religious fundamentalists in the world today who dream of, and actually proceed to do, some of the nastiest and most vicious things you or I could ever imagine, but instead of feeling guilt, they feel proud as they firmly believe what they are doing is a good moral action.

    First time post, so I want a reply, preferably someone who disagrees with me! 😉

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  • 22
    SelfDiagHFA says:

     “But you wouldn’t fight to keep destructive shame that, if applied from
    childhood, can stop a person from living a meaningful life full of
    passion and purpose. “

    I would choose the easier path and educate on the importance of balance.

    But nice goal post change… you went from ‘the existance’ to the ‘over use of’ argument. Shame on you. lol

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  • 23
    SelfDiagHFA says:

     “I would tend to agree with DominickG when he says that excessive notions
    of right and wrong can’t or shouldn’t stunt your growth as an

    Of course not, philosophers built a carreer on excessive consideration of ‘morality’ – a word that, btw, has evolved overtime because of it.

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  • 24
    SelfDiagHFA says:

     Further, we see exactly the opposite from it… I credit mans increased life expectancy to be a direct result of our increased desire to ‘understand and actively apply changes in attempts to improve’ that is imho THE base brain function of us modern humans – problem solve. sexual reproduction solved a problem – we evolved from that solution. Its a shame we seem to be so lost in arguments forgetting this common trait we all share – indicating common goals at some level that could unite and combine resources – instead we dived and apply greed.

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  • 26
    Orangutang says:

    Sort of know what you mean Marbles.  I think I retain vestiges of early conditioning that wasn’t dispelled/explained away supportively enough.  I do tend to be affected by a ‘guilt’ complex about this or that but not so much from a metaphysical perspective more from a self interest point of view, ie..will this or that person find out about what I do in my spare time and how will it impact back on me. I’d certainly be more liberated if I wasn’t financially so much of a ‘dependant’, so if you know what I mean I have to watch my ‘P’s’ and ‘Q’s with older members of the family a bit like putting up with the boss that pays your wages.  By the way, I was jubilant that here in Sydney I heard tonite on the news a couple of Anglican Priests were defrocked. 

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  • 27
    SelfDiagHFA says:

     Yes, it explains the common alcoholism, and any other behaviour they condemn but do them selves.

    They talk them selves into needing to experience that which they damn, and deep down, they know they are not helping until they can speak from experience..

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  • 28
    SelfDiagHFA says:

     Hence just one aspect in this duality of man – conscious and sub-conscious.

    Some have a better relationship with their sub-conscious than others.

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  • 29
    SelfDiagHFA says:

    Your vestigal guilt – to me – says you are still working out the brainwashing.

    When it is clear to you of what you should be guilty for, you will rectify and move on – clearly this is not so concrete in your mind just yet… give it time – keep talking – and eventually you will see that ‘guilt’ was actually the signal that there was a problem – and – there still is.

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  • 30
    SelfDiagHFA says:

     You may have some biggies to appologize for. My religion had me do things it took along time to understand why it left the impression on me that it did. And it took along time to sort out (still am) – ive been shedding my superstions for 30 years, realized my atheism 2-3 years ago. so…

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  • No, I don’t think you can be too moral. The only problem comes when morality clashes with what you would like to do or how you feel. Some religious notions of morality make no sense, if we accept Sam Harris’s premiss that morality has to do with promoting human flourishing and decreasing human suffering. It’ s not exactly that the bar has been set too high, but that it has sometimes been set stupidly. 

    But somehow you need to overcome the feeling of having a split will. Maybe you want to do one thing but your idea of what is right doesn’t coincide with that. This inner division causes a certain amount of alienation from yourself. I think the best you can do is to simply be as good as possible…and no better. You are, after all, an animal and you shouldn’t expect Godlike perfection from animals. Setting the bar too high for yourself is just inviting failure and consequent feelings of guilt. Try and get some relief from Sam Harris’s idea that there is no free will. You are not to blame for the contradictions that arise between ideas of morality on the one hand and your genes + upbringing on the other. 

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  • 32
    DominickG says:


    I am sorry that you had a bad experience of religion. There have been many that have been hurt not because of religion per se but because of abuses of authority. Many of us who would like to see radical change.  Nevertheless, people can and do engage in religious worship without being superstitious. Not all of us believe what we’re sometimes told. It is extraordinary that there is such polarisation in opinions. Everyone should question what they feel is not right because if people feel it is not right, it probably isn’t. At heart that is the real message of Christianity.



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  • 33
    Jim Fox says:

    Certainly can be- now retired, my childhood was blighted by a religious mother. But maybe it was a good thing she forced me to attend chapel as a kid because it was so boring, so dreary that I knew it had to be bollocks. By ten I was cured and off into the sunshine with my pals, to mum’s despair! The sexual repression/ guilt trip took more time but with the willing help of local girls I heroically triumphed over that! 

    Don’t sweat it- tell yourself daily f***k that! And get right on with enjoying life to the full. All the best. 

    PS- don’t listen to the fifth columnists here telling you religion is OK- it’s NOT! It really IS bollocks.

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  • 36
    Marbles_ says:


    I wasn’t talking about you, but whether it’s relevant to you is for you to decide. You actually appear quite open. But it’s obviously going to be annoying if there’s any surreptitious activity on this discussion board, but perhaps that’s inevitable.  It would be helpful if contributors stated their beliefs so we all know where each other stands – unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any information about us on our public profiles.

    But Dominick, i do want to say to you that i don’t agree that morality is something that is always helpful no matter the extent to which it features in someone’s life, and, i think that if it’s an oppressive feature of a persons psyche, weighing heavily upon them, then it can stop them from seeing beauty in its entirety. I view morality as natural thing, but, more of a fluid process that shifts and responds to need; and I see it as a dialectic, something that’s discussed and understood from another’s perspective. But to be chained to set of moral rules, precepts, commandments  or whatever, is, i think, to deny life. And let’s not forget the dangers of herd mentality: http://justabovesunset.wordpre

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  • 37
    DominickG says:


    To be open then, I do regularly attend a Christian service but I really don’t care if you call yourself an atheist, agnostic, hindu or buddhist or whatever. What I do care about is: 

    1. the  unthinking dismissal of religion as always bad or irrelevant 
    2. the judgemental attitude of religious fundamentalists.

    And I know I go on about the gospel of Mark but I am biased. It is a really great work of literature.

    One thing that is never pointed out by preachers is that in the gospel, Jesus sins.  It sounds bizarre  but in the Passion narrative Jesus is asked questions by both Pilate and the High Priest.

    He doesn’t listen, he doesn’t explain and when he does speak he uses provocative language.

    The author of the gospel knew of the dangers of fundamentalism, whatever it’s nature – religious or dare I say, atheist.

    It’ is always wrong when people are not open to dialogue with others.



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  • 38
    DominickG says:


    Apologies.. I have completely ignored your point.
    All of us are different. For some us, ideas of right and wrong are imprinted on us
    from a young age. For others, they are less so.
    I think it is important to understand ourselves and how we change as we grow.
    I was brought up as a Catholic and I remember many years ago, being preached at by our 
    (even for the time) “hell and damnation” priest that if I didn’t attend confession 
    after committing a “mortal” sin – failure to attend Sunday Mass was considered a “mortal” sin 
    – and then died, my soul would be condemned to everlasting torment in hell.

    Even at the time that seemed a little harsh – not something that I would expected from a loving 
    God… and actually I didn’t believe it.

    What stuck was a strong moral sense.

    Later, I came to realise that what was important about attending a regular liturgical service
    was the coming together of community, people from all walks of life – who I would not normally 
    mix with.. What the service does provide, I believe, is a heightened sense of others, and with a 
    heightened sense of others, our own ego diminishes.

    Of course, that does not mean that we don’t still have sexual desire, which is by nature 
    selfish but by itself this should not be a cause of guilt.

    Instead, morality is summed up by the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them 
    do unto you and do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you.
    There is further discussions that we can have about what this entails – sense of responsibility,
    awareness of the consequences of our actions, honouring commitments etc. but essentially that’s it! 

    Regular attendance at Sunday Mass not required.

    I really don’t think you can have excessive ideas of right and wrong. What you can have is 
    a fixation on something that you have been told has moral connotations when it really doesn’t.



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  • Morality is about doing the right thing with out harming or hindering others. This is set against a back drop of the norm in any particular society. It’s difficult to distance oneself from the Christain/Judaic beliefs that are so ingrained in our particular society. Why should we? This particular morality serves us well and might have been the same morality without the religious dotrine. Stick with the morality that is accepted as a norm but question those who seek to pass judgement on those who step away from the norm. But please remember the golden rule I was once told. ‘Shame is the device of religion to control it’s believers’. Self forgivness and honesty is the only way forward. Don’t carry guilt around like a mill stone. Forgive your self and understand your own actions.

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  • 40
    Marbles_ says:


    Your Catholic upbringing and its frightening morality or rhetoric is bound to have had a detrimental and lasting effect on you, and for that i’m sorry. It’s difficult, nay impossible, to step outside oneself and observe exactly which factors cause our psychology to be as it is, but if this was possible we’d see quite clearly how one person’s life is completely unique to that person, there is no possible other experience on Earth that can match it. Realising this, it becomes clear that when trying to impose one’s experience of life upon another person’s life – say in the form of morality – there is no guarantee that it will be accepted, and why should it be? As i said, we are all unique creatures, often with unique opinions – i really don’t see the necessity, nor do i have the desire, to create or abide by a moral system. If there is no God there can be no moral system. There is still morality, but no system of morality.

    The use of morality in today’s world is more to do with social posturing, confidence, selfishness and group interplay. I’m not making a judgement there, just stating a fact. And it must be said that religious people throughout history have at times used morality for just those ends; in fact i’m sure this still goes on today.

    The golden rule is interesting but i’m not sure i want to get into it at this time of night. Have a good day/evening wherever you are!


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  • 41
    Emdee Aalms says:

    What an interesting topic -morality-, and interesting comments.

         Please is there anybody to give me any example of moral principle written, say in the bible, the Qur’an or the like, that we wouldn’t discover if it wasn’t taught by a god. I’m not talking about principles like “Give your right cheek if  you’re slapped on the left one”, which obviously don’t stand as moral principle (I think it’s cowardly stupid to do this).

            Immanuel Kant (very likely my most favorite philosopher ) said that for morality to exist we need to have a god (something like a supreme being). My point of view is quite different :
           Morality is a pure chimera which unique purpose is to make a religion possible and a god imaginable (or make a god imaginable and thereby a religion necessary,… well …,  maybe not necessary). Good and Evil, without an intelligent being (human being is the only such creature I know) to appreciate them, are mere chimeras. I mean that something can be said good or bad only if there is somebody to say “I like it” or “I dislike it”. Morality per se as a common-denominator ? rubbish. The love of self is the only sincere guideline to decide on matters of  good and evil.

       In any situation I look forward to what’s good for me. And if it happens that I do something good to others it’ll be only as a consequence of my rational selfishness. My capacity as a human being to project myself into the personality of others and imagine that what happens to them, particularly a misfortune, can happen to me, is where my compassion come from. And so on.

        I’ve read the “groundwork of the metaphysics of morals” by Kant, his system may seem appealing, but I’m extremely convinced that it’s phoney. There’s no such thing as ABSOLUTE GOOD or ABSOLUTE EVIL, There’s only I LIKE, I DON’T LIKE, and this must be our unique principle in human relations. You shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid of such principle, it’s effective and I’m living proof of such effectiveness. Where Kant and many people preach Morality, moral duty and so forth, I simply say RESPONSIBILITY.

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  • 43
    Harald_Jezek says:

     1) There is no absolute true moral. What might be moral for one might be immoral for another (e.g. Mormons can have several wives at the same time while other Christians would strongly disagree with that philosophy).
    I see moral more like a set of rules of engagement within a given society. These rules can change from one society to another, although many of those rules are virtually universal. Although I don’t agree with your view of “I like, I don’t like” as basis for human relations.
    All relationships need some rules of interaction, otherwise it would be anarchy.
    2) Moral has nothing to do with religion at all. I would actually think that not religious people are more moral than the faithful because they are more authentic in their acts not having to fear some punishment (in this world or one to come) by some supernatural power.

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  • 44
    Harald_Jezek says:

    what is “excessive morality” ?
    Why do you worry about doing the right thing ? Most people intuitively know what is right or wrong within their community (which doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody does what is right).
    What are you fearful about ?

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  • 45
    Marbles_ says:

    Hi Harald,

    I have a reasonable moral compass – i’m better in some areas, less good in others, and we’re all individuals in this regard. For example, it could be argued that my strength is wanting to please others and do what is right for them, although some would argue that that is a weakness, stopping me from living for me, and making the most of my life. Whether it’s a strength or weakness is something I must decide upon.

    For arguments sake, let’s say it’s a weakness. This isn’t so difficult to imagine – perhaps you can think of someone who could really benefit from asserting themselves and striding out in the world more courageously and so on. Such a person, for whatever reason, has a tendency to think little of themselves, and let’s also imagine that he or she has developed an unhealthy level of guilt and self-blame. Here is an article on research done by Manchester University where, by looking at brain scans, the team assessed the role that guilt plays in people with depression:

    We can see that Freud could be correct in distinguishing depression “..from normal sadness by proneness to exaggerated feelings of guilt or self-blame.”

    For the type of person described above, morality has the potential to confuse them and make them feel abnormal, when in fact their behaviour is normal and human. Morality is a necessary feature of humanity, but, if it is used against people – children in particular – in a way that psychologically damages them, then i would say it is excessive and abusive. And, clearly, any preached morality of the complete bullshit variety (homosexuality is a sin, no condoms, inferiority of women etc.), has the potential to confuse and cause a kind of closed mind to develop, potentially damaging a person’s experience of life.

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  • 46
    RDnet_Moderators says:

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  • 47 says:

    here is a 66 year old catholic version….took a very long time – most of my life – struggling with the guilt and shame. it gradually lessened as the years added on but then came the anger.  Since I have fully committed to atheism, it’s pretty much gone.  but I could’t “toy” with the process.  It only dispersed when I fully and completely recognized that I had struggled all of my life dealing with issues that were man made. It meant “coming out”, and being vocal in a dignified way (no megaphones) and fully accepting who I am and what I fully believe. This involved educating myself, not just going on feeling. Yes, there have been family issues – they think I am nuts. it’s ok.  I am FREE.  (still have some anger about the wasted time, but I am working on it).

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  • 48 says:

    philosophers debated these issues; did not neccesarily incorporate them into their own beings.  children, being brought up in environments with excessive notions of right and wrong usually religious in basis are being brainwashed.  different that debate.  I believe that much of religious teaching does exactly that: stunt an individuals growth, at a very early age, long before they are capable of examination of issues.

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  • 49 says:

    I don’t think so. Questioning is not encouraged in most organized religions.  I mean SERIOUS questioning, not a clarification or two.  It is mostly about memorization, especially with children. Then, if as an adult, they are able to do some serious questioning, they will be constantly in conflict with what they were forced to memorize as children. This is where the messing with the mind happens which keeps people in perpetual confusion.  Also, religious worship IS superstition!  There is nothing which supports the existence of any god; so how could worship be anything but superstition? There is, in fact, no real message in Christianity which is any different than any other god cult.  You were just born in an area that supports christianity.if your evolutionary ancestors had traveled no further than mecca, you’d be a muslim. educate thyself. it does not hurt. 

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  • 50
    Marbles_ says:

     Hi devinepat,

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey…back to life and freedom. You said you’ve educated yourself – i just wondered what in particular you can point to as having a noticeable impact, which books and so on?

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  • 51
    Elzbieta says:

    WOW! I feel like you just wrote about me….
    I have struggled for 20  long years to overcome my catholic upbrining. However,  there is hope!  I’m 47 now, and  am finally free of the catholic B.S.  I guess that’s how a prisoner must feel after getting out of jail decades later.
    The only thing is…on the inside, it left me with absolute hatered to anything/anyone representing any religion, but especially  to the one I was forced to obey.

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