Why Punish Me?
Augustine’s sinful lust unwrapped
Genre: Non-fiction; Category: Sociology of Religion; Subject: Religious abuse
The author served as altar boy and chorister while attending boarding schools in Ireland and England, where he encountered abuse. With the Vatican decrying critics of the church as “Friends of the Devil”, he thought back to his church schooldays. St Augustine’s 4th century hair-shirt texts are the bedrock of belief in the West. Following Augustine’s doctrine on Penance, the Church of England service admits sin and begs forgiveness or mercy 24 times. Grace and love are said twice. In faith schools today, infants are ritually taught to feel guilt and shame, often by a cleric. Schools do not set out to sexualise pupils, but an authority figure causing a child to feel guilt and shame is a well-known method of child sexual grooming. Might this be an unwitting factor in cases of clerical child abuse?
Most adults born in Britain have had a Christian schooling. We learn to cravenly beg mercy and forgiveness, without reference to the wronged victim. According to polls, a majority of us reject religion later in life, but billions of neural connections made in our infant brains are not then freed. Augustine’s ideas pervade Western culture so that unhealthy thinking patterns have become embedded. In these pages, the author reviews research endorsing religiosity and highlights a lack of rigour. Here we learn why academics shun this field of study.
Tracing his religious background, the author sketches subtle pressures that shape the lives of both followers and apostates. He suggests Augustine’s teaching might play a more influential role in child sexual abuse and adult mental well-being than has generally been recognised in mainstream social science. This book fills a gap in the shelf, opening a compelling new front in the current wave of popular religious critiques. The lucid descriptions of faith school drill and doctrine will stir readers who suppose Christianity is a benign influence, to think again.
Karl French, editor & Financial Times reviewer commented “This is potentially of interest to anyone concerned with how we grow up, how we are shaped, and how the way that young people are drawn into whatever religious faith into which they are born, how this supposedly, avowedly benign process is enacted can have deeply malign effects on the individual and so on society in general.” Karl concluded “It tackles – head-on – an important and pressing subject… it’s vital stuff. It’s about how we safeguard young people, how we grow up, how we interact with others.”
“It takes us directly to a seemingly real situation with flesh and blood people. The menace in the good father’s every action is tangible, and what isn’t said adds to the sense of danger.”
Alan Wilkinson, editor & BBC scriptwriter