Why do so many religious people hate themselves so much?

Judging by some of the comments on my blog posts, I have  to conclude that many religious folks practise a form of self-loathing that could only be inspired by scripture, and reinforced through frequent worship sessions, by the clergy or other religious instructors. The proclivity to undermine ones personal self through various forms of self-denial, self-hatred, self-loathing, penance etc. seems to be very evident among Christians, but is by all accounts, absolutely intrinsic to Islam. Although not so openly evident in other religions, it is surely practiced to some degree.

Take this recent comment on my post Viva la Vida – What does it all mean?, “None of us deserve God, yet He gives us that opportunity, none of us deserve life, yet He gives us life and a chance to seek Him and become One with Him. Chris Jesus died for us; God became what we are that we might be what He is.” Why would a normal, sane and rational person believe that he does not deserve life? It could be expected of a person with psychological problems to have such insecurities, but what triggers such atypical thoughts in a normal, healthy person?

Here again, a commentator on my post The More You Learn, The More You Realize How Little You Know, maintains that you don’t know what’s best for you, only god does: “He IS the Creator after all. He knows what’s good for you. and you’re only ONE out of how many people on this planet??” Unless someone is deliberately taught this piece of imprudence,” how would that person come to believe such an absolute which is impossible to verify or prove, with or without science?

And on a blog I posted, Hate Not the Believer, where I made reference to a Melbourne cleric who advocates that beating your wife is acceptable, the same (female) Muslim commentator had this to say: “and in terms of the whole wife/husband..woman/man thing..there’s always a reason in Islam. cause we don’t see Islam as a religion…rather, it is the way of life” Is it normal for a women to allow herself to be beaten, because an archaic text in a religious book condones paternalistic thuggery? What sinister force compels a women to deny herself any self-respect, by accepting that there is always a reason for her being mistreated and maligned?

Time and time again you will hear clerics screaming from the pulpits (and now from every kind of media imaginable) that man is a worthless sinner. Man is damned and can only obtain “salvation” if he accepts the “word of god” and “gives his life” to one “creator” or the other. Some religions (one in particular) even go so far as to proclaim that only total and unrelenting “submission to god” is a pre-requisite for a “life in heaven,” whatever that is. And the key to making people believe such nonsense is in creating a terrifying fear of the unknown; the unknowable, unprovable, irrational, mother-of-all-fears, HELL. Other religions may not have the concept of HELL, which is probably why self-hatred is not that evident there. Such is the work of clerics; to perpetuate and maintain the fear of a punishment after death. For without this fear, people would have no need to hate themselves so much while they are alive.

Perhaps Ayaan Hirsi Ali was referring to secular Europe when she wrote so eloquently in her book Infidel, “Life is better in Europe than it is in the Muslim world because human relations are better, and one reason human relations are better is that in the West, life on earth is valued in the here and now, and individuals enjoy rights and freedoms that are recognized and protected by the state. To accept subordination and abuse because Allah willed it – that, for me would be self-hatred.”

13 thoughts on “Why do so many religious people hate themselves so much?

  1. As a Christian, I can tell you that it is true that Christians do have a self-loathing demeanor at times, as a way to practice a false holiness. I can also tell you that that is not what God desires at all.

    I, however, feel that you are completely seeing things in the wrong perspective. We ARE sinners. It’s a fact. It’s not a way for people to say, “Aw geez, gosh dudes we are SO messed up! Let’s beg this to this fake invisible being to make it all better”. That’s to me, what it is that you see, and you are entirely mistaken.

    A good deal of people have come to Christ because their lives have become empty and worthless. They did their own thing and it led nowhere. So, in an act of desperation, sought God out.

    This is what happened to me. I have actually died. I, at another time, attempted suicide. I went through all the questions, beliefs and everything else there could be to explain existence on Earth. I was even cynical like you and pretended that everyone else who had a belief system were just a bunch of whackos who needed to believer in something to have validation for their life. What a bunch of moronic losers. Thank God I’m not like them.

    So, I get where you’re coming from. That does not mean that you’re right, but I don’t understand your “logic”.

    Now, I don’t know why in the world you stick to some things that only SOME Christians say. I guess to make your arguments more effective.

    All I can tell you is that I am a sane, healthy human being…not because of anything the world gave me or told me, but because of Christ. I am a healthier human being because of Jesus Christ. Yea, so I know, I’m one of those whacked out Jesus Freaks, blah, blah, blah…right? Yea, Christians are freaks. It’s true. We ACTUALLY believe that we’re sinners, in a world where people can’t even take responsibility for their actions, we believe that we are inherently bad. We KNOW the world has evil in it. We KNOW that people are capable of horrible things, no matter their race, religion, occupation, age, gender, etc. It’s not a way to have some insecurity about who we are, it’s a realization about ourselves. We know it. It doesn’t mean we go around depressed all the time. I actually have never been happier. Confessing that I’m a sinner was the best thing in my life, because it’s the truth. I am forgiven, and that’s the second truth. All of my sin is gone, and THAT’S why I am happy.

    But I know you’ll read this and roll your eyes. It’s pretty much expected. I should just tell you, you don’t know everything about Christians, and please, stop pretending that you do.

    By the way, you also have a religion. Everyone does. You’re not more enlightened than everyone else.

  2. Hi Gabrielle, if you read the essay again, you might find that I don’t generalize about all Christians, but did stress on “so many.” I don’t pretend to know it all; I comment on what I observe and use empiricle data for other statements I make. You in fact are the one who is pretending to know it all by the absolutist statements you throw about with reckless abandon. Allow me to point them out:

    1.) “I can also tell you that that is not what God desires at all.” How do you know. Did god tell you this? You read this in a holy book and your holy book is the correct one?
    2.) “We ARE sinners. It’s a fact.” How do you know it’s a fact? Do you have empiricle scientific evidence for this? Did god tell you this? You read this in a holy book and your holy book is the correct one?
    3.) “I am a healthier human being because of Jesus Christ.” How do you know this. What makes you think it is not the medication that made you healthier? Did Jesus tell you this himself?

    You see Gabrielle, I also KNOW that the world has evil in it, just by simple observation, but I don’t believe that I’m inherently bad, just because others SEEM to be. I however, do take responsibility for my actions, and I don’t need some cosmic zombie to “lean on.” I DO IT ON MY OWN. A novel concept, don’t you think?

    Look, I sympathize with you, as you have obvioulsy been through a pretty bad time in your life, but if you think you have found the answer to your problems in religion, you are just deluding yourself. It may be just a temporary solution, but if it works for you now, just ride along, but always look out for more…

  3. Well, let me give you my rebuttal.

    Isn’t saying “so many”, really generalizing? How do you know it’s “so many”? Perhaps it’s merely the way you choose to perceive the average Christian. I understand that it may not be what you intended to say, but it is most certainly easy to see that it is a way a person could read it. If it’s not what you meant, quite clearly and certainly I apologize, but can you not see my perception of the wording? I think if you read the words ” so many” in reference to atheists, you would also consider a statement to generalize, for lack of a better term, “your people”.

    I also did not throw any statement out with “reckless abandon”. Cute way of putting it, but it’s simply untrue.

    Now for your numerical bullet statements I shall respond:

    1. I actually know that God doesn’t desire that because I’ve experience it. I experience God before I read this “holy book” as I know you sarcastically refer to it. When I became a Christian, I didn’t even have a Bible for an entire year. So, no, sorry that little holy book didn’t tell me a thing. It was an experience. An experience I cannot deny. You see, I believe God is real and speaks to everyone no matter where they are, if you are able to hear. Now, are some people mentally insane and think they hear God? Of course, but I don’t believe that that means that every person who claims to have heard God is crazy. I believe if there is a God, and He created us, then He would want to have a relationship with us, the same way a father who gave us life (as you so poignantly put it to Lana) would want to have a relationship with us. I do believe that.

    I know it, because I know God.

    2. When I was telling you that we are sinners, it’s because I do believe it’s a fact and I was relaying to you as a Christian. I was responding to you as a Christian, so you could see where Christians are coming from.

    Again, NO, the holy book (your wording) did not tell me this, it was an experience I had when I was 18. For the record, I knew nothing about Christianity at the time and didn’t even know what John 3:16 meant (a very common verse that almost everyone knows, despite whatever their religion is). I knew nothing about the Bible and didn’t have a chance to read one.

    My soul told me I was a sinner. Not the Bible. And yes, I know it’s a fact. God didn’t have tell me. I don’t believe people are walking around feeling bad about things because of ignorance, I think they are walking around knowing they have done things that are bad. I think just about everyone has regrets. I don’t believe it’s a program we have set in ourselves as a way to control others.

    3. I’m not on medication.

    I don’t believe in a religion. I think religion is ridiculous. I think religion is what Jesus fought against, like you’re doing. I think religion leads to a lot of bad things. I don’t put my hope in a religion.

    • Hi Gabrielle, thanks for the response. I do enjoy a debate. Here’s my rebuttal to your rebuttal:

      Using the words “all religious folk” would be generalizing. I specifically used the word “many” because statistically from my interactions with religious folk, that has been my observation. I however concede that using the word “many” could create a wrong perception, and I apologise for not being more precise.

      You cannot use your personal “experience” as a yardstick to make the assumption that god’s desires are now known to everyone. I experience many things myself, but I don’t go around telling people that because I experienced it, it must be true and that everyone else should also be experiencing it (and if they don’t, then there is something wrong with them). The fact that you believe something, does not make it true, no matter how hard your desire to believe. And your feeling that Christians believe certain things, does not make it a reality for everyone who is not Christian; whether you or some imaginary god “wills” it or not.

      It’s not rational to think that because you believe something, no matter how intensely, that it is magically going to become the truth. You cannot will “facts” into being.

      You (and many others before you) mention that god speaks to everyone and that you hear things. Perhaps you think you have some sort of super-power that allows you (and presumably others who are religious like you) to hear god. Please let me know the secret of gaining these powers, surely you would want me to also hear your god? (There is no other way to answer this claim kindly, without bringing schizophrenia into it.)

      Finally, that comment about the medication. I did not mean for it to sound as if you had some sort of psycological problem that requires constant medication. I meant, the medication that was administered to you immediately after the unfortunate suicide incident. My apologies if there was any vagueness in the meaning.

  4. Lenny, I too am a Christian and can almost totally relate to what Gabrielle is saying. Im not on pills either, except blood pressure, and have experienced so many acts of God in my lifetime that I know Him on such a deep personal level. You can call me whatever you want. I’d love to share with you but you have to be open to the experience. As for the point/counter point to follow..well if you believe in God can’t you pray about your blood pressure..sure but I can pray for the moon to fall out of the sky too but I’m just a guy..Im not Him.

    • Hi Brian

      Did you ever try to find out if those supposed “acts of god” could be attributed to something else, not supernatural?

      I am open to “experience” but I’m also open to trying to understand the experience thoroughly, before making unnatural assumptions about it.

      Why would you want to pray for a calamity like the “moon falling out the sky.” Is it natural or even moral?

      It’s unfortunate that you have the blood pressure problem; I assume it’s chronic. Science could some day find a cure, and I sincerely wish for you to be around to take advantage of it. Now that’s something to be in awe off.

  5. Hi lenny,

    I like this article and I understand what you mean for the most part. I was born in a christian family and it’s a great insult to me especially now that I’m 23 years old. I wish I can easily just say, I don’t follow religion and I don’t believe in the God everybody believes in. I don’t mind calling myself and aetheist if people needs to label me. However, being surrounded by christians and muslims all my life, I have somehow learned where this is all coming from.

    When they talk about God being their savior and being happy under His will it generally reflects the larger than life experience they had as Gabrielle stated. She was “lost” and suddenly she “found” herself, which is common in all of us. Only, somwhere along her way, the idea of God brushed her, and it made sense to her more than anything else. It made so much sense that she now believes that those who don’t believe in the idea of God or faith are without depth. Also, as I have noticed, those people who completely hang on to God are those who’s had enough of reality, those who lost somebody and can’t cope with. Those who got too hurt that they can’t mend themselves. They need some hope, and they found it in the idea of God.

    The problem with their belief is they kill their own worth and tend to get delusional. How?
    a) They offer Him everything. Which can/will lead to “do good deeds for the sake of a Higher Being” this practice then leads them to believe they are not worthy, because they give everything to God. Other than that, they are doing things for a reason and not of initiative and common sense.
    b) They proclaim they are saved. While this is histerical, this holds true for them. It’s the same as my belief that music saved my life, if not for music I would’ve been a drug addict by now. I admit this is an exaggeration. I exaggerate for people to clearly see my passion for music and to give others option to those in need. Also I like to think this way because it reminds me of my truimph during the dark stages of my teenage life. As I’ve noticed, the same reasons are also true for many believers. It’s not logical, but their feelings and memories are real and true. I hope I got my point across.
    c)They look forward to afterlife, the greatest promise of all. Here is my immature response to that “so why not kill yourself if you want to go there so much?” I’m thinking suicide became “immoral” because people likes the idea of life after death and early humans would commit suicide to be one with the Lord. Which is the case in Islam.
    d)They are not worthy so everyone is not worthy, esp the non believers. God and religion are still on top of the ladder, so those who believe tend to feel importance and righteuosness (even if they claim to be against self-righteousness) They will tell you about their “success story” with the hopes of sharing the belief. Why do they do it? That depends, to normal believers, they just want to share, it’s human nature isn’t it? =) to the extremists and priests however, that differs. We all know they have other agendas.
    e) They have no clear grasp of the idea of responsibility and mistakes. For them mistakes are considered as sins. And they can’t make it right. So they give the responsibility to God “Take away my sins” and then they walk out the door and leave their skeletons in the closet believing God will collect it sometime in the afternoon. Because they believe they are unworthy, they believe they are incapable of fixing things they damaged. Almost like a 5 year old who broke the glass and went to Mama, head facing the ground, close to tears and whispering “I’m sorry mommy, I didn’t mean to” Mommy comes to him and say “It’s ok I’ll fix it.” or “Bad boy! You’re grounded! Don’t touch that you’ll get bruised! You can’t fix that!”

    People believe and defend religion mainly because of their good experience with it. I will defend the integrity of a country if I had good experience in it. When you question the words in the bible and theists, they take it as an attack to all the good people that surrounds them, the good memories they had with belief and “enlightenment”. There is no point to think rational because their experiences are legitimate.

    It’s hard to debate with a theist but not impossible. One believer is different from another. My only problem is when they step on the rights of others just because God says so. I’ve had my share of debates that ended up with “I’m right because God says so” I walk away laughing out loud. My post is long enough, I like debates but I’m afraid I need more practice, I hope I didn’t blab too much. Cheers! =)

    • Hi pao,

      Thanks for the really thought-provoking response. I’m intrigued that you come from a third-world country (as revealed in your other post). May I ask which one it is?

      Please keep in touch.

      • Philippines, it’s in South-East Asia. The most corrupt, poor and only Christian country in Asia. I love my country and people but this is our reality. The poor admires the thieves, the thieves get money from the poor, the church demands money from the thieves and then the church comforts the poor with the promise of richness in heaven. It’s a cycle most of us refuse to see.

        • Hi pao,

          Thanks for the feedback. What you say about the Phillipines is so reminiscent of what is happening in South Africa. “The poor admire the thieves…” That is shockingly true about the majority of the people in this country who voted in the crooks that are currently in power.

          Have courage. I wish you and the people of your country the strength to endure…and fight on.

  6. Pingback: “The poor admires the thieves…” « Lenny Says

  7. Um, well because we are worthless sinners? Lenny, what do you not get? I’m going to say that you sin every day in some way or form. You should feel bad about that. You don’t deserve life, and neither does anyone else. You should know that sinning is bad. And you should feel ashamed of that. And who gives a care about science? Science is stupid if you use it dumb ways like you do. If science doesn’t prove it, what the heck does it matter? Like I said back in my last Viva la Vida post, SCIENCE ISN’T ALWAYS RIGHT. Lenny don’t put your faith in worthless science, and start believing the truth. And like I said in the second Viva la Vida post, don’t respond because I don’t want to start another debate if you won’t listen. Enjoy your life, Lenny because you won’t have it forever like me, atheist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s