Michael Horton, in his new systematic theology, writes,
Religion is one of the chief ways we cover up our shame without actually dealing with the guilt that gives rise to it. And we project a god who will satisfy our suppression of the truth about ourselves. “Idolatry is not an accident,” Jenson notes, “as if some of us just happened to hit on wrong candidates for deity.” It is the result of a willful supression of the truth in unrighteousness (Ro 1:18). Not only in our immorality and lying but even in our proud moral striving, self-confident religious devotion, and sincere pretensions, we are storing up God’s wrath against us. (The Christian Faith, 429)
Humanity creates religion to cover up one’s sense of shame that irreligion cannot squelch, yet in creating religion humanity cannot truly deal with the effects of the shame we feel nor can we adequately deal with the guilt that we have incurred before God. Sin runs too deep. Sins effects and consequences cannot be solved by man-made religion.
The good news is that the horrific public crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth removes the shame and guilt of sinners. At the cross, Jesus, the God-man, takes the shame and guilt sinners experience and deserve and gives grace in its place.
God in Christ deals with the shame we all feel when we sin, and deals with the guilt we are reluctant to admit. Jesus’ blood purifies the conscience giving sinners a new identity and satisfies the wrath of God giving sinners his own perfect righteousness.
The answer to shame and guilt is not religion or irreligion. It is the work of the Triune God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.