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When You Can’t Trust God…



In order to pursue self-transformation, we need to have a relationship of love and faith and trust with the Absolute. We need love, because the nature of the Absolute is love, and the basis of transformation is love. We need faith or belief, because without belief, we cannot make room within ourselves to manifest anything that the Absolute might give us. We need trust, because self-transformation, as a journey of healing, requires us to surrender our defensive ego to a more competent physician. Unfortunately, many of us have a pernicious bit of programming in our subconscious that undermines that relationship, and leaves us feeling alone, unheard, unable to overcome even the smallest obstacles. That is the Angry God Syndrome.

 

The Angry Judge

But if God gives up what he was about to take from unwilling man, because man is unable to restore what he ought to restore freely, He abates the punishment and makes man happy on account of his sin, because he has what he ought not to have. For he ought not to have this inability, and therefore as long as he has it without atonement it is his sin. And truly such compassion on the part of God is wholly contrary to the Divine justice, which allows nothing but punishment as the recompense of sin.
– Anselm of Canterbury

As a handful of sand thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh (i.e. people) as compared with the mind of God.

Just as a strongly flowing fountain is not blocked by a handful of earth, so the compassion of the Creator is not overcome by the wickedness of his creatures.

Far be it from us that we should ever think so wicked a thing as that God could become unmerciful. For God’s attributes do not change as those of mortals do.
– Isaac the Syrian
 
Christianity inherited a certain way of talking about God from the Jewish scriptures which often ended up running entirely contrary to the core ethos and goals of Christianity as a tradition of self-transformation. The God of judgment and vengeance ran quietly alongside the God of love of the inner tradition without any coherent attempt to reconcile the paradox. Until, that is, a Norman writer, Anselm of Canterbury, created a doctrine that would dominate Western Christian theology, and which took the language of judgment to its ultimate conclusion.

In Anselm’s account, God was so angry with Adam’s sin that he punished Adam’s entire race with death and damnation. So great was God’s infinite anger that it could only be satisfied with the death of an infinite being in human form- Jesus Christ. Christ was punished in our place, and the merits of his suffering are distributed to the faithful. Nevertheless, all human beings inherited Adam’s guilt, and God may or may not forgive their sins- and only if they’re baptised Christians and follow all the rules and suffer in penance for their sins.

In Anselm’s universe:

  • God is cast in the role of the creator of evil, having manufactured suffering, death and hell
  • God created a world full of good things we’re not supposed to enjoy, just to make sure we were well and truly up the creek.
  • Only by following the rules and suffering a lot can we hope to spend eternity in heaven.

While the language of mercy and compassion are often used about this God, both attributes ring quite hollow.

 

Suffering

It follows that the happiness of mankind is very low on this deity’s list of priorities. Suffering, in this account, is the sole path to salvation, since salvation itself means paying part of our debt of suffering for transgressing the rules of the deity, a debt that is infinite given that it may lead to eternal damnation, so that the rest of the debt can be covered by the sufferings of Christ.

How, we may ask, can such a deity be expected to care at all about our earthly happiness, or desire fulfillment and prosperity for us, when our lot in life is supposed to be suffering and not fulfillment? Unsurprisingly, it was this very line of argument that in medieval moral teaching was used by the nobility to keep the serfs and townsfolk in their place.

Even if we consciously reject these ideas, the programming may still be running subconsciously. If God wants us to suffer, why are we looking for fulfillment in the exercise of our divinely-given talents? If God wants us to be poor, why are we seeking to improve our financial situations?

 

The Divine Checklist

Of course, if we have sinned, then there must somewhere be a list of what actions constitute sin and just how grave they are and how much we need to do to make up for it- at least, in this juridical construction of morality. And since we never get to see the complete list, who knows what sins we may have unknowingly committed? Who knows if our actions have really balanced out the divine ledger?

And of course, there are the lists of rules, the things we have to do to be “good with God,” the heavenly admittance criteria for the divine club. Not only must we worry about making sure we get all the right check marks, but we must view those who don’t, the majority of the people we encounter every day, as already damned. If we believe it for ourselves, we must believe it for them.

The essence of the distinction between superstition and self-transformation is that superstition creates a deity sharing human emotions who controls our destiny and can be induced one way or another to do what we want, whether by following a set of rules or offering material bribes in the form of sacrifices. Transformative traditions, on the other hand, absolutely insist that the Absolute is always ready to help us, but that it is we who must change in order to make use of that help. In other words, rather than using religion as an extension of the futile quest of humanity to control our external environment, these traditions recognise that we need to transform our own mode of existence.

The rules and checklists, therefore, are in themselves a form of idolatry, because they reduce God to a vindictive judge who is the ultimate source of all threats against our present and future happiness, demanding all love and affection and giving less than any human parent has for their child. The rules are a camouflage placed by hierarchical institutions over the centuries to prevent their people from examining the ontological reality of the situation.

 

God’s Will

“I had a heart attack- it must be God’s will for me to suffer.” Whenever something bad happens to anyone, we may hear people attribute it to God’s will. If it’s God’s will, then clearly they were meant to suffer. That is the imputation we make. The truth is, of course, we as individuals and humanity collectively attract the bad things that happen to us and to each other. The Absolute simply allows us to experience the consequences of our self-chosen mode of existence- until and unless we make room for him to act in and through us to change that. The Absolute respects our free will to live, and to suffer, as we choose. If we really look at any sustained suffering we experience that doesn’t come to us from the bad choices of others, nine times out of ten, we are living in a way that is causing us harm. Didn’t that heart attack come about as the result of poor diet, lack of exercise and bad temper? We may know that intellectually, but sometimes the program lingers on in the subconscious.

 

Caprice

The worst of this business about God’s will is that the deity is inscrutable, and therefore capricious. Who knows whom he will save and whom he will damn? Who knows what sufferings he might choose to bring upon whom? What’s more, the rules, which of course were written and detailed by human beings, are inconsistent and often illogical, leaving us with no clear way to please the deity. The theology of divine caprice can be no better exemplified than by the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, which holds that God has already chosen who will be saved (naturally, all are Christian and most are Calvinists), and who will burn in hell (all the rest, including all the Calvinists who weren’t so lucky). Nothing you do in this life can change his mind- but of course, that doesn’t let you off following the rules.

 

Guilt

Because of this language of sin, atonement and guilt, it’s common for people raised in certain traditions who were bombarded with this way of thinking to experience constant guilt. Even if they don’t know why, they’ll think of something they may have done wrong. They may constantly review their actions, looking for reasons to feel guilty.

And of course, they have plenty of grounds for projecting guilt. That’s the wonderful thing about this God, he’s not only easily offended, but he put us in a world full of pleasures and then made it a sin to enjoy them. Augustine of Hippo went so far as to imply that enjoying sex, even in marriage, is sinful. According to him, Adam and Eve would have copulated in Paradise to reproduce, but not enjoyed it. Not only sexuality, but food, money, any expression of anger, receiving praise from others and many, many other everyday things bring a baggage train of guilt behind them.

 

A Matter of Trust

Naturally, such a God is inherently both unhelpful and untrustworthy. Even if, consciously, you have rejected this whole theology as a destructive force in your life, even if you’re approaching self-transformation seriously, this image of the Absolute still lurks in your unconscious. You want to believe in the God of love, but how can you trust in absolute and unchanging love when you subconsciously believe that that love is conditional? How can you trust the Absolute to help and guide you, how can you believe in that love, if part of you still regards the divine will as a source of misery? This is a great obstacle that may take years to overcome.

 

Conclusion

In order to overcome the Angry God Syndrome, we need to do three things:

  • First and most important is to become conscious of our own programming, our own gut beliefs about God, in as much detail as possible. Only when we do this do we understand why we are not making progress, and what we truly have to address.
  • Second, we need to be very carefully consistent in reformulating our beliefs, to avoid the cognitive dissonance which so many Christians labour under today of using the language of a loving God while believing in a judgmental God. To do this, we need to carefully examine every aspect of our relationship with God and everything that we do about it. We also need to re-examine the basis of our own moral codes, taking them out of the world of arbitrarily-established rules and re-establishing them on the basis of spiritual health.
  • Third, we must recognise the emotional impact and damage that juridical theology has done to us, and address it on the level of emotion.

It can be a long process, but the rewards of living in a universe where you have unobstructed access to divine love are nothing less than freedom itself.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Liberation from the "Shame, Blame and Guilt Game"

Few psychological conditions in life are as debilitating as what I call the “shame, blame, guilt game”.  As you’ll see below and as you may have experienced in your own life, the emotion of guilt can lead to chronic anxiety, mental anguish, depression and worse.
Yet many cultures live on a steady diet of shame and guilt.  Sometimes these are religious cultures, sometimes just individual family cultures.  Whatever the case, though, if you’ve been a victim of this kind of psychological manipulation – and all chronic guilt-tripping is a manipulation designed to gain and maintain control over you – then you need to know how to free yourself from it.
On the other hand, guilt can also be the inability to forgive yourself for something you’ve done or failed to do.  That’s when you feel like one of the characters in this amazing video…

Religious Guilt Culture
The epitome of neurotic guilt culture in the West has certainly been the Roman Catholic Church.  Here are just a couple of abridged accounts from emotionally abused “recovering Catholics”:
1. From a young woman:
“I experienced this guilt most intensely during high school. Every morning I would wake up with the most painful guilt. In my mind, I would walk back through the day before trying to remember what I had done wrong, but I could never come up with anything. Then I would get in the shower and say the our fathers, hail mary’s and glory be’s until the pain had passed. At the time I had no idea why I felt so much pain and guilt.
“I’ve been trying to understand better how the Church operates psychologically. It most certainly makes claims to Truth where questioning Truth is coded as sin / evil.  And the weekly embodied ritual seems to embed Catholic doctrine into people’s psyche in a way that people can’t explain. The mass also provides an embodied ritual which is meant to both teach people that they are sinned while at the same time relieve people of this sin.  It is this aspect of the mass that creates a kind of addiction – I’ve heard some people state that they just have to be Catholic and receive the body of Christ each week – but they can’t explain why. It seems that it is this imparting and relief of guilt and sin that people feel they have to get through the mass each week.”
2. From a young man:
“I consistently beat myself up, and put myself to shame, and live with debilitating bouts of depression and anxiety.  Not because of anything I’ve done, but because I have thoughts and feelings…  natural thoughts and feelings that the Catholic church of my upbringing would have called ‘sinful’. 
“I was raised Catholic of course, and I went to 12 years of Catholic school, during the 70’s and 80’s.  I believe that much of what we were taught to believe can only be described as insane and medieval.
“Let me just say that the Catholic Church has done many wonderful things, in ways of charity and meeting the physical needs of people.  Things like creating hospitals, homeless shelters, food-shelf’s, etc.  But when it comes to meeting the emotional and psychological needs of people, the church has done tremendous damage and abuse to the psyches of millions (billions?)of people.
“And I was taught that to even think lustful thoughts was the same as doing the act.  I was a teenage boy, coursing with hormones and natural impulses on a regular basis.  I’ve read that research shows that young males have sexual thoughts and impulses roughly every 30 seconds or so, and I was certainly no exception.   At 15, all it takes is for an attractive girl to walk by, the hormones jack up a bit and boom, mortal sin, eternal damnation, the fires of hell… it’s all there.  To be able to feel that I was safe from the fires of hell would mean that I would need my own priest following me around so that I could make constant confessions.    Not having this accommodation, I concluded that I was doomed… that my soul was destined for hell.  Unless I could somehow shut off all of those impulses and feelings, and feel nothing!!!  So, I became a robot. 
“The only logical way to save myself from eternally being on Satan’s This is the definition of spiritual death and being un-human.   And an ironclad recipe for chronic depression, anxiety, self-loathing, self-abuse and self-punishment.  In short, not much less painful than Hell.
And to top it off, we were taught that to suffer here on earth, was a GOOD thing, something to be STRIVED for.  We were to be martyrs, living in self-induced pain and suffering.”
You’ll Be Shocked to Learn Where This Came From…
The origin of Catholicism’s rampant guilt culture is not Christianity itself and proof of that is the general absence of the neurotic guilt complex in the history of the Eastern Christian tradition (a lot of my own pastoral work as an Orthodox priest has been cleaning up the emotional messes left by the rampant guilt culture).
The guilt culture has theological roots that stem directly from Augustine’s teachings on “original sin” back in the fifth century.  Basically, he taught that all human beings have in some mystical way participated in the sin of Adam and Eve, and are therefore automatically “guilty” from birth on.  In other words, guilt is a condition you inherit!
Where did he get this absurd notion?  Amusingly enough, from an error in biblical translation!  You see, Augustine didn’t know Greek and had to depend on St. Jerome’s translation of the New Testament into Latin.  Just one problem…
Jerome made a minor error when he translated Romans 5, verse 12.  By translating a single conjunction as “in whom” instead of “because of which”, he accidentally provided Augustine with the basis of a wrong theology that has screwed up the lives of countless millions of people ever since. 
That’s why the original Christian tradition regards the whole notion of original sin / inherited guilt as lunacy.  You can’t be held responsible for something you didn’t do (seems pretty obvious, right?).  And, of course, Augustine’s theory requires a judgmental God who condemns your failures, as opposed to the God of direct mystical experience who, as the original tradition says, “only bestows blessings and never does harm”.

Remember, though, that an individual family culture can also be based on chronic guilt-tripping and other forms of dysfunctional manipulation that may or may not have a religious basis.  Whether religiously motivated or not, your task is to find your way out of that culture and undo the damage to yourself.  So how do you do that?  This way… 

Freeing Yourself from the Shame, Blame, Guilt Game
If you’ve been a victim of this form of crass psychological manipulation and realize you need to break free, there’s a simple 3-step process to follow.  It may still take some time and effort, but the steps will certainly help you get there:
1)    Recognize it!  Take stock of the full extent to which it has impacted your life.
2)    Treat it!  The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is certainly one excellent tool you should always have with you.  There are also support groups available, and you may derive some value from talking to a therapist or counselor.  Be sure to find the help you need!
3)    Resolve Not to Play!  Identify those people in your life that use this guilt against you and take steps to terminate or minimize contact.  If you can’t avoid them entirely, learn to recognize their behavior and call them on it.
We are all “guilty” of many things, for sure – that’s part of the human condition.  However, we’ll never get anywhere unless we free ourselves from the chains of guilt that bind us emotionally.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

The "Shame-Blame-Guilt Game"

This may seem like a strange thing for a priest to say, but nothing turns people into emotional wrecks quite aseffectively as religion.



It’s true. Of course, you have to keep in mind I’ve defined “religion” in a particular way (in my book, The 5 Pillars of Life) and that “religion” is not thesame as an “authentic ancient tradition of self-trans-formation”.

This comes from Philip, one of our members, who sent in this excellent question, preceeded by a couple of paragraphs from an article he had just read. Be sure you read it through first, then go to the bottom and turn up your speakers to find out the answer:



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This morning, I was leafing through a yoga magazine in anacupuncture waiting room when I came across an article that interested me. It was about guilt, and in it, the author distinguished 3 kinds of guilt: natural (feeling guilty about something immediate and specific, which can be repaired), toxic (festering of natural guilt, nagging, non-specific) and existential (not about anything we’ve done personally, or about the state we’re in, but rather about the state of something external (the poor, the environment, etc.)).



I’ll reproduce what the author had to say about the second category, “toxic guilt”:

“Toxic guilt is what happens when natural guilt festers. It manifests as a nagging feeling of pervasive but nonspecific badness, as if your whole life has something wrong with it. This type of free-floating guilt is the hardest kind to deal with, because it arises from lingering patterns, of samskaras, lodged in your subconscious.

“How can you expiate your sin or forgive yourself for something when you don’t know what it is you did – or when you believe that what you did is essentially irreparable? To some extent, this particular type of guilt seems to be an unintended by-product of Judeo-Christian culture, a residue of the doctrine of original sin.

“Tantric traditions especially are known for looking at the world through a lens that sees all life as fundamentally divine. Your attitude toward your guilt will undergo a huge change when you begin to follow a spiritual teaching that – instead of assuming human beings are intrinsically flawed – teaches you to look beyond your flaws and helps you to know your deeper perfection.”

(Philip goes on to say) I’m now reading “The Way of a Pilgrim” (an Eastern Orthodox spiritual classic from 19th century Russia, currently published by Shambhala). In it the author frequently refers to himself as “a sinner” and as being “unworthy”. According to the yoga author’s viewpoint, it would be hard to see his spiritual state as a healthy, evolved one, but rather it would seem benighted. At the same time, this character experiences life as wonder and joy, shows resilience to hardship, and never seems to feel sorry for himself, or “spiral into a pattern of self-destructive action”.

So what’s the truth here??

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Now turn up your speakers and I’ll tell you the TRUTH about all this. And it’s not likely what you’re expecting to hear 😉



MP3 File

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Warrior Coaching International – transforming your mind, body and spirit into SOLID STEEL……wrapped in cotton 😉





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