There are different types of confession. There is confessing to wrongdoing, confessing as used in praising, and the romantic one expressed in the song title, “I‘m confessin' that I love you.”
An old adage: Confession is good for the soul. Supposedly, ordinary people do feel better, even relieved, after “fessing up” to a misdemeanor. Another kind of confession was one common in my primary family, where each member was encouraged, in the words of my dad, to join him and to “get it (your grievance) off your chest.” This didn't resolve anything, because he was always drunk at the time he said it. But, such confessions did have the result of venting pent-up resentments. Nevertheless, both in one-on-one interactions and societies, confession is usually accepted as a good idea. This is deceiving. Let's look at confession as a loss of power and a tool to control through power.
Police ofﬁcers interrogate suspects in order to obtain confessions. Sometimes their pressure methods are so successful that innocent people have confessed to crimes they didn't commit. Police- obtained confessions are used in courtrooms as assumed proof of guilt, even accepted by juries as such. Catholic priests confess only to other priests. (In the secular world, pedophilia is a crime, ergo, priests hearing and withholding confessions to pedophilia are “partners in crime.”)
A practice of the former Soviet Union under Stalin, and Communist China under Mao, was to obtain public confessions through private tortures and/or, public humiliations, which was very successful. After all, this system had a strong foundation; it worked for the Inquisition interrogators and witch-hunters. Whether by traditional religions or state religions, confessions are used for control, for power. Cults of all kinds depend on confessions as mandatory.
Confessions are used as control power over others by creating SHAME for one's ordinary human actions and feelings. They make shameful to oneself and others, feelings and actions which those powers do not approve of. They are ruling that you should be ashamed if you do not meet up with the expectations of whoever they claim to represent, i. e., themselves. Religious “authorities” assume that they have the right and duty to enforce shame on others, in any way they can get away with it. Haven’t you noticed this?
In common with secular powers creating shame where there is none in order to force confessions, religions re-create the man-mad structures for them; their own interrogation rooms, hermetically sealed from the outside world, whether in a church, mosque, confessional, cult group, etc. Within every one of these confines, with their emotionally controlled atmospheres, power is guaranteed. “Confessing to” and “confessing of,” are strongly encouraged. No one has the right to demand this of you, nor to expect you to openly allow yourself to be emotionally blackmailed.
If you are a sensitive, trusting individual, you ought to ﬁnd yourself emotionally drained by the experience of “confessing your shameful faults,” whether you feel relieved or not. In doing so, you become even more dependent on the cleric, the cult leader, the congregation, for emotional, “spiritual,” support.What do these examples mean to us personally, in our experiences? Well, for those raised n the Catholic Church, confession is a private matter between confessor and priest. So, it’s possible that, if you are Catholic, your pastor knows more about you than your spouse, family, or friends. In revealing your secrets, you are relinquishing power over your private life to someone you don't really know. For those raised in other religions, public revelations can take the formula of, “I confess my sins, humbling myself before god, pleading for his mercy and the forgiveness of all who I have offended.” You have made yourself vulnerable. This amounts to, in the words of an old wise man, “Giving a man a stick to beat you with.” (Or a whole congregation!)
If you are a sensitive, trusting individual, you ought to ﬁnd yourself emotionally drained by the experience of “confessing your shameful faults,” whether you feel relieved or not. In doing so, you become even more dependent on the cleric, the cult leader, the congregation, for emotional, “spiritual,” support. Consider on the other hand that you, and others like you, receive attention you would not get from other sources, in any other settings. You are embraced because of your neediness; you are “special” by being “saved.” Saved by who, salvaged from yourself, for what purposes of others? In “turning your life over to the lord,” don't you actually relinquish control over your moral decisions to others? Is it worth that much to you?
Finally, other examples of popular confessions: Celebrities and politicians confessing infidelities, illegal drug use, performance drug overuse, etc. (After being found out, of course.) In a sense, there is connection here between them and those who stand up in congregations to proclaim their sins; along with such “humbling” there is a kind of bragging in the confessor who was bold enough to do the things we wouldn't.
If there are those who confess under certain circumstances to crimes they didn't commit, do not others, under similar circumstances, confess to BELIEVING what they don't?
If you feel the need to confess, do so with a wife or friend or shrink; someone who you can trust, who you have conﬁdence in, who won’t betray you. Stay away from clergy; don't trust them. (During the inquisition, clergy demanded that the faithful betray their friends. The methods used to achieve the will of god know no limits.) How many women and children alone can attest to being molested or propositioned by clergy? Enough to equal the population of New York State?
So, if “confession is good for the soul,” for whose good is it? Your experiences appreciated.