Why is it so easy to sin?
How we sin today
According to church teaching, Jesus died "for our sins" on Good Friday. But people today live quite well with no awareness of sin. What is guilt in the self-actualization society?
Mr. Schneider, according to the Bible, Jesus died on behalf of our sins. But for 30 years we have been told: "I'm-okay-you're-okay." Is guilt still an issue?
Peter Schneider: J.a, it is still an issue. Only guilt changes her face. The question of guilt is no longer as it was fifty years ago when it came to the classic subject of sexuality. But the whole subject of environmental protection is riddled with questions of guilt. Terms such as the “ecological footprint”, the ecological balance, sustainability are rooted in feelings of guilt. Anyone who emits more CO2 than is absolutely necessary is guilty. The guilt is therefore less tied to a single sinful act, but far more to a lifestyle.
But the CO2 sins are no less harmful to the environment if we assume that Jesus died for it.
Cutter:Indeed: in western modernity, guilt is so individualized that such a vicarious atonement can hardly be imagined. Only Auschwitz made the concept of possible collective guilt conceivable again. A collective guilt, however, for which there could be no collective atonement.
You are a psychoanalyst and an expert on conflicts of conscience. How do guilt and reconciliation work psychologically?
Cutter:One could say that psychoanalysis expects people to look guilt in the eye. In the analysis, the person should be able to accept not only the consequences of his actions, but even those of his - unconscious - fantasizing. Contrary to the common cliché about it, psychoanalysis does not turn guilt into guilt, but guilt into guilt. People recognize that symptoms that express themselves, for example, through feelings of guilt, are placeholders of an unconscious conflict. And if you are lucky, with this insight the now superfluous symptom disappears.
Long processing processes do not fit into the appointment calendar. Can guilt be removed from the agenda?
Cutter:Guilt and sin dissolve in the modern age - just like salt dissolves in water. It then loses its original crystalline form, but does not disappear. In this way, sin has saturated not only the environmental debate, but also, for example, the debate about proper nutrition: whoever eats too fat "sins". This sin is not rooted in guilt, but in violation of a healthy lifestyle. Today it is especially considered a sin to fall short of one's capabilities. As a person alive today, you have to be motivated “from the inside out”.
Self-realization is an imperative. If you don't succeed, you feel guilty.
Cutter:Yes. The guilt of people in the self-actualization society is that they have only developed a deficient self. You are not entirely "yourself" and feel guilty - but beyond a rigid grid of do's and don'ts, but measured against the infinite possibilities that are supposed to be offered.
We are trimmed to always see the half-full glass. In the ironic words of a St. Gallen songwriter: "Every shitty chance." But what if you fail anyway?
Cutter:This fixation on the positive creates feelings of failure incessantly. You feel like a failure simply because you don't manage to always recognize a glass as at least half full. The pressure to always enjoy what you are doing, to always “be yourself”, makes you depressed. The sociologist Alain Ehrenberg follows this obligation to «optimize the self» in his book «The exhausted self. Depression and Society in the Present »after. This self-exhaustion becomes a mass disease in the 20th century. Ehrenberg writes: "If the neurosis is the drama of guilt, then the depression is the tragedy of inadequacy." Do an experiment: say in public that you work primarily to make money. If you don't use the excuse of belonging to the Working Poor for this attitude, this simple statement is downright obscene: work must be fun.
Can the compulsion to self-actualization also motivate to evil? The downside of the fun society would then be Josef Fritzl and the gunman von Winnenden.
Cutter:It is at least noticeable that the explanations that are put forward to understand “evil” actually understand this evil as a pathology of the society of fun. That means: The cause of such acts would lie in the wrongly used possibilities of our society. At least there is this approach in the Winnenden massacre.
How is it going?
Cutter:By making the killer games jointly responsible for the crime, the society that makes this possible comes under indictment. A nostalgia for a society of prohibition arises. But at the same time, of course, you know - and this is what makes this discourse of setting and prohibiting limits so helpless and at the same time so repetitively compulsive - that you cannot turn back the wheel of history.
So you realize: Guilt is still a big topic today, but it is hardly discussed. How does this affect people?
Cutter:To put it bluntly: you become depressed. To the extent that guilt and failure are mixed up and can hardly be distinguished in this way. Depression is becoming a disease of civilization just as hysteria was in the 19th century.
Because of the financial and economic crisis, a rethink is being called for from various sides. Greed for profit and self-fulfillment should give way to modesty.
Cutter:The new modesty that has now been proclaimed is nothing but an ideological smoke grenade. So one transfigures renunciation to virtue and tries to get the common people to think they are great when they have to tighten their belts.
You once wrote that it is not easy for theology and psychoanalysis today. Because both start from pessimistic images of human beings?
Cutter:In any case, an image of man that is shaped by concepts such as guilt and conflict appears pessimistic today. Psychoanalysis and theology definitely have something to say about depression and feelings of deficit. But they still do this tied to a conceptual framework that was not developed around these present-day phenomena. It's like Microsoft: No matter how different the latest Windows operating system may be, with a little connoisseur you will still notice its old MS-DOS core.
In the past life after death was the real life, today there is only this world. In the past man was bad and sinful, today he is good. Church teaching has not realized the conditions of understanding of modernity.
Cutter:You could say that. There is actually a fundamental obsolescence of the church that cannot be addressed even with rap in worship. On the contrary, all the desperate and mostly involuntarily comical attempts to somehow still be able to participate in the zeitgeist show the extent of this being out of date.
According to the churches, the resurrection at Easter is the symbol of a new life in which we humans participate. Can that play a meaningful role in coping with guilt?
Cutter:Perhaps most likely on the level of nostalgia. Because for quite a few people, the fact that they could feel sinful and hope for forgiveness would be a redemption. Instead, they feel inadequate, redundant, burned out.
Interview: Daniel Klingenberg
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