Cold Turkey, Kinda
The thrill of being away from the insanity of NYC distracted me from the creeping depression that would soon weigh down on me as I struggled to find work, gain my wife’s trust, love my son, and fight the urge to get my hands on coke or adderall. I found myself at the bottle again, drinking almost every night to alleviate the stress of everyday living. I was returning to my early days as a substance abuser, slowly.
My desire for hard drugs waned, but my isolation in guilt remained. My wife and I rebuilt what we had foolishly attempted to destroy, Ayden was happy to have us together again, and yet none of this muted the voice of God condemning me for my sins. Some sins were recent, others stretched way back into the past. On my way to thinking through the most mundane of tasks, I passed by the bodies of those I had slept with, the faces of those whose trust I had broken, my mother tearfully pleading with me to return to the Lord, my grandfather watching me waste my teenage years on drugs and alcohol and vagabondish wandering through the streets of the Bronx.
A Brief Exposition on the Subject of Guilt
Although I knew that my atheism logically required me to embrace moral nihilism, I always was aware of my guilt. I was also aware of how self-contradictory philosophers are, and decided to theorize about morality anyway.
Guilt is the recognition that I have harmed someone else. Thus, guilt is a social phenomenon. In any social context, there are at least two explicit moral agents (viz. the offended and the offendee). Because sociality implies personal influences on the explicit moral agents, every social context also involves implicit moral agents (i.e. influencers). Moreover, seeing as explicit moral agents will also have an influence on others, every social context involves future implicit moral agents.
As guilt is the recognition that I have harmed someone else, then it follows that to the degree I have acted out what I passively received from my influencers, I am correlatively not-guilty. On the other hand, to the degree I have acted as an influencer on the immoral behavior of another, I am correlatively guilty. This applies to others as well, since guilt is acquired only in social contexts where two or more explicit moral agents are involved.
Logically, then, guilt for behaviors stemming from the influence of implicit moral agents is improper. Rather than bearing a sense of guilt for actions I was influenced to perform, therefore, I could legitimately ascribe that guilt to those implicit moral agents who made me behave in such a manner. I am responsible only for those behaviors that are in my control, i.e. my present actions not stemming from my influencer/s, and the effect that these actions have on influencees.
My guilt can be alleviated, therefore, via a rigorous instrospective analysis of my behaviors in which I ascribe degrees of guilt to (a.)implicit moral agents and (b.)myself. But what of the offendee? Simple: Unless one is irrational, he acts in a manner suitable to his given social context. Thus, if I am an offender it is, in part, due to some action taken by the offendee, an action he bears responsibility for, at least to the degree that he is not acting from the influences of some implicit moral agent/s. To this extent, then, he is an influencer on my own behavior, thus further relieving my guilt. I can, therefore, legitimately ascribe to the offended guilt for his having caused me to cause him harm.
The guilt I feel will be greatly diminished by this analysis of etiological degrees of responsibility in any given moral context.
I was constructing a set of scapegoats onto which I could place my guilt. I was seeking to justify myself, liberate myself from the accusations of God’s Word of judgment against me – I was formulating my own atonement. My multiplication or moral agents who were responsible for that for which I was actually responsible was an attempt to completely remove from my conscience any sort of legitimate guilt. This was justice, I thought.
This was the way to find peace of mind.