The central tenet of christianity is blame divergence. Believe in jesus and all your sins are forgiven. In fact, you HAVE to believe in jesus, it is the ONLY way to not suffer eternal punishment, because you were born a filthy sinner and then things got worse; you were a bad person way before you even committed your first sin and the ONLY way to get past that is for jesus to forgive you, or so the story goes.

So basically, christianity is based on three things, ‘You’re bad’, ‘innocent jesus got himself murdered so you can be forgiven’, ‘or else’.

While it’s a classic carrot and stick scenario that is in my opinion evil in its self, it is not the most troubling part of this belief.

I have recently been thinking long and hard about what the idea of this christian redemption from jesus entails and how it works for the human psyche.

My first observation is that the road to redemption that christianity offers is fundamentally easy. It’s very, very simple to attain this redemption which plays completely into our instant gratification, consumer society. Christianity is the McDonalds of religion. Getting in is quick, easy and uncomplicated. Compared to converting to judaism, christianity is a veritable walk in the park.

This makes christianity an easy sell. A small child can grasp how to attain redemption and I believe that the inventors of christianty explicitly made it so.

Keep that point in mind while I digress a little.

Recently I have had the privilege of working with a person who has had to overcome significant problems to get where he is today. Granted, the problems were mostly self-inflicted but were in the end huge and insurmountable none the less.

He used to be a drug addict in his teens in a very bad way. He did incredibly bad things to very many people, including his parents and family. Things got severely out of control in his life due to his rampant drug abuse (which drug? All of them.). It was tragic and it nearly ended in tragedy several times. He tried to kill himself several times (but failed, luckily).

Eventually, his family fed up with the drama, stealing, worrying and pain, gave him a final ultimatum. They were sending him to one last rehab for the sake of their own conscience, but regardless of the outcome of that last rehabilitation attempt, they no-longer wanted anything to do with him.

He went to this rehab and, somehow, it worked this time. He was rehabilitated, he left the drugs, worked at the rehab for a couple of years, turned his life around and is now a very successful business man and an excellent human being. He now helps tens of drug addicts and their families every year, by paying for rehab, organising them jobs afterwards, counseling families and so on.

The catch is this: the last rehab he went to was a very strict, almost militarily strict, christian rehab. At this rehab, he ‘found god’ and through ‘his faith’ managed to turn his life around. Now, ten years later, he fervently holds on to this belief and from what I can tell, for good reason. He is by no means a fool and he could probably see the problems with what he believes, but he was and still is, desperate. Letting go of this belief is letting go of the one thing he believes saved him and his family. Changing the mind of somebody like this will be very difficult, if not impossible and I feel, may actually be immoral.

This brings me to the issues I am discussing. I believe the reason that the christian rehab worked, was because of three things:

  1. His family made it clear there were no more choices or discussion, this was their last effort and he was, effectively on his own from that point.
  2. The rehab was harshly disciplinarian.
  3. Christianity offers an easy way to get rid of the MASSIVE amount of guilt that addicts experience over their behaviour and actions

Point 3 is crucial. By the time an addict ends up at his very last chance (succeed or die) at a facility, that person has done some very, very bad things for which they feel very, very guilty. In fact, the guilt may very well be one of the reasons things deteriorated to this point in the first place. Guilt requires an escape, drugs offer the escape which causes guilt which starts the vicious circle again.

Enter christian rehab. The first thing you find out is that some dude with super powers, your REAL father as it were, who loves you regardless of anything, has DIED, HORRIBLY, to forgive you ANYTHING you have done. And you can have this forgiveness, this redemption, if only you want it. Easy (comparatively). A ‘get out of guilt, free’ card. Whether or not this it true, is irrelevant to the situation. Offering a desperate addict redemption from the almighty creator of the universe, removes a deep-seated need to get that redemption from the people they have harmed. No doubt the addict is sorry but since god has forgiven you, it doesn’t really matter if anybody else forgives you. Or, from another angle, if god as forgiven you, and he bloody well has, who are other people to decide to not forgive you?

In my mind, this facility already has a head start on anybody else since their first step is so simple but accomplishes so much in the mind of the addict.

Christian redemption then, is like homoeopathy, as long as you believe it works, it works often enough to be believable to the desperate.

Is it healthy to be able to get rid of a lifetime’s guilt that easily? In some cases, it looks like it may be.

What disturbs me so much about this scenario is this: I know christianity is as true as the story of father christmas, I know the redemption that an addict feels he gets from the story is, at least in some cases, a good thing because it enables recovery in other areas by removing guilt that would otherwise retard progress.

However, believing a lie is never a good thing and ignoring reality, for whatever reason, is disingenuous at best and a disaster at worst. The question is really then, which is worse, believing a lie that enables one to turn around bad behaviour and end up doing good or accepting stark reality and being unable to productively move forward because of the enormous guilt you feel?

Now, I’m not saying that there are no other ways of dealing with guilt but to be fair, any other way is a lot more painful and protracted and I think that is possibly one of the reasons why rehab in general has such a low success rate. It’s damn difficult to get clean and anything that makes it easier must be a good thing, right? I have done no research into the matter but from what I hear, this particular christian facility has a reasonable rehabilitation success rate, possible even better than average.

I think what concerns me the most is that I cannot think of anything that atheism can offer, other than the XX step programs in use anyway. Perhaps my concern lies in that cold logic is very difficult to apply in the case of drug abuse, which is inherently illogical; let’s face it, logic is the furthest thing from a heroin junkie’s mind.

How then, would one go about building an effective, non religious, drug rehabilitation facility? I think that finding an easy, constructive way to deal with guilt would probably be the first thing to come up with. I may be wrong.

How do you convince the desperate religious to embrace humanism or atheism in general? You find a way to attain simple personal redemption… and I don’t know if that is possible.

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