Some People Should Never Be Forgiven

January 23, 2008 at 10:24 am 149 comments

forgiveness.gifWhen I was a fundie Christian the hardest thing that was required of me was to forgive people for being perverts and assholes. A Christian is told repeatedly that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. We are also taught that we had to forgive people EVEN when these people were not repentant or did not ask for your forgiveness. If we didn’t, we could not expect forgiveness form the Almighty. In other words, if my step-father beat, tortured, and raped me repeatedly from the ages of 9 through 14, I had the duty to forgive him even though he was an unrepentant asshole even on his deathbed.

For some reason, that never sat well with me. I was furious, but taught myself to ignore the fury to be a good Christian. Nowadays there are numerous stories of child abusers, killers, rapists, and evil Christians of the Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist variety and evil Muslims such as the 9/11 hijackers and those who kill their wives, daughters, and sisters for their own “honor.” We are told again and again that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are supposed to realize that these people are also God’s creatures and to think evilly of them and wish them harm is not a good thing to do. Yet, when the likes of Fred Phelps and his band of psychotic cult followers picketed a fallen soldier’s funeral in my small Midwestern town, I was furious. Forgive them? Are you crazy? I couldn’t do it. I cheered when the Iron Sleds, a Harley-riding motorcycle group who supports military veterans, decided to step in and guard the family from whackos like Phelps at the funeral. I secretly hoped there would be an “incident” and that Phelps would get his face smashed in, that violence would ensue.

It was at that moment that I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I could not live up to that injunction to forgive everyone. I tried for years and years to forgive and thought I had it licked. But, God will just have to not forgive me as well and by the bible’s own statements, I will die unforgiven. I will die then sort of hoping there is a hell where perverted step-fathers go and according to the bible, I will be right there with him once again. I relish that thought. I relish the revenge I would be free to finally engage in. And for that, I will rot in the Christian’s hell for eternity. You know what? I don’t care. Those people don’t deserve my forgiveness. And who cares if I forgive them anyway? The lack of justice in this world is the surest indication that God or the gods do not exist. There is no better proof in my opinion.

-Mysteryofiniquity

Entry filed under: MysteryOfIniquity. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Changing the way you think (renewing the mind) The Bible does not contain a guideline of moral absolutes

149 Comments

  • 1. writerdd  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Amen.

  • 2. Brad  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I guess what at least helps begin down that path is that anything we harbor against them will pale in comparison to the justice they will face one day.

    And while we are called to forgive, I don’t think God requires us to “like” those who wrong us (or inbred morons like the Phelps clan). One can still hate the injustice of a situation or act and simultaneously forgive.

  • 3. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Brad,

    Well see that’s where I can’t agree. I don’t think you can separate what people do from what they are. People who violate another’s person is evil, pure and simple. People who take no thought for another’s well being or for their mental health is evil. I’m convinced that some people should not be on the planet. Some would say it’s not my call, but I don’t even have to like them.

    I understand where you’re coming from Brad, I really do, cause I believed it myself for a while, but I realized that that’s what makes me who I am. I’m not thankful nor will I ever be for my past, but my hatred fuels my sense of injustice, translating into action against those who violate others. Who’s to say God or the gods aren’t on my side?

  • 4. James  |  January 23, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Not to forgive someone may hurt that person but it ALWAYS hurts yourself!

    If you really want to get rid of, and over, something you have to forgive. Otherwise you will stay its prisoner forever!

  • 5. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 11:52 am

    James,

    Why do you assume it hurts self? I should be the best judge of what hurts or doesn’t. The evil perpetrated by some people is far worse than the refusal to forgive. So far, I’ve been fine with it. I’m not a prisoner to anything. Why? Because I balance my hatred toward evil and evil people with my ability to do good. So far it works for me. And no, I haven’t forgiven them.

  • 6. amy  |  January 23, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I guess what at least helps begin down that path is that anything we harbor against them will pale in comparison to the justice they will face one day.

    Christians say this a lot, and it’s something I’ve never understood, this concept of “justice.” The only real justice would be for the evil event (rape, torture, murder, whatever) never to have occurred. No matter how much punishment a person receives for their crime, the victim will never be the same. The victim can heal and move on to some extent, but can never erase what happened to them.

    What amount of “justice” will make up for a little child being sodomized by someone who supposedly “loves” them? What amount of justice will make up for children who witness the murder of their parents? What amount of justice could make up for the Holocaust? Nothing can rectify those things. They are tragic and there is no justice for them. Only revenge. And revenge gets us nowhere.

    I think justice is just as imaginary as religious versions of God.

  • 7. TheDeeZone  |  January 23, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    I have always struggled with forgiveness. However, I have also learned that I need to let go of bitterness, rage, etc that hurts me. People like Phelps really make me mad. I guess his Bible doesn’t have verses like John 3:16-17. Enough about him, I have already written about him on my blog.

    There are some things like what happened at my husband’s church several years ago. A gunman walked into a concert full of teen agers and shot up the entire place. He killed several people before taking his own life. The pastor of the church set a good example by focusing on healing not forgiveness. For some I’m sure forgiveness were a part of the healing process.

  • 8. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Amy,

    Yes, the best revenge is to live a good life in SPITE of what we endure. That can be accomplished without anyone forgiving anyone else at all. Forgiveness is moot at that point and doesn’t really matter. Justice doesn’t seem to care if forgiveness is given or not.

  • 9. Michelle  |  January 23, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    I believe we are all do what we want, each of us acts selfishly. Some people’s selfishness far extends others’ – but we all want our own way. If that means we hurt others to get what we want, we’ll do it. What causes any of us to “do good”? On what scale are my “little” acts of selfishness, OK? With this thinking, understanding my own selfish ways, I will forgive others. I’m no better.

    This is my understanding of what the bible teaches. None of us does “good”. I am sinful, and so are you. Some do more horrific acts than others, but we all do bad things. Only through understanding that judged against perfection, none of us stand, can I begin to forgive those who have acted selfishly toward me.

  • 10. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Dee,

    I think anger is good. Fury and rage and other unhealthy manifestations of repression are not good for our mental health, but something everyone has to experience on their own. Releasing bitterness and rage is not the same thing as forgiveness. Forgiveness implies releasing someone from a debt owed and that I refuse to acknowledge.

  • 11. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Michelle,

    I don’t ascribe to the bible’s “teaching” on forgiveness. The bible implies a reciprocal relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. Forgiveness cannot be given to those who refuse to repent or have remorse for their crimes. Therefore, I do not have to release them from the debt owed to me.

    Reconciling emotions resulting from harm is far different than the transaction of forgiveness.

  • 12. athinkingman  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I used to be an ex-fundie preacher who taught that people ought to forgive. Now I am a practising humanist psychotherapist, working with people who have been abused. My views now are as follows:
    1) Nobody should be made to forgive anyone or anything. People will forgive if they want to.
    2) Partly as a result of Christian teaching, many, many people have serious misunderstandings about forgiveness. For example forgiveness need not involve reconciliation. See my Forgiveness Myths series.
    3) Forgiveness has nothing to do with them. It is about you. It is primarily intrApersonal, rather than intERpersonal.
    4) It is partly a decision that an individual can take, and partly a process over time. It is a constructive coping process that is helpful for some people in releasing some of the pain of the past.
    5) For the abused person, successful forgiveness happens when the person reaches a point of understanding and motivation where she or he decides that forgiveness is the best way forward for herself or himself.

  • 13. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    AthinkingMan,

    I agree with most of the points, but for the sake of argument, why is it assumed that humans MUST forgive at some point in their lives? If the benefit is only for the person harmed why do people concern themselves with whether a person forgives or not? I agree that further violence can be avoided if the abuse victim is violent as a consequence. But I can assure you, this can be accomplished without forgiveness taking place.

    Releasing emotion is good, sure, but nothing is accomplished by an official act of forgiveness. Again, justice is not served. I think telling people that it has to happen is based on the assumption that there are universal rules that apply to all situations at all times and if the rules aren’t met or dealt with then something automatically has to happen. I think the concept of forgiveness is a religious and meaningless term, the sole purpose of which is to define or model some kind of Divine attribute.

  • 14. Michelle  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    I think I would be considered a fundamentalist, although I buck at the term. I have been through years of counseling for childhood abuses. Only when I was able to see how weak all of us are, could I begin to forgive what was done to me. It took years, and still I have times when my emotions get in the way, but I don’t want the pain anymore. I agree with what athinkingman has stated. Forgiveness has helped me to move forward.

  • 15. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Michelle,

    I agree that some need to do that to move forward. I just think the biblical view of forgiveness is screwy. It implies the releasing of a debt someone owes you BEFORE you can be forgiven by God, and THAT I disagree with. My forgiving someone does not automatically release the debt they owe to me. I see forgiveness as a transaction, but unlike the bible, I don’t believe that it is my responsibility to release anyone from the debts people owe to others, society, or to themselves.

    Dealing with emotions as a result of abuse is a different matter, something which can be accomplished quite nicely without releasing anyone’s debt they owe you. You can retrain your anger to more appropriate expressions or channels, i.e. social justice work, writing a novel, etc. It’s called dealing with the emotional fallout of the past. Some might call that forgiveness, but I don’t.

    Here’s an excellent take on it.

  • 16. Michelle  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    mysteryofiniquity said:

    Forgiveness cannot be given to those who refuse to repent or have remorse for their crimes

    I understand this statement – I mean I used to feel this way, I wanted to hear the abusers’ remorse – but then I saw how trapped I was in waiting for something that may never come. I wanted to move on and felt that if I had come from the same place they had come, might I not be the same?

  • 17. Michelle  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    I think we’re typing at the same time – it takes me awhile to catch up -sorry :)

  • 18. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Michelle,

    I understand your point, feeling trapped by the lack of remorse of the offender. But I don’t feel trapped by it. I expect no remorse and none has ever been forthcoming to me. Therefore, the offender has died without forgiveness by me. So be it. But that’s meaningless, because the offender, in my opinion, has never satisfied the debt owed me. Therefore, I’m no longer obligated to forgive. I can live with that.

    And I can now live with the fact that God will never forgive me for never forgiving the offender. Changing my mind about forgiving someone after the unrepentant offender dies doesn’t have any bearing upon where I may or may not spend eternity. And if it does, to me, sending me to hell for not forgiving said offender is the height of absurdity and a bastardization of the very concept of justice.

    My whole post rests not on whether we should or should not forgive anyone, but on the fact that I’ve come to terms with my unforgiving attitude toward offenders and also the fact that my forgiveness should never determine where God or the gods send me after death (if there is such a place).

  • 19. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I think we are typing at the same time. :-)

  • 20. Terry K. Moore  |  January 23, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    I think part of the point of forgiveness is to love the person but not always love what the do. When a child lies you still love the child but you teach them not to lie. That sort of thing.

    But when the thing they do is horrible, like child-rapist (and similar very difficult to forgive things), it makes sense to still love them but not love what they do/have done. Of course I do think this takes on a very different understanding of the word “love”.

    If a person is being beaten by their step-father just for kicks, or a wife is being beaten within inches of her life, does that mean they should love them still by being with them an continuing to take the abuse? No way! Sometimes love includes knowing when the relationship isn’t going to work, or that person need serious help and you’re not the person who can give it, etc.

    This might be rabbit trailing a bit, but am I making some sense?

  • 21. Michelle  |  January 23, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    A Christian is told repeatedly that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us.

    I just think the biblical view of forgiveness is screwy. It implies the releasing of a debt someone owes you BEFORE you can be forgiven by God, and THAT I disagree with

    I wasn’t taught this. Wouldn’t that be a “works” teaching? I believe I am forgiven by God when I accept His gift of salvation – free without any conditions. Then, because I have experienced forgiveness, I can extend forgiveness. If God was willing to take all the sins of the world upon Himself, at the cross, then who am I, a mere human, to withhold forgiveness. If He forgives the sins I have done to Him – man to God – how can I not forgive a fellow human – man to man.

    I understand this presupposes a belief in a God, better than myself, and I guess that is where we will differ. Are you getting me?

  • 22. Terry K. Moore  |  January 23, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Michelle, I think it’s more accurately by the measure you’re willing to forgive those who do wrong to you, you will be forgive by the same measure of willingness.

    It’s not a works thing really, but I can see how you can get that. It’s more like the “do to others as you would like them to do to you”. It’s not talking about works for salvation, which is what the argument would begin to turn, but rather a way of thinking concerning our fellow man.

  • 23. Michelle  |  January 23, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Yea, I see this too. This is the way I was taught – and have experienced life. I have been extremely judgemental through the years, but only recently have I seen that “you reap what you sow” is truth. I think we’re saying the same thing.

    Gotta run – I’ll check back later.

  • 24. athinkingman  |  January 23, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    mysteryofiniquity: I am not sure why you think I said that humans MUST forgive. I wanted to convey that it was a choice, and one coping strategy that was available to the individual.

    With regard to the other person – they can want forgiveness, and the abused person may give that, but in many cases the other person may be unconcerned, or any resulting reconciliation may be furtherly abusive. Separate out what is going on for the abused person and her or his wishes from the relationship. Forgiveness can take place, regardless of the relationship, which is of secondary concern.

  • 25. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    athinkingman,

    “forgiveness can take place, regardless of the relationship…”

    This makes no sense to me. I think that when we parse out a person’s action, sometimes abusive ingrained action, from the person, we begin dealing in concepts only and not with reality. We sure can make forgiveness an esoteric quality that can be dealt with over and above actual human beings or their actions, if that’s what you want to do. But, it has very little to do with people living here and now in very harsh circumstances. Once a person has offended another so viciously, talk of forgiveness is moot. Then couching that talk with God’s requirements that we forgive is adding salt to a wound.

    Don’t get me wrong, I respect the thoughts and actions of others who deal with their own pasts this way. Whatever works for them works for them and should work for them, and it is obviously what is necessary for them to heal. But there are other ways to heal. Ways that do not involve forgiveness of the offender. If the offender came running to me right now and asked forgiveness, I would give it. But, that doesn’t happen very often in the real world. I think actual forgiveness and what’s called “psychological” forgiveness (which isn’t real, but semantics) are two very different things.

    Michelle,
    I don’t think that the teaching of “forgive others or God won’t forgive you” is considered legalism. I’ve learned this in every church I’ve ever been in. It’s ingrained in you once you become a believer. In fact, Jesus says it in Luke 6:37.

  • 26. qmonkey  |  January 23, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    mysteryofiniquity, what is forgiveness?

    surely what ever it is, it has no effect on the person you are forgiving… they dont even need to know.

  • 27. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    qmonkey,

    Then why is it necessary?

  • 28. Brad  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I think I still disagree. I can totally see where you are coming from, but forgiveness does not have to be mutually exclusive from hating evil.

    I hate that my parents’ divorce has caused problems, through me, in my marriage. Can I hate the evil in that circumstance and still forgive my parents (who did horrible things to each other, while using my brother and I)? Absolutely. We are called to forgive, but we do not have to forget.

    And I know a couple who harbor resentment and refuse to forgive their kids for things (real or imagined) they’ve done to hurt them…. even after they apologized and tried to move on in reconciliation. That lack of forgiveness is tearing them apart physically and emotionally. They have increasing health problems, have trouble sleeping, and quarrel because of their bitter attitude.

    Why is forgiveness necessary? Because it takes humility, sacrifice, and love to do so. And even if it is not known by the other party, your heart will be bettered by it. Sure, one can refuse to forgive, but there is no gain, and I would argue that there is harm.

  • 29. TheDeeZone  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Mysterofiniguity,

    My understanding of the bibical concept of that “you must forgive to be forgiven” is that if want others to forgive us then we need to forgive others. More of a treat others the way you want to be treated. Forgiveness to me is letting go of my “right” (and often self-rightous) at that to hold a grudge against someone. We just need to let go of some things. Also, forgiveness isn’t the same as trust. Beth More in her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things clarifies that forgiveness doesn’t always need to involve future contact with the person especially in the case of abuse.

    Athinkingman,

    Well said.

    DH

  • 30. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Brad,

    Why did I know you say just that? :-)

    What if there is no harm? What if forgiveness matters not one whit? The couple who refuse to forgive….were they asked for forgiveness? Probably. Refusing after being asked is one thing. Never being asked is something else entirely. My point is that forgiveness is moot in the case of people who have no remorse or repentance. I’m not obligated to forgive them in that case. Should I deal with my emotions? Certainly. But justice isn’t served by forgiving readily or easily. And that’s my point.

  • 31. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Dee,

    Do I want another to forgive me if I repent? Sure! And I would do the same to them. But say I committed a heinous act against you and repented. You would forgive me. Say I didn’t ask for your forgiveness and had no remorse. You are well within your rights to refuse forgiveness. Again, if there is no repentance and no one asks for forgiveness what does it matter how I respond? And again, what does that have to do with justice for those who don’t ascribe to the biblical injunction? If there is no God then there is no tallying of forgiving each other. If no gods exist, then my forgiveness means nothing, as does yours. It’s merely a mental state of being.

  • 32. The de-Convert  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Forgiveness is necessary with relationships we maintain on a daily basis. However, I see no reason to spend the calories to try to forgive someone we’ll never interact with again. If the unforgiveness is affecting our ability to function and live a healthy life, I think finding a way to come to terms with the issue is needed, not forgiving the individual(s).

  • 33. Brad  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    “What if there is no harm? What if forgiveness matters not one whit?”

    Hehe, forgive me, but I think that is like asking if the grass were not green, or the sun were not hot! It is. But tell me, how does holding hate/anger/resentment for the unrepentant benefit you? Is it fun? Is it enjoyable?

    For adults who were abused as children, a counselor will need to help them face that past, come to terms with it, and let it go (aka “forgive”). We can’t move on from our past until we have forgiven those responsible, whether that is ourselves or someone else. Is it easy? Hell no. It’s definitely harder than harboring resentment. But is it better? You bet.

    “But justice isn’t served by forgiving readily or easily. And that’s my point.”

    Forgiveness has little to do with justice, and everything to do with love. Punishment and retribution have to do with justice. So I would agree that justice is not served with forgiveness, but neither is it served with unforgiveness. It’s a totally different ball park.

    However, love is ALWAYS served by forgiveness. That is MY point. ;-)

    Long time no talk! I’m sure you knew I’d say that as well. :-P

  • 34. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    As always, de-Convert, your common sense prevails. I agree!

  • 35. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    But, Brad, what if the offendee holds no resentment/hatred/anger or any of the things you name. What if the offendee functions perfectly well in society, channeling their sense of injustice toward good causes and teaching others to avoid certain situations?

  • 36. Brad  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    I guess I would consider that “forgiveness.” *shrugs* In some way, verbally or not, that person has moved on and released said resentment. It may not look like a solemn statement or an outreached hand, but it could still qualify.

  • 37. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Brad,

    And yes, it’s been a long time!! :-)

  • 38. TheDeeZone  |  January 23, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Mysteryofiniquity,

    Ok, so many times my reasons for forgiveness are selfish and more about helping myself “get over it.” It is a release from bitterness, anger, etc.

    DH

  • 39. societyvs  |  January 23, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    “It was at that moment that I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I could not live up to that injunction to forgive everyone” (MOI)

    Interesting – but I would like to state with forgiveness – you have to deal with this subject on the basis of personal forgiveness. Talking about Phelps and whomever else – well how do you forgive what is not amed at you? If someone wrongs you then I think that is where the idea of forgiveness comes into play.

    It’s like forgiving my parents for the wrongs they committed against me from the ages of about 3 to 17. Now like the example you gave in the first paragraph I was abused by my parents. I could simply not think about it and hope it will not effect my behavior – however that would be quite simply stupid – since I knew full well the problems I had with them actually helped determine my behaviors (ie: going to anger very quickly in stressful situations – as I had seen a lot). But it took a level of understanding and forgiveness ot move past that simplistic view of them and to see more of why they did what they did and what was holding me back from re-uniting the relationships.

    However, I cannot forgive someone who has not wronged me but wronged you. That makes little to no sense.

  • 40. OneSmallStep  |  January 23, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    MOI,

    I’ve skimmed the comments, so I hope I’m not repeating anything.

    I don’t think you can separate what people do from what they are. People who violate another’s person is evil, pure and simple

    I think this is what Jesus was getting at in the Sermon, where it’s not enough to just refrain from adultery. You also have to take into account the “lust” aspect. Actions aren’t divorced from thoughts/desires. They’re intertwined. The only way to fully make sure you don’t do something is to eliminate the desire behind the action. Otherwise, you’re just fighting yourself.

    I do think there’s a distinction, though, between “forgiving” and “moving on.” You can reach a point where the unrepentent person no longer affects you, no longer hinders your ability to live, and so forth. But that’s not equal with forgiveness.

    Yet the ascept of “forgiveness” as used in the Bible seems to be compatible with a type of repair, in which you’d almost return to a former relationship you had with the person who harmed you.

    I think you can reach a point where you can tell the other person that you don’t forgive them, but you don’t hate them, either.

    But justice isn’t served by forgiving readily or easily. And that’s my point.”

    I think this would depend on the type of justice one is referring to. If we’re talking about a restorative justice, then “letting go” is helpful to those wronged, because it can aid them in moving on and repairing what was damaged (not necessarily with the attacking party, but in other elements of life/society). But as for justice/retribution … I don’t know. How long before retribution just becomes revenge? If we go into the revenge area, what happens to the “line” between us and them?

    I completely understand what you mean about Fred Phelps, and wanting him to suffer what he’s inflicted upon others. For me, though, there’s a desire to see him hurt, and a desire for him to fully understand the pain he has inflicted upon so many people. Given a choice, I’d go for the latter, because while I loathe what he does, I also find him a very ignorant person. It comes down to the idea that if he truly understood the ramifications of his actions, would he behave that way?

    And I’m not saying that if we do to Phelps what he’s done to others, we’re as bad as him. People he’s come across are victims. He is not. Who here hasn’t wanted to ram a fist into his face? Or more advantageous parts? ;)

    At the same time, though, I think many of us feel we’re “better” in the sense that we’d never indulge in his type of behavior. We’d never do to others what he does. Yet if we try and attack him, where is the line? If it’s simply revenge/retribution, does it accomplish a purpose, other than making us feel better? Shouldn’t punishment have some sort of goal other than that?

  • 41. artisticmisfit  |  January 23, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Well its good you are not a Christian then because Christians are required to forgive their enemies no matter what as Christ forgave those who crucified him, while He hung dying on the cross.

  • 42. Slapdash  |  January 23, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    It seems part of the struggle of this conversation is that we don’t have a shared, clear definition of what exactly forgiveness is. Is it “letting go”? Is it “facing” the past/event? “Coming to terms with it” (which means what?)? Is it a transaction of some kind? Is it a repair of some kind? Does it involve forgetting what happened?

    I had a very hurtful relationship some years back, and was angry and resentful for two or more years after it ended. I struggled mightily with how to forgive the guy (I was trying to be a good Christian!). I tried, actively, to forgive him and get over it, but I finally realized it was a futile effort. I had to just wait for my really angry and negative emotions to wash out of my system. Which they did, over a period of another two years or so.

    And I finally reached an “enlightened state of indifference” — I finally stopped caring, and the emotional intensity of the hurt was gone.

    Technically speaking, however, I am not sure I forgave him, because he did some nasty sh** that he has never apologized for or owned up to – and I still remember it and how hurtful it was. I’ve moved on: I don’t think about him anymore and my life is not hindered or affected by that experience anymore. I no longer think he is the evil spawn of hell; I doubt he was *trying* to hurt me. But I don’t want to be his friend, don’t want him in my life, and have no interest in extending any kind of olive branch, as he has not once showed any remorse or regret for any of it.

    So – have I forgiven him??

  • 43. Jim Jordan  |  January 23, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    The problem of not forgiving is that you are poisoning your own well.

    What you are saying is that you will not need to take the offense personally. Slapdash, the previous poster, described forgiveness, but it took years to “go away” on its own. And there is no guarantee that when face to face with the offender the hurt will burst forth once again.

    It’s not just a good Christian principle to forgive but also to ask for wisdom for that evil person so they’ll see the harm their sin has done. In that case the believer has turned the matter over to God and the burden is lifted.

    Here’s a practical application: Once I crossed paths with a guy who had once screwed me over big time. I was walking toward the door to the gym and he was walking in front. He tried his hardest not to notice me and turned his head toward the building. As I said, “Hey, Elmer, how’re you doing?” (Yes, his name is Elmer – poor bastard) he crashed into the wall next to the entrance door. He was so busy trying not to notice me that he wasn’t watching where he was going! So who would you rather be, the guy who holds the grudge and walks into walls or the one who moved on with his life?

  • 44. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    society,

    I mention Phelps and the like because we are enjoined to “love our enemies” and loving them implies forgiving horrendous behavior in my view. I suppose I should have delineated between loving and forgiving, because one does not imply the other transaction-wise.

    The folks at ThinkChristian mentioned loving even the Phelps’ of the world and I have a very, very hard time separating what people do from who they are.

  • 45. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    You are soooo articulate as usual! Yes, there is a difference between moving on and holding something over someone’s head.

    I suppose I should clarify my article. As Christians we are told repeatedly to forgive no matter what. No qualifiers at all. Forgive or you won’t be forgiven. But my point in writing is to emphasize the difference between those who do not seek forgiveness over those who do. Are we supposed to forgive everyone no matter what? I don’t think so. Yet the bible says the opposite. Matthew 18:21-35 for example. There is no injunction to forgive someone who asks us for forgiveness. We are to forgive all offenses all the time. I’m offended by Fred Phelps coming to my community and picketing a friend’s funeral. That’s an offense. There is no remorse. Therefore he shouldn’t be forgiven it.

    A step-father abuses you repeatedly. You confront. There is no remorse and no asking of forgiveness. Step-father dies. I’m no longer obligated to forgive someone who never asked for forgiveness. Yet according to the bible, I am and will die in hell if I don’t. God won’t forgive. That’s what I’m protesting against.

    Anyway, now I’m confusing myself so I should quit. :-)

  • 46. Atheist.  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    The bible also states that if you eat fish, you’ll burn in hell, and requires you to kill homosexuals. it also says that a man may not come into any form of contact with a woman while she is on her period, states the impossibility of dinosaurs’ existence, and many other things that are impossible to comply or agree with, yet are non-negotiable truths. In short, the Bible is not infallible. Anything written by man is eventually altered in inevitably corrupted by man. You thinking that these people suck won’t send you to hell. Leave the stress of judgement to your god and work on becoming at peace with your own life.

  • 47. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    artistic…,

    Well, that’s what I thought. As a Christian I cannot do it, i.e. I’m doomed.

  • 48. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Slapdash,

    In my definition, forgiveness implies releasing someone from a debt owed. By violating another, you owe that person restitution, either of physical means or spiritual means. It appears that you purged yourself of the strong residual feelings of the offenses perpetrated by this guy. Time does heal anger and other emotions. But forgiving is granting someone a reprieve. It is saying, “You no longer owe me restitution.” I suppose I think in concrete legal terms, when everyone else is describing a cleansing of the soul so they can feel better. Sure, we can make ourselves feel better all we want. That doesn’t erase the responsibility of the offender.

    Example of my own: My real father abandoned my mother and 3 siblings and I at a very early age. I neither knew my father nor did I have feelings for him. But, I have never forgiven him for leaving my mother without a penny and three little girls under 4 to raise. She then marries a man who proceeds to perpetrate all manner of evil on 2 of the girls. The third has been put up for adoption at birth due to lack of resources to care for her. Therefore, my father created the circumstances for even more evil. I have no feelings for this man, but I will never forgive him. Why? He’s never asked for it. I’ve never met him and have no idea where he is. I do not release him from the obligation owed to me. Yet, I feel no feelings at all. If I saw him, I would not exact revenge. I don’t hate what I do not know. But to me, it’s the height of absurdity to insist I forgive this action.

    Sorry for going on and on….

  • 49. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Atheist,

    That’s just it. It’s not my God. I’m protesting the perceived “God” of the bible and the meaningless injunctions to practice things that are basically impractical and unworkable in real life. I don’t believe the bible’s infallible which is why I’m making my point. I’m fine with myself. Of course, what sounds to some like bitterness is the realization that I don’t have to force myself to act as the bible tells us to act and indeed cannot do so.

    I’m not fine with the Christian God and am trying to bring up the logical fallacies of such a God. Apparently, I’m not doing a very good job. :-)

  • 50. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Jim,

    You wrote, “It’s not just a good Christian principle to forgive but also to ask for wisdom for that evil person so they’ll see the harm their sin has done. In that case the believer has turned the matter over to God and the burden is lifted.”

    That’s great for the Christian. But, for the humanist, there has to be a tangible way to right wrongs and encourage justice here and now. Leaving everything for “later” just isn’t practical or even possible. Things have to be dealt with now and requiring everyone to deal with these things the way ancient texts think we should may not be the best solution for everyone.

  • 51. Atheist.  |  January 23, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    You sound like you are not at peace with your choice in criticizing god. Your post seems like you are unsure of yourself and the potential outcome of what you say. If you were brought up christian, that’s easy to understand. I think that you are making the right choice in questioning the ridiculous demands that the bible puts forth. Just be cautious about abandoning your religion in general. If having a god in your life is something that matters to you, you will find that every religion is filled with nothing but hypocritical statements and endless demands. I find the thought of a god comforting. but my god isn’t as anal as any organized religion makes him out to be. just trust that whatever higher being that’s up there is intelligent enough to separate the shitty from the okay, and I think you’ll be good.

  • 52. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 23, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Atheist,

    That’s the most sensible and insightful thing I’ve heard in a long time and I appreciate your approach. Thank you (and I mean that sincerely).

  • 53. Atheist.  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:04 am

    You’re quite welcome, love. I’ve beed in a similar position for quite some time now, and I’ve done a lot of thinking on it. You will find the path you are supposed to take, I’m sure of it. Best of luck, my dear.

  • 54. artisticmisfit  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:15 am

    I can’t do it either, and that’s why I need God, because with Him all things are possible. I talk to clergy about my problem all the time. Check out Father Stephen Freeman’s blog, Glory to God for all Things on Word Press. He has been writing a lot about loving your enemies being the litmus test of one’s Christianity. Without love for one’s enemy, there is no being a Christian. If you want to talk about this privately, feel free to message me on the Forum. I could give you some examples from my own life where I am having a real hard time forgiving people who tried to harm my professional reputation, as well as my position in the Church.

  • 55. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Atheist, :-D

  • 56. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:17 am

    artistic,
    As a matter of fact, I’ve linked to Father Stephen on my blog, but haven’t visited quite as often as I’d like.I should check it out again. I appreciate the offer as well. I just might take you up on it.

  • 57. Atheist.  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:22 am

    [= if you’d ever like to speak about this again, feel free to email me on the topic. does this give you it when I reply?

  • 58. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Atheist,
    Actually, no email is showing when you reply. I think you have to put it in when you reply or login or somehow provide it another way. Anyway, my email is luv2rede(at)gmail.com if you wish to discuss.

  • 59. artisticmisfit  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:33 am

    mystery, I am going to open up my blog after I put my daughter to bed so people can post there too if they want. I think I have enough anonymity to be able to speak openly now and nobody is trying to out me here, so I am trying to go for it. What should I post the first time? Its been so long since I had a blog.

  • 60. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:38 am

    artistic,

    I think you should just share all or part of your story, how you came to be here on the blog…sort of an introduction about where you are spiritually and why. You don’t have to go all out at first, but just be yourself. Remember, some anonymity is good for protection’s sake. So remember to disguise personals, like the names of family, friends, where you live and work, etc. But you probably know all that. I’d love to stop by! Do provide links, email me, or stop by my blog to drop me a line!

  • 61. artisticmisfit  |  January 24, 2008 at 1:00 am

    mystery, I will email you, but please keep my email address personally confidential. I will drop by your blog after I put my daughter to bed as well. It goes beyond not naming people. I have to be very discreet about my story. In fact, stating my need for discretion is risking exposure. I will explain more to you in email if you like. I came to this blog through Fr. Stephen’s blog.

  • 62. JK  |  January 24, 2008 at 3:01 am

    someone may have already said this, I skipped the War & Peace of comments, but isn’t forgiveness kind of like “love the sinner, not the sin” (or is it “hate the sin, not the sinner”? whichever, my mom said it a lot about my ex-wife) you can forgive the part, the small sliver sometimes, of the person that did the crime, but still hate the crime itself. No one’s 100% bad, are they?

  • 63. OneSmallStep  |  January 24, 2008 at 6:39 am

    MOI,

    Step-father dies. I’m no longer obligated to forgive someone who never asked for forgiveness. Yet according to the bible, I am and will die in hell if I don’t. God won’t forgive. That’s what I’m protesting against.

    And I can understand this. Part of the problem (this is a general thing, not a “you have the problem” thing) is that it’s a lot easier to forgive a repentent person because you’re no longer having the awful behavior shoved in your face. With someone who is unrepentent/sees no problem, you’d be trying to love the person while at the same time still being confronted with the unforgivable behavior. It’s incredibly difficult to look past that behavior to the person underneath, especially if the behavior is all you know about the person. What if there is nothing underneath, and what’s underneath is what you’re already seeing? Then it’s almost like you’re condoning the behavior.

  • 64. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 8:39 am

    OneSmallStep,

    Exactly!! And as Christians aren’t we always told that by someone’s “fruits” we will know whether the tree is good or bad? Thereby implying that we are to exercise judgment about all this? This is why I find it so hard to accept that we are to love the Phelps of the world when clearly I wouldn’t even call them Christian let alone regular people. (the people at ThinkChristian precipitated this round robin of mine)

    So are we to love everyone? Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean we blankly forgive their behavior when they continue in it does it? Of course we should define “sin” sometime, but that would open a can of worms. Some can condone sin more than others. But isn’t the whole dialogue about sin and forgiveness just a tad screwy to begin with? I mean who cares whether I forgive or not? (I KNOW Brad!! “God” cares)
    :-)

  • 65. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Artistic,

    I would never divulge emails. You can count on that!

  • 66. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 8:47 am

    JK,

    Yes, someone has said (not the bible) to love the sinner, hate the sin, but it’s not written in stone. And yes, I believe there are some people who are born evil through and through! Sure we all do bad things, but some things are beyond bad: killing the innocent soul of a child, murder, rape, etc. Being an asshole isn’t evil cause well, you’re just an asshole, but killing the spirit of another through you actions is unconscionable in my book.

  • 67. TheNorEaster  |  January 24, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Mystery:

    I lost a good friend 23 months, 1 week, and 3 days ago to suicide because, in part, she had been sexually abused as a child. I still miss her. Tremendously. And I cannot possibly or even remotely begin to explain what it did to me.

    The 2nd anniversary of her death is coming up and I’m starting to get all bent out of shape all over again about the whole thing.

    But forgiveness, for me, was a RELEASING of all the hatred and all the rage I’d felt after that loss…though I still feel the loss.

    If you are interested in reading more, you can check out “When Lightning Strikes” on thenoreaster.wordpress.com.

    You certainly don’t have to agree with what I wrote in that Essay, but I just…I wanted to throw that in there because I’ve known so many people who have been sexually abused.

    I’ve got to go now. Because I feel like I’m going to throw up.

  • 68. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 10:56 am

    NorEaster,

    I am sorry that the post is bringing up all those feelings again. It’s tough to stand by and watch others self destruct over what should never have happened to begin with. Some will say there is a “reason” children are abused or people commit suicide or die tragically, but I say that’s all bullshit. There is no explanation in the world that could make anyone’s suffering some kind of “lesson” from “God ” (who sits idly by as it happens by the way).

    I will check the link. Blessings to you.

  • 69. Zoe  |  January 24, 2008 at 11:47 am

    TheNorEaster,

    Sending you warm thoughts and gentle hugs.

  • 70. Michelle  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    TheNoreaster, I read your link and am so sorry for your loss. I know, you know, God will comfort your mourning. I was sexually abused, also. The wounds are so deep sometimes you feel you have to escape. I found a place I could run to, through the same Sermon you cited. Thanks for sharing. Blessings to you.

    MOI, the last you commented to me we were discussing the teaching of Jesus to forgive others. I see the way it’s been interpretted as a conditional salvation. I think the cart gets before the horse in many churches. I believe the forgiveness extended by God cannot be extended to others UNTIL one has accepted the “plan of salvation.” To teach we must forgive to be forgiven, teaches a work first. I think Jesus was speaking to followers about the Kingdom and how we will be given the measure of mercy we have shown to others.

    I’ve been quite judgmental in my Christian walk, and have only recently felt the pain of being judged by others. This teaching became more clear to me as I realized my judging attitude – I was reaping what I had sown, and it wasn’t pretty.

    I hope I’m not muddying the waters again. I just feel that believing you are damned because you can’t forgive the abuser is again, a works teaching you have heard.

  • 71. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Michelle,

    I suppose in my case, in just about every instance, my head tells me one thing and my heart another. I am like to diametrically opposed ideas held in conjunction with the other, butting heads, bouncing away, never finding synthesis. Sometimes what religion teaches is so AGAINST the grain that it can’t possibly be true. No true examples ever seem to exist for us to see, so I “diatribe” to use a noun as a verb (which is so popular now).

    It’s hard to come out and tell people we are abused because so many use it against us. They will say, “Oh THAT’s why she’s a feminist. She hates men.” or “Oh, that explains why she writes like that.” I hate that. Rather than deal with what is right in front of them and take it at face value, it’s always categorize, categorize …that way I never have to address the issue, only berate the person. Well, screw that. I’m not hiding my past any longer. I’m also not allowing others to use it against me either.

    I’m rambling again…… Thanks for the kind words…

  • 72. artisticmisfit  |  January 24, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Mystery, thanks a lot, I appreciate it.

  • 73. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Artistic,
    You’re welcome and congrats! your name is now linked to your blog!! :-)

  • 74. artisticmisfit  |  January 24, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Moi, thanks I saw. I asked you on your blog, but I will ask you here too, what should I write about next?

  • 75. Michelle  |  January 24, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I find people look at me differently, and have certainly felt the same judgment. It’s hard finding a safe place – maybe that should be a forum – aaw…it would never work. Too many people, too many opinions, and way too much judgment. :-/

    Thanks for listening…

  • 76. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 24, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Michelle,

    Yes, I agree….it would have to be an invitation only forum or something like that. Hey, anytime, stop by my blog. We’ll chat.

  • 77. artisticmisfit  |  January 24, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Michelle, this blog has a forum, with private messaging, and its safe.

  • 78. Michelle  |  January 24, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    I’ll be back. Thanks for the invitation. Bless ya’ll.

  • 79. OneSmallStep  |  January 24, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    MOI,

    The whole “know them by their fruits” is exactly why I don’t hold with an exclusive way to God through a belief set.

    However, I do disagree that the teaching “forgive, or God won’t forgive you” is works driven. The only way that teaching is about “earning” salvation is if one is forgiving in order to “earn” heaven or forgiveness, or such. What about those who, while non-Christian, forgive because they feel it’s the right thing to do? (Regardless of how one defines “forgive.”)

    But we are judged on our works, and those are hugely taken into account. However, to say that God uses works to determine something is not the same as saying that one has “earned” anything. If you do a good work to get a reward out of the deal, then it’s selfish. If you do a good work because it’s the right thing to do, then why wouldn’t that be taken into account?

  • 80. Paul S.  |  January 24, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    To teach we must forgive to be forgiven, teaches a work first.

    Actions aren’t divorced from thoughts/desires. They’re intertwined. The only way to fully make sure you don’t do something is to eliminate the desire behind the action. Otherwise, you’re just fighting yourself.

    I believe I am forgiven by God when I accept His gift of salvation – free without any conditions.

    I’m no better.

    I think one of the most egregious dogmas of religion is the self-loathing and worthlessness that it teaches. It is absolutely incomprehensible to me how the believer accepts such a lowly estimation of their self-worth. Adults who believe this, are, in my opinion, gullible to the nth degree. But when this dogma is taught to children, it borders on psychological abuse.

  • 81. OneSmallStep  |  January 24, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Paul S.,

    I think I’m the one who said the actions aren’t divorced from thoughts/desires. Do you think that the statement then equals a low estimation of self-worth? That’s not how I see it. In MOI’s example, the people she encounted had a desire to hurt others, and that desire became an action. But for someone who has two desirse — to both hurt another, and be better than hurting the “other,” and if the latter desire is stronger, then the action reflects that desire. And hopefully, the desire to cause harm fades.

  • 82. TheNorEaster  |  January 24, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Mystery, Zoe, & Michelle:

    I just wanted to thank you for your kind words.

    It wasn’t just my reading the post that brought up all those dreadful feelings again; it was also the anniversary approaching.

    Have I found a “reason” why all those bad things happened to her? Not particularly. I barely know what the loss has done to me. But I do know what I’ve learned–and am learning–in the process.

    Thank you so much for your kind words.

  • 83. Brad  |  January 24, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    “I think one of the most egregious dogmas of religion is the self-loathing and worthlessness that it teaches. It is absolutely incomprehensible to me how the believer accepts such a lowly estimation of their self-worth. Adults who believe this, are, in my opinion, gullible to the nth degree.”

    And that would be the logical conclusion to a gross misunderstanding of sin. The Christian belief that we are sinners and in such need of forgiveness can, in fact, sound pretty self demeaning. But our “lack of self-worth,” as you see it, is emphasized solely because we see a significantly greater potential possible through the Grace of something far greater than ourselves. To understand grace (given apart from merit), we must understand our need of it (our inability to earn through merit). If it is “self-demeaning” to find our worth in something bigger and better than ourselves…. so be it.

    I could say that to raise a child without the hope of a loving and benevolent God would be bordering on psychological or emotional abuse, but that would fly in the face of perfectly healthy children who lead happy adult lives. Conversely, there are at least as many children who have be raised with an awareness of God’s Grace and now also lead happy adult lives.

    Be careful with your sweeping generalizations, particularly when labeling billions of people across thousands of years. They are hardly constructive and make you sound colossally arrogant.

  • 84. John  |  January 25, 2008 at 2:36 am

    I’ve meet so many atheists who are the most descent people you can meet. To call them sinners would be in my opinion a sin.

  • 85. OneSmallStep  |  January 25, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Brad,

    I could say that to raise a child without the hope of a loving and benevolent God would be bordering on psychological or emotional abuse, but that would fly in the face of perfectly healthy children who lead happy adult lives.

    The problem is that even without God, one can raise someone with an awareness of something bigger than him/herself. But the idea of grace that isn’t earned is generally accompanied by the belief that we all deserve hell — aka, eternal torment. You are telling people that they don’t deserve love or compassion or justice (restorative kind) or any of that. Rather, they deserve nothing, and instead deserve some sort of fire/burning/punishment for all eternity. If you as a parent tell your child that day in and day out, wouldn’t that be considered a form of abuse? Wouldn’t that affect a child’s sense of worth, and even make the child loathe him/herself? That is hugely emphasized as well, and that is what is found demeaning. Not the idea of finding worth in something greater than oneself.

  • 86. notabarbie  |  January 25, 2008 at 9:50 am

    MOI- As always, I loved your post…I can relate on so many levels…I was taught you must always forgive and that’s not a legalistic teaching, it’s right there in the bible…it was preached from the pulpit a gazillion times…I always felt less of a Christian because there were those I simply could not forgive…and you know what? They didn’t deserve forgiveness at all, whatever forgiveness is anyway.

    One Small Step – I agree with you, it is psychologically abusive. Having been abused as a child myself, and blaming myself for it, as children do; thinking there was a God that would condemn me to hell for my wretched sinfulness just compounded the way I saw myself. For a child who has never been abused, it is damaging enough, but for a child, who is a victim, it can be devastating–the straw the breaks the camels back.

    Another thought that always haunted me, when I was a Christian, was that if I rejected Christianity, even if I lived my life as well as I could, I would burn in hell with my abuser…need I say more?

  • 87. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 25, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Paul wrote:
    “I think one of the most egregious dogmas of religion is the self-loathing and worthlessness that it teaches. It is absolutely incomprehensible to me how the believer accepts such a lowly estimation of their self-worth. Adults who believe this, are, in my opinion, gullible to the nth degree. But when this dogma is taught to children, it borders on psychological abuse”

    I think I agree with this. At some point in our lives we all have to make the choice of putting ourself first, especially in abusive situations. When we constantly feel unworthy and that perhaps we “deserve” whatever happens to us, well THAT my friends invites abuse of all kinds. No, I think “God” gave us the innate sense of self-preservation and dignity for a reason. Blindly accepting ALL as some kind of divine lesson is absurd. Believe it or not, some Christians accept this teaching as spiritual AND necessary to the Christian life. I couldn’t disagree more.

    There came a point when I CHOSE to value myself above others’ estimation of me. I CHOSE to believe that I deserved more happiness and an abuse-free life. I CHOSE to believe that there are sick individuals out there who will use any means to control you, including religion. There are sick Christians out there who have bought into this mentality as well. Remember, my step-father was a deacon in our church. Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you a good, moral person. It’s a label we give ourselves and find that it does not give you a license to cover a multitude of sins in the name of doctrine.

  • 88. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 25, 2008 at 10:21 am

    notabarbie wrote:
    “Another thought that always haunted me, when I was a Christian, was that if I rejected Christianity, even if I lived my life as well as I could, I would burn in hell with my abuser…need I say more?”

    OH MY GODDESS that is so true!! There are many, many psychological games we abusees play with our own minds all because of anothers’ actions against us. Those who haven’t been there, can’t possibly know. Men and women process their abuse differently, so I can’t speak for them, but female victims tend to internalize their pain and blame themselves.

    At some point we have to choose NOT to blame ourselves or rationalize it any longer and disregard all teachings that insist otherwise including that old bugaboo called “hell.” Just because it’s called a Christian teaching, that doesn’t mean we have to listen to it and ignore our own self-preservation wisdom.

    Blessings on you!!

  • 89. Brad  |  January 25, 2008 at 11:20 am

    OneSmallStep,

    We need to define “child.” Would I tell a 3 year old he deserves hell, but God loves him and is saving him from that? No way. He isn’t old enough to even understand. At that age, he only needs to know that God made him, loves him, and will always love him.

    Only once a kid starts asking questions about the bible and hell or whatever (I’m speaking largely out of ignorance here as I am married but have no children), and are old enough to understand things like that.

    I once heard a pastor tell their kids about hell using a real life scenario where his daughter ran towards a busy street during rush hour. Her dad yelled at her to stop, but she kept going. He caught up to her and grabbed her by the collar of her shirt and lifted her out of the way right before a large truck flew past where she was standing. A child can understand that her daddy saved her from herself in that way, and we can communicate it in a way that is both loving and truthful. We are valuable, our children are valuable, but that value comes from the fact that we are all the children of God, and not from any earned worth or merit of our own.

    I didn’t grow up a Christian. But it didn’t take the doctrine of sin to make me feel condemned by my parents. The doctrine of sin and grace, properly understood, is a very encouraging thing. I will gladly admit the obvious, that many Christians don’t properly understand it and use it to manipulate and abuse their children, but that is a problem with them and not of grace.

  • 90. Paul S.  |  January 25, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Brad said,

    And that would be the logical conclusion to a gross misunderstanding of sin.

    You’re only looking at it from your Christian presupposition that we are all unworthy sinners deserving of eternal hell because we haven’t asked God for forgiveness. Forgiveness for what? I have come to realize that religion (especially the tenets of Christianity) is the precursor to modern-day “personal-growth” scams (such as est). The main objective is to tear you down so that you feel worthless just so you can be “reborn” in the image the leaders tell you you should be.

    I could say that to raise a child without the hope of a loving and benevolent God would be bordering on psychological or emotional abuse…

    The hope of a loving and benevolent God? One who chooses to live their life based on the hope of anything is, in my honest opinion, someone who lacks the ability to judge between fantasy and reality.

    Hope doesn’t make it so.

  • 91. Brad  |  January 25, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    “You’re only looking at it from your Christian presupposition that we are all unworthy sinners deserving of eternal hell because we haven’t asked God for forgiveness.”

    No, I am looking at it through the entirety of my worldview, which includes the first 2 decades of my life not being a Christian. And it is not “merely” that we have not asked God for forgiveness, but that we actively choose to run away from him. His forgiveness is freely given if we only accept it.

    A scam, like any lie, must begin with the truth and then twist it for it’s own means. If by “precursor” to a scame, you mean the “truth” that is twisted by a lie, I would agree with you. And yes, the objective of walking in the Christian faith is to continually be molded and shaped into the image of Jesus. You say that as if the epitome of selfless love is a bad thing to be grasped…

    Hope is for something not yet seen or realized. You have not seen the bottom of the ocean, but that does not mean it does not exist. So no, hope does not “make it so,” but it exists because it is so.

    A life not based on hope is just… sad.

  • 92. Paul S.  |  January 25, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Brad said:

    And it is not “merely” that we have not asked God for forgiveness, but that we actively choose to run away from him. His forgiveness is freely given if we only accept it.

    But forgiveness for what? For being born a human being? You first have to believe the nonsense that you need to be forgiven for something (over which you have no choice) in the first place. And the only reason you think you need to be forgiven is because your holy book says you are deserving of death and eternal torment unless you ask for forgiveness.

    If Christians want to trod this Earth thinking they are helpless, weak, and unworthy of their benevolent God’s love because they are all degenerate sinners, that’s their problem.

    You say that as if the epitome of selfless love is a bad thing to be grasped…

    It’s not a bad thing at all. But so you not see the paradox of a God that expects selfless love from His followers, but is not selfless in reciprocation?

  • 93. Paul S.  |  January 25, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Hope is for something not yet seen or realized. You have not seen the bottom of the ocean, but that does not mean it does not exist. So no, hope does not “make it so,” but it exists because it is so.

    A life not based on hope is just… sad.

    I find your definition of “hope” lacking. You should have said, “Hope is wishing for something not yet seen or realized.” Do you really base your life on hope? Do you hope your car will continue to run even though you don’t put gas in it? Do you hope you will continue to be paid even though you don’t show up to work? Of course not. Wishful thinking is just that.

  • 94. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 25, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Paul,

    You are right that we can’t base our whole life on hope. But some, who see life as evil and the whole world as sinful, hopes that there is a better one to come. Some can’t live NOW with happiness and dispense with making hope their primary goal.

    My spirituality is that way sometimes. I hope that there is a God of love and not a God of the fundamentalists who do nothing but hate, ostracize, and condemn. I hope that the God of love is one that rights all wrongs, recompenses evil and rewards us, not for anything we do or say, but for what we are, as creatures redeemed by love. Can I say that all I hope for is true? Nope. Not at all. In fact I’m beginning to suspect it’s not at all true. And that’s why hope is necessary for some people, including probably me.

    But I don’t live my life wishing it all will go away because I hope or wish it were better. I deal with it, pure and simple. I have to. But some cannot deal or cope with reality and rather than turn to drugs or alcohol or sex addiction, they turn to God. For some people, this works well. For others, it’s only a temporary “fix.” I think hope, like any emotion is fleeting, and I’m all for catching it whenever I can.

    Sorry to sound like such a downer, cause really I’m not…I don’t think…..

  • 95. OneSmallStep  |  January 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Brad,

    But when the child does start to understand, you are still left in the position of telling people that they deserve hell — as in, they don’t deserve any sort of love or compassion or even justice. As Paul said, it’s asking forgiveness for simply being human. If you so much as do one small thing wrong, you deserve hell. Simply by inheriting the “sin nature,” you deserve hell because that nature dictates all that you do. You really don’t think that people constantly told they don’t deserve to be loved won’t have some sort of negative effect on them? There is nothing encouraging about being told you don’t deserve love, but have it anyway.

    As it is, I’ve seen many children around 8 or 9 announce that they are sinners and deserve hell. You don’t find that horrible? An eight year old going around feeling that s/he deserves to be eternally tormented?

    We are valuable, our children are valuable, but that value comes from the fact that we are all the children of God, and not from any earned worth or merit of our own.

    I see this as a contradiction. If the value comes from us being children of God, then we do have merit of our own. We have “earned” that worth simply by being the children of God. Just like a child has “earned” a parent’s love through the sake of being the child.

    A child can understand that her daddy saved her from herself in that way, and we can communicate it in a way that is both loving and truthful.

    Saved her from herself? She’s a child. They don’t have the awareness of cause/effect the way adults do. Of course the father has to resuce her — that’s his job, because the child isn’t old enough to understand the consequences. Once the child does understand, and if the child still willfully runs into the truck, we would no longer say the child was making a rational decision, but that something was wrong, and would not then punish the child, but seek to help the child.

    You have not seen the bottom of the ocean, but that does not mean it does not exist.

    This comparison doesn’t work, though. We have the tools to see the bottom of the ocean. If we had to, we could find people that could physically show us the bottom. We do possess the means to discover this, in this frame of existence.

  • 96. karen  |  January 25, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    And it is not “merely” that we have not asked God for forgiveness, but that we actively choose to run away from him.

    This is where I don’t understand your thinking, Brad.

    What person on earth would actively choose to run away from god and paradise and WANT to go to hell? No one. It’s ridiculous.

    The problem is that “god” is manifest in thousands of different, mutually exclusive ways in our world and the one that most people accept is nearly always dependent on their culture.

    For instance how can we tell whether we must accept Jesus Christ as lord and savior – the typical definition of being “saved from hell” for Christians? If we run away from Allah or Krishna or an animist god and toward the Christian god or the Jewish god, is that the right choice? What if the correct god is Allah and despite all our sincere efforts we end up in the Muslim hell? Or vice versa.

    Until and unless the One True God stands up and reveals himself unambiguously, I think it’s an imminently logical and justifiable stance to withhold belief in any gods. If there is a god, and he’s got any sense of justice at all, I think he’ll recognize the problem he’s put on us and be merciful about it, don’t you?

  • 97. karen  |  January 25, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Simply by inheriting the “sin nature,” you deserve hell because that nature dictates all that you do. You really don’t think that people constantly told they don’t deserve to be loved won’t have some sort of negative effect on them? There is nothing encouraging about being told you don’t deserve love, but have it anyway.

    No, there certainly isn’t. I internalized the “filthy rags” doctrine very, very early in my life and it had extremely negative repercussions in my life. Even to the point where it took me several years during and after deconversion even to admit to myself that yes, I might actually be sort of a good person.

    It was very painful and I don’t wish it on anyone else. Yet I constantly see Christians whose self-esteem is in the toilet, who put themselves down, have no confidence in the ability to accomplish things by and for themselves.

    Yes, Christians do have the “hope of salvation” because they are redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. But I’ll tell you, that feels like you are a big jerk who’s somehow very undeservedly getting a “get out of jail free” card at the last minute to save you from torment. Of course, you’re grateful for that reprieve, but you’re constantly being told you didn’t deserve it and only got it through the whim of this god who took mercy on you.

    It’s not a good feeling, it’s a bad feeling and it plays havoc with your psychological well-being. I am so much happier and more balanced without that original sin hanging over my head!

  • 98. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 25, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Karen wrote: “Until and unless the One True God stands up and reveals himself unambiguously, I think it’s an imminently logical and justifiable stance to withhold belief in any gods. If there is a god, and he’s got any sense of justice at all, I think he’ll recognize the problem he’s put on us and be merciful about it, don’t you?”

    I agree. If there is a “God of Love” then She is most merciful, understanding, and knows nothing of this “hell” men keep talking about.

  • 99. OneSmallStep  |  January 25, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    MOI,

    I understand where you’re coming from with the hope. I feel that way in terms of the current genocides, or the Holocaust. I hope that the suffering of that extreme, or the terror, isn’t the last thing those victims experience, but that there’s some sort of healing after this life. I even feel that way when I hear about children raped and murdered. Or anyone dying that way. I just feel that it can’t be the last thing they ever experience.

  • 100. Paul S.  |  January 25, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    MOI said:

    But I don’t live my life wishing it all will go away because I hope or wish it were better. I deal with it, pure and simple. I have to. But some cannot deal or cope with reality and rather than turn to drugs or alcohol or sex addiction, they turn to God. For some people, this works well. For others, it’s only a temporary “fix.” I think hope, like any emotion is fleeting, and I’m all for catching it whenever I can.

    I agree with you that hope is a fleeting emotion. When I get home from work tonight, I hope that my son is in a good mood (he’s 3, so there’s always the chance that he woke up from his nap a little cranky). My point is that there is a huge difference between hoping for certain things (as a Dodger fan, I’ve been hoping for 20 years) and basing my entire worldview on hope. Sounds like another version of Pascal’s Wager to me.

  • 101. Brad  |  January 25, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Wow. There is a lot to respond to here, so let me try and get the key points…

    Paul,
    “If Christians want to trod this Earth thinking they are helpless, weak, and unworthy of their benevolent God’s love because they are all degenerate sinners, that’s their problem.”

    It’s not a problem at all. That’s kind of the point. I’m not trying to convince you of the benefits of the doctrines of sin and grace, merely trying to explain them from the Christian perspective.

    And I intentionally did not use “wishing” because one does not have to “wish” for truth to be true. Again, you disagree, but my definition is quite accurate and effective. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

    One Small Step,
    Again, I realize that, like everything else, there are abusive people who twist this to manipulate, and it rarely ends well. Any child can understand that their daddy saved them from a world of pain as it passes by at 60 miles an hour. Even toddlers can understand that.

    “If the value comes from us being children of God, then we do have merit of our own.”

    Merit is defined as being earned through action. We are children of God because we are made in His image. We had nothing to do with that, and is not based on merit.

    “Just like a child has “earned” a parent’s love through the sake of being the child.”

    What has an infant done to earn the love of their parents? Or is he/she loved simply because he/she are their child? That is not merit.

    Karen,
    “What person on earth would actively choose to run away from god and paradise and WANT to go to hell? No one. It’s ridiculous.”

    (This is where I risk getting lynched) Do you believe in the Christian God, who lived as the man Jesus Christ? If your answer is “no,” then I would ask you the same question. (I know that this answer may be offensive to you, but it is what I believe and am trying to communicate it with as much love and respect as is possible via text)

    “If there is a god, and he’s got any sense of justice at all, I think he’ll recognize the problem he’s put on us and be merciful about it, don’t you?”

    Yes and no. I think it would be incredibly merciful to come into His own creation to tell you the truth. And He’s already done that. He has done exactly what you’ve asked.

    It sounds like you’ve had an incredibly legalistic experience with Christianity, and I am so very sorry. I can tell you that my church really gets grace, and it is NOTHING but encouraging to my wife and I.

    I know that I’m not winning any friends by stating these things, but I know you all value honesty and discourse about belief. I hope you recognize the effort I am putting forth to communicate this clearly and respectfully (whether or not I am successful in that). I am not a fundie (ask MOI), and probably not the kind of conservative Christian most of you have been legitimately and understandably burned by. Thanks for reading.

  • 102. OneSmallStep  |  January 25, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Brad,

    I still don’t see you addressing the consequences of telling someone that they don’t deserve to be loved/deserve to be eternally tormented. What do you think that would do to someone’s psychological state? Or self-worth? To tell them they don’t deserve to be loved simply because they are human?

    Any child can understand that their daddy saved them from a world of pain as it passes by at 60 miles an hour. Even toddlers can understand that.

    Yes, any child can understand that. But the parent would not in turn tell the child that s/he deserved to be hit by the car. The child would, in turn, deserve to be protected by the parent.

    What has an infant done to earn the love of their parents? Or is he/she loved simply because he/she are their child? That is not merit.

    But “earn” is tied into “make worthy of.” Which can be used in the sense that, “The very fact that the infant was Person A’s child earned the infant the parent’s love.” Merit is also tied to a sense of worth — as in, the suggestion has merit. Same with saying that an infant has merit/worth. But part of that worth is tied into the idea that you don’t also tell the person who has merit how awful they are, and how much they don’t deserve anything but torment. The parent doesn’t say, “Any merit you have is only what I put in you/because of how I created you.”” Rather, the parent says, “You have merit because of who you are.”

    (This is where I risk getting lynched) Do you believe in the Christian God, who lived as the man Jesus Christ? If your answer is “no,” then I would ask you the same question.

    The two aren’t compatible. We are not willfully rejecting “the truth.” We are saying that what you are presenting is not the truth. If what you say is true, and we are rejecting it, then we can no longer be considered rational, considering the eternal consequences of this belief systeml. It would be like saying that someone who commits suicide is rational. Or someone who steps into a blazing fire just to hurt him/herself is rational. Once someone makes a decision like that, the person is no longer considered “well” or freely making a choice and so is stopped by outside parties.

    I can’t speak for everyone here, and I don’t mean this as an insult. But I don’t believe in orthodox Christianity precisely because I have read the Bible, and have studied history, forayed into science, as well as skimmed the differences between Judaism and Christianity. If it speaks to you as one unified picture, okay. It doesn’t to me. It doesn’t to a lot of people on this site. So what we aren’t saying is that, “Hey, this makes a lot of sense, but I don’t want to submit, so I’ll just go my own way.” We are saying, “This *doesn’t* make sense.”

    As it is, what this is essentially saying is that nothing we do matters. What matters is having the right belief. That’s what sums up someone’s eternal position.

  • 103. Brad  |  January 26, 2008 at 12:22 am

    OneSmallStep,

    “As it is, what this is essentially saying is that nothing we do matters. What matters is having the right belief.”

    I absolutely, unequivocally disagree. Scripture screams that a life untransformed by belief is not at all real belief (James 2:26 for example). I’d say that there are many who go to church, claim to be Christian, but do not live a Christian life.

    In Re: to the line of discussion about abuse…. Look, believe me that I am not going to berate my kids and tell them they are horrible people day in and day out. They will be loved, adored, and appreciated in every sense of the word (or at least to the best of my ability). God does the same, REGARDLESS of whether they deserve it or not. When they are old enough to understand them, the theological foundations for that love will be explained. ONCE AGAIN, just because something is twisted to be used for evil, does not mean the thing itself is even. The use and the abuser are evil. The admission that, apart from our faith in God, we choose to sin and rebel from God is NOT mutually exclusive with encouragement and edification.

    Essentially, we are going to have to agree to disagree. This discussion is beginning to mince words and stray so very far from the original point I was trying to make, much less MOI’s (although I’m sure she doesn’t mind, knowing how much she loves a lively debate!).

    I will again say that I am not here to convince anyone, only to present a rational and respectful voice to a topic that most of you probably are not as used to hearing.

  • 104. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 26, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Paul,

    It is a version of Pascal’s Wager. Some take a chance that their world view is the right one (as if there is a world view that systematic or if so, that it can be perceived). Unfortunately, it’s when they believe that everyone must adhere to that world view that the problems start.

  • 105. OneSmallStep  |  January 26, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Brad,

    I absolutely, unequivocally disagree. Scripture screams that a life untransformed by belief is not at all real belief (James 2:26 for example).

    The problem is that if someone does live a good life without the proper belief in Jesus — a life that does demonstrate the “fruits of the Spirit –” I think you would say that wouldn’t matter, because they don’t believe in Jesus. It’s that belief that gets them saved, and so no matter what the unbeliever does, it really does come down to the right belief. *Especially* since if someone sincerely repented on their deathbed, they’d still get into heaven, even though they don’t have that life of actions.

    ONCE AGAIN, just because something is twisted to be used for evil, does not mean the thing itself is even. The use and the abuser are evil.

    But you do seem to hold to the belief that we all deserve hell. Hell is where God is absent. If God is love, then hell would also be an abscence of love. Which means that this is telling people that they don’t deserve love, and I find that whole concept rather appalling. So I’m not sure how this gets “twisted” when this is a rather big portion of Christian belief. It’s right up there with the concept of grace — grace is undeserved. So in the shadows, there’s the idea of what is deserved. Same with salvation. If you tell someone that they are saved daily, then what they are saved from is also attached to that. They are saved from what they deserve. This isn’t something that is rarely brought up — it’s a part of the whole conversion experience itself, the “need” for a Savior, to save someone from what they deserve. This doesn’t have to be overt, either. But it seems subtly woven throughout the entire structure.

    So I’m not sure how this gets abused/twisted when it’s right in the belief structure itself. You can say that God loves us regardless, but that doesn’t address the core idea of saying that even though you are loved, you don’t deserve that love, and what that weight does to people. I mean, if you look throughout history — those who felt that another group didn’t deserve the same respect/justice/status/love as their group tended not to behave very well.

    It also occurs to me that I’m coming across as telling you you’ll do this to your children, or maybe in an extreme sense, how dare you even have children since you believe [fill in the blank]. I don’t think you’re going to do this, I’m just using it as an example, because of the whole parental relationship that Christianity uses with God.

    The admission that, apart from our faith in God, we choose to sin and rebel from God is NOT mutually exclusive with encouragement and edification.

    There is a huge difference between saying that people won’t be perfect and encouraging them, and saying that they deserve eternal torment.

  • 106. mysteryofiniquity  |  January 26, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Paul,

    And I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a world view, just that it’s wrong to force our world view on others with threats, violence, or bad theology. That implies we KNOW what’s good for everyone else and what’s good for one is not necessarily good for another.

  • 107. karen  |  January 26, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Brad, I understand what you’re saying because I – and most others here – used to share your worldview. Believe us when we say we not only shared it, we proselytized about it and devoted our whole lives to it. So it’s nothing new that you’re telling us.

    What is new is that we looked at this theology more closely and studied it and read OUTSIDE of the theology to hear a more objective viewpoint – and we concluded that it is inherently disrespectful of humanity.

    Here’s why: Your theology says – as OSS has pointed out – that certain people will be given an eternity of punishment (or at least an eternity devoid of love/god) based on their believing or not believing one theology (believe in Jesus Christ as savior and lord) in a confusing morass of religious systems. And if they don’t choose the “right” theology (Christianity), they not only will go to hell but they will DESERVE hell.

    What the *&(&! is that?! How is that fair or loving? How can we respect or worship a god who makes such an inherently brutal and unfair rule?

    Let’s say there’s a young Hindu mother in an isolated village who may have heard of Jesus from some local missionaries but doesn’t adopt Christianity because she didn’t understand it or didn’t wish to make such a huge break from her family and culture. In my old church she would have been said to have “rejected Christ.” Now, the Christmas tsunami of 2004 swamps her village and she’s drowned. Does this woman truly deserve an eternity (not a century or a millennium – an eternity) of torture or even of isolation from love?

    That’s what Christianity tell me, but I cannot accept that any longer.

  • 108. Yurka  |  January 30, 2008 at 2:38 am

    MOI, there is no biblical basis for requiring you to forgive those who have not asked for it. You can love your enemies, but that doesn’t mean you should just act as if they did nothing wrong. And if they do something illegal of course you can put a stop to it- this has nothing to do with forgiveness. Forgiveness requires repentance on the part of the offender. 2 Ti 4:14 – ‘Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil. May the Lord repay him according to his works.’
    If this is the only reason you disbelieve Christianity, I’d rethink your decision.

    One final consideration. You had better hope you do nothing in your life that requires forgiveness if you don’t believe people are obligated to forgive (that is assuming you don’t believe we are obligated to forgive those who repent).

    I hope I don’t come across as pedantic – I can’t imagine what you’ve been through, I would not have been able to bear it. I just think you are mistaken and the bible is not as unreasonable as you make out.

  • 109. MOI  |  January 30, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Yurka,

    I have said consistently in my comments that we should ALWAYS forgive the repentant. That’s a given. Some would believe not, but not me.

  • 110. Fi  |  February 14, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Well I think you are a complete pillock. How do you expect to live through life like that? It’s either eternal LIFE in a city of gold or eternal pain, in pits of fire and water. Ever burned yourself? On an iron or something? Who hasn’t. Well it feels like that, 100000 knives stabbing you all over your body. But, in the city of gold you can fly. God has prepared a room just for you and what do you do? Throw it away. Who does that? All of your favourite things are in heaven. So, which is it going to be? I know what I’m going for.

  • 111. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 14, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Fi,

    Well, I’ll gladly choose the second fantasy you offer if, in the first fantasy, we must live side by side with name callers and sado-masochists for all eternity. Neither sounds like a good deal to me. Thank you very much.

  • 112. Thinking Ape  |  February 14, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Hey Fi,
    Nuh uh – I’m going to have 99 virgins and you, my dear, are going to jahannam… or maybe sheol, or maybe we will see each other in the most unpleasant Norse Hel, for neither of us will probably die a chosen warrior.

    “Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

    -Matthew 7:21-23

  • 113. karen  |  February 14, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Ever burned yourself? On an iron or something? Who hasn’t. Well it feels like that, 100000 knives stabbing you all over your body.

    Hey, here are some Happy Valentine’s Day wishes from Fi, everybody! Peace be with you sir, and happy flying. :-)

  • 114. Mike  |  February 14, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Fi, that really helps no one.

  • 115. veronica  |  February 22, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    this week i made the worst mistake I accidently accused my daughter’s father of touching our daughter inappropriately, and he was not of course. I do believe that there are things that unforgivable, and i can only pray that this is not one of them. but i understand your point, coming from someone who so desperatley wants to be forgiven.

  • 116. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 22, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Veronica,

    If you are sorry for the accusation and say so, there should be no reason why you wouldn’t be forgiven unless the person was just being stubborn, or to “teach you a lesson.” No, my point was about withholding forgiveness when there is no repenting or asking for forgiveness involved. Blessings to you!

  • 117. STRANGER  |  March 21, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    To begin let’s start with a quotes in order to perhaps spark something in, you, the reader’s brain…

    “I never suffer any of my family to kill those little innocent animals called striped snakes, for they do me much service in destroying grasshoppers and other troublesome insects. Toads are of essential service, especially in a garden, to eat up cabbage worms, caterpillars, etc.”
    -unknown

    This quote undoubtedly emphasizes that everything in this chaotic world is of necessity. Thus, created because they fulfill a certain purpose. Each thing has a mission given specifically from god.

    Moreover, when children are born unto this world are they not in a sense innocent? Yes, it is understood that “the heart is wicked and deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9), and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, no one is innocent in the sense of being sinless. However, these children do not come about from birth killing, raping, and deceiving do they?

    Admittedly, there is evil within the hearts of many many men. But is there not wickedness and sin within all humans which hinder us from the grace of god? Yet despite the constant bashings and the countless times the human race has spit on the face of god, he still forgives. His love is beyond measure and is not seen by valentine chocolates, roses, or sweet cards. His love is written by a blood covered cross.

    But what about the suffering in the world and all of the evil people who go about causing hurt to others? Like it is stated above, everything in this universe shall serve its purpose under god’s command. Everything has his fingerprints on it. It is like what my father said to me, god uses everything, whether it be good or bad, to fulfill his plan. Why? Why is he allowing this pain and suffering of “his people?” I believe man was not intended to find out. Why? Because if we knew what was going to happen, then it wouldn’t be walking with faith then would it?

    As of the “example” of the abusive father… It is unfortunate. His sins are obvious and should not be tolerated and should stop. His actions are undoubtedly wrong. However, forgiveness is something granted to us by God. Should we not follow in the footsteps of such a perfect being? My mother said once to forgive and to release hatred withing the heart. At first I did not believe. However, it became too much of a burden. Hatred is not something you want to carry. Just let it go off your shoulders. “That way at least you let go, and if the other person is still full of hate…. then it’s out of your hand. You did your part.” The point of the fact is, we should forgive no matter how hard it is. Our enemies are people too, they’ve had lives, they were born, raised in some fashion, but somewhere along the line they fell and allowed their wicked side to become dominant. We cannot expect to change this world for the better if we have hate in our hearts. We must show our enemies how to love. Do not keep the lit candle, which is the grace of god, hidden and kept to yourself. Take your hand off the light, it is easier to let it shine.

  • 118. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 23, 2008 at 8:26 am

    stranger,

    It’s unfortunate and amusing really that everyone who reads this post assumes that I’m a font of hatred and can’t “get over it.” But since the stepfather never repented, it’s not my job to forgive him or anyone else that is unrepentant. These people are beyond my help or forgiveness. That’s the point of the post. I don’t have to forgive anyone that never repents. It’s a legal issue not a heart issue.

  • 119. George  |  April 10, 2008 at 4:39 am

    Forgiveness is NEVER acceptance of what the other person did. It does NOT mean they can waltz back into your life unless you choose to allow them in. It does NOT mean that you have to pretend it never happened. It does NOT mean they should not suffer consequences for their actions.

    Having said all that, Forgiveness is an ABSOLUTE MUST, for our healing to take place. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of humility. It has been my experience 100% of the time, that unforgiveness is the reason a christian cannot be filled with the Spirit of God. A person can have a head knowledge of God, even in their heart really desire to walk with Him, but if unforgiveness is there, there is no room for the holy spirit.

    I believe James mentioned in an earlier post that if you don’t forgive, you remain in a sort of prison… I agree with him on this one.

    As someone who was sexually and physically abused as a child, I’ve had to forgive a lot. Today I can say I am truly free of what happened to me in the past. However I will admit, the road to forgiveness and healing was a long, arduous journey, since the pain ran so deep… However, when I looked at how Christ suffered, even being innocent, it gave me strength to continue of my journey of healing. Not only that, having travelled that road myself, I’ve been able to help others make that journey, which makes it even more worthwhile.

  • 120. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 10, 2008 at 8:49 am

    George,

    I still contend that you can’t forgive what is never repented of. You can come to terms with it, but forgive? Not possible. Where there is no repentance there is no forgiveness. If it’s true for God, it’s true for humans as well.

    What you and everyone else have experienced is a “settling” in your soul about a traumatic event. That’s a far different matter. I’m settled in my soul. I’ve moved on. But my forgiveness is now no longer warranted or given since the offender died without repentance toward me. It’s out of my hands.

  • 121. George  |  April 11, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    mysteryofiniquity,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond, and I must say I completely understand where you are coming from. My father committed suicide after he attempted to kill my mother. Naturally, there was no closure in the sense that I think you are referring to. I would even say that I completely agree with you, except for one thing… While dying on the cross, Jesus said “Forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing…” In the midst of His suffering, He did not look for those hurting Him to repent first, but interceded for them. That is a level of compassion that is beyond mere human ability. After the fact, I still had to forgive, in order to release what had happened in the past (he had been a very violent man in his life, with everyone including his own family).

    I do admire that you’ve been able to move on… that is a very healthy thing to do.

    Regards,
    George

  • 122. MOI  |  April 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    George,

    No problem. I understand where you are coming from too! I believe it is all up to God whether to forgive your father and my step-father or not. I don’t think we are called to do that since there is no repentance there. To me, forgiveness is a legal issue that involves standing and judgment. That’s a job for the gods not mortals. Perhaps Jesus “knew” the thieves’ hearts as they hung there side by side. One incident does not a principle make, I don’t think but I understand why you need to do what you have to move on. We each do it in our own way.

    Thank you for sharing your story all the same!

  • 123. George  |  April 11, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    And thank you likewise for sharing. I do agree with you, once a person has passed the threshold from life to death, we no longer can do anything for them, since at that point they will stand or fall on their own merit, as they stand before the judgment throne.

    In addition, thank you for sharing such a deep and painful experience, I’m sure that if perchance someone comes across it, they will know they are not alone. In ministering to people, I’ve found that for the most part, in this type of situations, one of the pervasive feelings is loneliness and the fear of rejection. You are strong indeed to put it out there…

    Thank you.

  • 124. George  |  April 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Sorry, the above post was for MOI…

  • 125. Courtney  |  April 21, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    I understand what you are saying, but I disagree. You truly don’t understand the bible. A major message in the bible is that no man can ever be prefect no matter how hard he tries. You aound like you think people that go to heaven are perfect. I personally think you sound very bitter at God or something. He knows that the only perfect one is his son Jesus. To get to heaven you just have to believe and accept God as the one and only true Saviour. You have to live following the bible and commandments but if you do screw up, that’s why Jesus died on the cross for us. To be forgiven. i hope some of this rubs off…

  • 126. Courtney  |  April 21, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    I understand what you are saying, but I disagree. You truly don’t understand the bible. A major message in the bible is that no man can ever be prefect no matter how hard he tries. You sound like you think people that go to heaven are perfect. I personally think you sound very bitter at God or something. He knows that the only perfect one is his son Jesus. To get to heaven you just have to believe and accept God as the one and only true Saviour. You have to live following the bible and commandments but if you do screw up, that’s why Jesus died on the cross for us. To be forgiven. i hope some of this rubs off…

  • 127. Zoe  |  April 22, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Courtney,

    Do you think it’s the first time MOI has been told someone thinks she’s bitter? Do you think this is the first time someone has disagreed with her? And trust me, it’s not the first time she’s heard someone tell her she doesn’t understand the Bible.

    Certainly, you can disagree. But, listen, you’ve said the same thing many Christians say in order to justify their disagreement.

    1). You don’t know.

    2). You are bitter.

    3). Jesus saves.

    4). I hope my comment here sinks in and you get it.

    5). I’ve done my Christian duty. Bye bye.

  • 128. Anonymous  |  April 22, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Jesus never came to die for anyone. If anything, he died to prove that death has no power over us. He came to teach us that we are all gods, interconnected with the One God(Its in the Bible, just look hard). So in other words, he came to teach us that we are already saved. I hope THIS rubs off…

  • 129. LeoPardus  |  April 22, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Courtney:

    I understand what you are saying

    No you don’t. You haven’t taken any time to understand. You just read and then set out to set someone straight. Espousing your opinion is NOT understanding.

    You truly don’t understand the bible.

    You don’t understand the Bible. It’s a collection of writings by a very primitive people, seeking to make sense of a big cosmos that quite overwhelms them. Like other primitive cultures they made up supernatural beings to explain things that were beyond them. Hope this sinks in. (Doesn’t that last phrase sound arrogant and condescending when it’s directed at you? Guess what? It also sounds that way when you direct it at others.)

    Oh, and to the “you don’t understand the bible” bit. Do you know who you’re talking to? This site has regulars who are, or have been, pastors, seminarians, apologists, and the like. There now. Don’t you sound even more arrogant talking down to such a crowd without bothering to find out who they are? (Doesn’t you Bible say that you should, “In all humility, consider others better than yourself.” ? Maybe you don’t understand the Bible so well yourself.)

    A major message in the bible is that no man can ever be prefect no matter how hard he tries.

    Really? Cite the verses please.

    I personally think you sound very bitter at God or something.

    One might be bitter at the arrogant asses that they are God’s people. What do you think about that possibility?

    To get to heaven you just have to believe and accept God as the one and only true Saviour.

    There is no heaven, no god, and no savior. That’s an ugly reality, ain’t it?

    You have to live following the bible and commandments but if you do screw up, that’s why Jesus died on the cross for us.

    OK. I’m thinking of selling my daughter into slavery as per Exodus 21:7. What would be a fair price for her?
    Also i want to follow Jesus but unfortunately I love my parents. Luke 14:26 is thus problematic. How did you get to hate your parents? That might help me be a follower.

    Yeah, yeah. I know the apologetic and semantic gymnastics to “get around” those passages. But why do you have to play such games with the “clear word of God”? Why can’t your all-knowing God make himself clear. Hells bells, i can write more clearly than that.

    i hope some of this rubs off…

    Ditto.

  • 130. MOI  |  April 23, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Wow, I haven’t missed much while I was on vacation, except the usual diatribes by “drive-by” commenters who know nothing about those they claim to judge. Thanks Zoe and Leo for responding n my absence.

  • 131. Zoe  |  April 23, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    You’re welcome MOI. Welcome back. :-)

  • 132. Anonymous  |  April 23, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I believe in God, but don’t believe in a lot of the stuff in the Bible. Like I said before, I think Jesus came not to teach about afterlife salvation, but salvation on this earth. People need to stop looking towards heaven after they die, for that is pretty much assured for everyone. We need to start trying to make a heaven on earth, right here, right now. Christians fail to make our world better. There are many instances in which they have made it worse. The real teaching of Jesus is that God is within us all, and that’s where we have to search. God isn’t some big judging dad in the sky, but a force that we must use from within ourselves to make our world better. And besides, if God was a judge, he’d suck as a parent and a creator.

  • 133. Phil Stilwell  |  October 26, 2009 at 2:05 am

    It seems to me that “forgiveness” and “unforgiveness” are merely human constructs that, if we are honest, map onto emotions rather than anything more objective.

    To forgive is to, in essence, inform the offender that they are once again considered an equal. This action is beneficial in many social contexts where interaction is inevitable and cooperation essential.

    However, there is nothing wrong with deciding at some point of offense that a relationship with the offender has nothing to offer the offended. So forgiveness is a choice of the offended that most appropriately corresponds to future advantages resulting from the act of forgiveness.

    It should be stated that one often overlooked future advantage of forgiveness is the loss of animosity and bitterness that are often counter-productive to happiness.

  • 134. mysteryofiniquity  |  October 26, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Phil,
    Yes, many have discussed the emotional aspect of forgiveness for the forgiver. I have always contended, however, that reconciling to the hurt done to one is not forgiveness but emotionally healing from a trauma enough to not let it rule your life. However, forgiveness as a Christian construct is a legal transaction, or at least, that’s how it is described in inerrant, bible believing communities. The contract is between Cosmic Judge and offender and offender and victim. It is canceling a payment owed for sin. That justice is beyond the two parties if one refuses to ask for forgiveness. My post was about the one who never feels sorry and has never asked forgiveness of the offended party. To me, such a person remains legally unforgiven by whatever cosmic judge one adheres to. And remains unforgiven from the victim. Most biblical passages say, “if a brother comes to you….” one should forgive. If they never come, that “transaction” never takes place. As for the emotional part, that’s a whole different matter and is entirely up to the forgiver whether sought out by the offender or not. It may be nitpicking on my part, but there’s a difference I believe.

    For the non-believer in Cosmic Justice, forgiveness is indeed an emotional decision and a highly personal one which can only be made by the victim. All the “shoulds” and “oughts” dissolve once a Divine Judge is left out of the picture. Thanks for the comment!

  • 135. John Harvard  |  October 26, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Don’t confuse forgiveness with empowerment. Forgiveness doesn’t mean “what you did is okay”, it means “I understand that what you did is due to your flaws, which you cannot help having”. Once you understand that, you can begin to heal the flaws of others. There’s nothing distinctly Christian about this philosophy, either.

    Love everyone, but lock your door.

  • 136. mysteryofiniquity  |  October 26, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Ok, once again let me try to explain. I am speaking about Christian theology; the theology we were taught in Fundamentalist churches; those churches that believe the bible is inerrant. In those circles we were taught that repentance and forgiveness are LEGAL transactions that erase the penalty for what was done by the acting agent. When someone repented and turned to God, they are forgiven for all their sins; past, present, and future. The often used image is that of a judge that declares us NOT GUILTY.

    Now as far as Christians and other Christians, the bible distinctly says that if a brother comes to us (implying repentance), we are to forgive them. Whether or not this means we, like the Divine, have the power to cancel the debt that they owe us or not, I don’t know. If that’s what it means, then my premise is: if the actor does not ask me in repentance for forgiveness I, in fact, CANNOT and are UNABLE to erase that debt. First, because they never asked. And second, because it’s not up to me if they don’t ask. If they do ask, they are forgiven.

    That’s what I’m talking about here. I’m not talking about releasing our anger, releasing our own spirits or healing anyone. We cannot heal others who don’t want to be healed. We can only heal ourselves of damaging emotions. This has nothing to do with legal debt forgiveness. Legal debt forgiveness is what I’m talking about in this post. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t understand why others do not understand this.

  • 137. Eve's Apple  |  November 5, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    If I understand correctly, the Jewish tradition has a different view of forgiveness, one that makes a lot of sense to me. You can only forgive wrongs that are personally committed against you. You cannot forgive someone for a wrong that they committed against someone else. And if you have wronged another, you have to go to them personally and ask their forgiveness. You cannot go to a third party and ask them to forgive you for something you did to another. If it is not possible to go to that person and make amends, the deed cannot be forgiven, not even by God. God can only forgive offenses committed against Himself. So each person has to take responsibility for his or her actions. I like this approach a whole lot better than the Christian one, because I feel all too often Christianity has cheapened the concept. When instant forgiveness is easily available, no matter what, there is no motivation to look into one’s actions. But if you know that unless you take the step to make things right you will not and cannot be forgiven, and that sometimes taking that step may not be possible, then you might be a little more careful about how you behave. At least in theory,

  • 138. mysteryofiniquity  |  November 5, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you very much for the comment Eve’s Apple. This was the understanding I had in mind when writing this. There are some that cannot be forgiven; i.e. those who don’t ask for it and those who no longer have the option to make amends.

  • 139. Badagus  |  November 6, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I think that you are missing one key thing about what Christianity is all about though!

    Now, you are arguing AS A Christian, correct? If you are not a Christian and don’t have complete knowledge of the Word and are just trying to use reason in this argument then of course it forgiveness sounds ridiculous.

    You are singling the idea of forgiveness out of the whole STRUCTURE of what Christianity is. In order to fully understand it, one has to look at the whole picture; in any other way, forgiveness makes absolutely NO sense.

    In the beginning, God created us. He asked Adam and Eve just ONE thing, not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. But of course, they had to eat from the tree and then their eyes were opened to the good and evil (Gen 3). So now them AND their offspring have the knowledge of good and evil and were kicked out of the perfect Garden of Eden.

    Over time, we continued to disobey our Maker time and time again; anywhere from lying to rape and murder. I’d love to discuss more of those details but the point is, we were a DISGUSTING people whom God was merciful enough not to let His full wrath out upon.

    No, He didn’t let His wrath out on us but instead sent His perfect son, who lived a perfect life. A life where he did NOTHING wrong because he was the Son of God. And what did we do with him? We brutally murdered him. You think that rape is bad? You think that hijackers on 9/11 were bad? You think that trying to forgive an abusive father is bad? Don’t get me wrong, it truly is. That you say that and ignore what Christ did for us, though, you are ignoring the big picture!

    Christ died! WE KILLED A PERFECT MAN! If that is not a monster, I don’t know what is. That was not the end, though. This is the part that makes no sense, the part that should make any person feel horrible about themselves. Christ came back to life…Once again he didn’t let his wrath out.

    No, he decided to forgive us.

    A man who came to earth SOLELY to help had been murdered. But you can’t just blame one person for this, this is every sinner’s fault. From Adam and Eve onward, everyone one time or another has denied God as we found it best to take our own interests and put it before Him.

    That is the reason that God sent Jesus! He sent Jesus to take up our sins, to replace it with his own death.

    The next part of the story of God today is often forgotten; us. The disciples after Christ who are given the duty to love on the world as Jesus did. Disciples are not perfect and many that the world hears from today are FAR from perfect as they judge the world and condemn them if they do not repent at this very second! ‘YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!’ or ‘I am better than you.’ And I apologize as a follower of Christ for those ‘Christians’ who are NOT perfect. And neither am I, and neither are you, and neither are those serial killers and rapists.

    Jesus was perfect though and died so that not only we could BE forgiven but also TO forgive. What I think that you are not looking at is how this is the hugest story in history.

    Yes, there are a lot of disturbing people in this world. All you need to do to find one is look in the mirror. All you need to do is look at the lives we ALL live and see how far from God we have pulled ourselves.

    Christ died, rose again, and went to heaven to be with his father. In our time left on this earth, He left the third person in the Trinity to be in ourselves, the Holy Spirit. WE are the witnesses to this world now, mysteryofiniquity.

    And you can look at how horrible all these people are (which they are!) but you are forgetting that they aren’t the only horrible ones. We are all sinners. We ALL disobeyed God. And yet God gives us grace…how awful is that of ourselves? But how loving of our God!!!

    I truly hope this gives you a new perspective of forgiveness. We are all an undeserving people and yet we are loved. For us to sit around on this planet and still point fingers at how bad OTHER people are while we should be spreading this love of Christ, THAT, I believe, is just as bad if not worse since we deny our own filth and put a spotlight on others.

    And that is what being a Christian is all about. Sadly, though, being a Christian seems to be easy to fake now-a-days and so we meet all these loud voices in Christianity that are giving SUCH a terrible influence on others as to what a Christian lives for. That is a whole nother topic though. Hope this helped!

    O, and I reallllly think you should check out these two songs that have helped me see forgiving in a better light:

    That Guy by Andy Gullahorn

    and
    John Wayne Gacy, Jr by Sufjan Stevens

    (this one is a little harder to understand but its all about how horrible John Wayne, the clown serial killer, was and how disgusted we should be with him and also…er i guess I won’t give away the ending:P)

    Let me know what you think!

  • 140. LeoPardus  |  November 6, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Badagus:

    Do you pay any attention at all to what site you’re on? Yeesh!

  • 141. Badagus  |  November 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    There is something called stumbling upon and it took me to this page randomly. Yeesh to you as well… :)

  • 142. SnugglyBuffalo  |  November 6, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    A casual glance at the title of the blog, or the URL even, should have been enough. Coming here randomly is hardly an excuse. Still, you’re not the first.

    Welcome to de-conversion.com!

  • 143. Badagus  |  November 6, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    well it wasn’t an excuse, it took me directly to this link and i just read the topic thinking it could be on any site. And i don’t understand what is wrong with having a visitor with a different perspective. thanks for the welcome though. :)

  • 144. Quester  |  November 7, 2009 at 2:16 am

    Nothing’s wrong with a visitor who has a different perspective, but more is appreciated of a visitor who spends some time to understand where she’s posting and who she’s addressing before she makes a comment.

  • 145. LeoPardus  |  November 7, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    A visitor with a different perspective is fine. A visitor who doesn’t even read the BIG BANNER at the TOP OF THE PAGE that identifies the site as ‘de-conversion’ and who in said negligent ignorance starts off with “you are arguing AS A Christian, correct?” is an idiot.

  • 146. Badagus  |  November 7, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    …I got it the first time, thanks.

  • 147. Nigel  |  February 6, 2010 at 10:45 am

    You say in the initial article

    “The lack of justice in this world is the surest indication that God or the gods do not exist. There is no better proof in my opinion.”

    Surely the fact that you have a sense of justice is consistent with the fact that you are made in God’s image.

  • 148. MOI  |  February 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Nigel, that’s like saying since I don’t believe God exists, he doesn’t. One does not necessarily follow from the other. It’s quite a leap of “logic” you make there; one based on a premise you make and one I don’t agree with. So back to square one. If the world consistently exhibits a sense of injustice, wrongs are never righted except by vigilantism, and natural disasters hit willy nilly, then it’s safe to say that no one or no thing is “watching” over it. However, if you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a deity righted a wrong by intervening directly, then please share. But, we could trade these all day.

  • 149. Quester  |  February 6, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    The fact that we have a sense of justice is consistent with the fact that we have imaginations and desires. We can imagine a better world and desire to turn this one into that one. To assume that this is consistent with us being made in the image of a god would require some consistency in what we consider just, outside of cultural bias. That simply isn’t the case.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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