Over many years of attending Eucharist services I always had a problem with saying this every week. Just read the words:
“Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.
But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare Thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore Thou those who are penitent; According to Thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of Thy holy Name. Amen.”
So the first problem I have is the word "We". 'We have erred and strayed' have we? Looking around the congregation I would wonder to myself what gives the other people the right to speak on my behalf. How can I speak on theirs when I believe that many of them are only there for social reasons, not because they are actually believers. How do they know whether I have offended against his holy laws, and when it comes down to it, which particular holy laws are we taking about?
Come to think of it, they are not exactly sheep-like either. It would be easier to herd cats.
The next problem that I have is the sheer negativity of the statement that "There is no health in us". I find that to be an outrageous insult to each and every one of the congregation - well . . . maybe with one or two exceptions! Somehow we are all stained with inherited 'original sin' through some magical process which nobody can really understand. In my humble opinion there there is a good deal of health in many of them. The fact that many of these people were kind and good, putting themselves to considerable inconvenience to help the needy seems to be good evidence
Moving on, what makes me into a 'miserable offender'? I might be a bit grumpy at times, but on the whole I would not describe myself as either 'miserable' or an 'offender'. I might have committed a few indiscretions and perhaps have perpetrated a few thought crimes, but 'miserable offender' seems a bit strong.
Gradually I also began to wonder about these 'promises declared unto mankind' too. The more I have thought about it the more I doubt these 'promises' and even doubt whether there was a Jesus who was empowered to make those promises.
This General Confession embodies in a single prayer many of the things that I grew to dislike about the church, and in itself sowed the seeds of doubt that led me to become a confirmed atheist today.
So I plan to try to live an ungodly, righteous and secular life. Complete sobriety is something that I'm still working on, but I don't think the prayer means it in quite the same sense.