Friday afternoon thread: Why confession works in a world of ‘cheaters’…

This is really worth watching… It suggests the very Catholic option of opening a new page by having a confession process does in the longer term help people to behave better… Presented by Dan Ariely, author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves.


  • Social living would be fraught with peril without some lies.
    Who, but a man hoping for a divorce, would reply “Sorry dear, she is prettier than you.”

  • Rory Carr

    A man speaking of his pride in their lovely daughter as she goes to her first formal dance perhaps ?

  • Still wouldn’t chance it, Rory. “No, but she sure takes after you”.

  • Rory Carr

    It should be emphasised that there are other elements to what is known to Catholics as “The Sacrament of Penance” than confession alone.

    Preparation for confession requires a rigourously honest examination of conscience and, after actual confession of one’s transactions, absolution is conditional upon making amends to those transgressed which might include apology, restitution or even temporal punishment all of which help those who wish to be honest remain so and those who do not to avoid the confessional, apart from the sociopathic I assume who will have no problem with apeing the motions while continuing to act solely in their own selfish interests.

    The ritual of the Catholic confession excluding absolution is practised widely in other Christian denominations, in psychiatry and form the basis of “house cleaning” (or clearing the wreckage of the past) in Twelve Step groups.

    The benefit of a nightly appraisal of one’s actions during the day just gone and the availability of a trusted other with whom one can fearlessly discuss one’s concerns is a surefire recipe for healthy living and ongoing peace of mind.

    Every home should have one.

  • Rory Carr

    Erratum: “transactions” in paragraph 2 should of course read “transgressions” which may however, if one is a bank robber, am embezzler, or indeed a banker, include one’s transactions in any given day.

  • Greenflag

    @ Rory ,

    ‘if one is a bank robber, am embezzler, or indeed a banker, include one’s transactions in any given day.

    The Chairman of a large ‘bankster’ financial corporation ws asked during an interview if he ever had difficulty sleeping at night given the tens of thousands of people’s lives his financial institution had destroyed .

    His reply was a frank ‘ Yes ‘ I do . In fact every night when I put my head on my pillow I toss and I turn and I turn and I toss and I toss and turn again for five seconds and then fall fast asleep .

    I guess one could not accuse the man of dishonesty eh?

  • Greenflag

    Interesting viewpoint but nothing really new .So let me see if I’m picking up Ariely’s thesis right . If Bernie Madoff had been a Catholic instead of a Jew and had gone frequently to confession he would never have ponzi schemed 60 billion dollars ?

    And ditto for Adolf Eichmann , Joe Stalin , etc etc etc .

    But then hang on a minute -RC Bishops and priests go to confession and we’ve seen how some of their ‘transgressions ‘ have been much less than honest also -off hand I recall a Cardinal found hanging under a London bridge embroiled in the Ambrosiano bank scandal and then our infamous Bishop of Galway resting 70, 000 euros collected from the good people of the West’s offerings in his account to pay for his mistress and son in America?

    The problem for Ariely’s thesis is that the banksters are not asking for ‘forgiveness’ much less wanting to ‘confess ‘ their transgressions . Anyone reading the financial news over the past few years would note that getting crooked banksters to confess their ‘lootings’ is like pulling hen’s teeth .

    So never mind ‘confession ‘ or wiping the slate clean and starting again on a new page unless of course that slate wiping applies to everybody and not just the banksters but would also apply to the bankster’s financial victims over the past decade ?

    Debt forgiveness anyone ? Writing off the excess debt on underwater / negative equity mortgages for a start would be a huge boost to the USA’s economic recovery but then there is the Ghost of Moral Hazard standing in the corridor wearing a pin striped suit and averring that that would bring an end to the financial world and even ‘civilisation’ .

    Or is Ariely’s thesis a thinly veiled call to lay off the banksters as they are only human and can’t be blamed for being incentivised the wrong way ?

    Make up your own mind folks but despite all that has happened since 2007/2008 the banksters are still fighting any imposition of regulations that would lessen their opportunities to be a little bit dishonest and ditto for credit card companies -insurance companies etc etc . A little bit of dishonesty per customer adds up to a whole lot of euros/ dollars/yuans when multiplied by several million customers/transactions per day .

    Why not new disincentives? The guillotine or if thats too harsh mandatory life imprisonment for all those convicted of absconding /defrauding / ponzing amounts in excess of a million euros/dollars/yuans and just to show justice the same would apply to public representatives who purloin the public purse for personal enrichment .

    Confession may work for most people as long as it’s continuously reinforced by the example of a living in a society where the banksters/politicians /corporations / church organisations etc etc are viewed as being inspired by ethical codes of behaviour . But as we have come to see and experience over the past decade we no longer live in such a society -perhaps we never have and it’s only our new high speed internet society which is both a revealer of the extent and prevalence of modern financial corruption and dishonesty as well as being a provider of essential tools -think algorithims in the huge international financial heists of our time >

    For those at the top of the ‘dishonesty ‘ pyramid by which I mean the super stars of ponzidom etc ‘confession ‘ will never work . It doesn’t work on psychopaths or sociopaths more especially pin striped ones!

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: apart from the sociopathic I assume who will have no problem with apeing the motions while continuing to act solely in their own selfish interests.
    I suspect there are tens or hundreds of thousands of social Catholics ‘apeing the motions’, and only a tiny, tiny, fraction of them are sociopaths. Once one’s faith has gone, ‘apeing the motions’ looks like an entirely victimless transgression. And a few Euros in the collection plate makes everything all right anyway.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Nature works by symmetry, Human beings can resort to asymmetries through false symmetries. Keeping up asymmetric processes is actually unnatural and requires harder work. Lying, scheming, deceiving fundamentally is challenged by reality, not even the most elaborate ponzi system can withstand human intolerance, you become a slave to depending on it. Exhaustion puts an end to deception if honesty doesn’t recover what’s lost.