It's hard for anyone to be totally honest.

Psychiatrists and counselors know one of their toughest tasks is to help patients lower the masks of excuses and half-truths that hide the true problems in their lives.Clergy face the same challenge as they tend their flocks.

This is a nation of amateur shrinks, educated by the secular and religious counselors of newsprint, video and the airwaves, said Dr. Basil Jackson, a physician, theologian and psychiatrist who teaches in Milwaukee, Chicago and Glendale, Calif.

People have always made excuses instead of confessing their sins. This is hardly a new development in the human condition. Yet rationalization has becoming an art form in a culture in which almost every vice or flaw can be blamed on some outside influence in family and society.

Why worry about sin when everyone is dysfunctional?

"Now we have new electronic filters between us and the world, on top of the filters of our personalities. Where does it end?" Jackson said. "It gets harder and harder to be honest. People aren't being honest with themselves, or honest with their husbands or wives, or with their children, or with their preachers, or honest with everybody," Jackson said.

"In the end, people aren't being honest with God."