One of the worst aspects of most religions is that it lays down major guilt trips on people. It does this by making people believe that that a whole range of things (thoughts as well as actions) that we would consider normal are actually sinful, then it postulates an omniscient being who knows everything including those thoughts, and then promises a lifetime in hell for those who transgress. True, it allows for absolution for those who grovel appropriately but it surely must be keeping people in doubt as to whether they have groveled enough to avoid eternal damnation.
A good example of this kind of self-flagellation is Toni Braxton who has a son diagnosed with autism. She says in a memoir that her god may have caused this to happen to punish her for having had an abortion many years earlier.
The 46-year-old singer confesses that for weeks afterward she was wracked with guilt, the result of growing up in a fanatically religious home where she was not allowed to wear pants, would be forced to fast for two weeks a time during Lent and was forbidden to go to the movies. Homework was usually neglected because children at the church where her parents worshiped were obliged to memorize 26 scriptures a week.
Years after the abortion, when Braxton’s youngest son, Diezel, was diagnosed with autism she felt she was to blame. “Is God punishing me for that abortion?” she writes.
Braxton realizes that might sound odd, but says she “believed that God’s payback was to give my son autism.”
The “Breathe Again” singer was so consumed with guilt over the abortion that she questioned if God was punishing her for it with lupus and her parents’ messy divorce. (Braxton writes that her father married his mistress 30 days after he got divorced.)
Having an autistic child is challenging enough to deal with but to add to that the feeling that the child is being punished for something you did must be a terrible burden for a parent to bear.