The Problem With Forgiveness

Cross Nails

Probably the core belief of Christianity is the concept of forgiveness. It is the central teaching of Jesus and held aloft as the prime virtue of God himself. However nice a virtue it is in small doses, it is completely impracticable and worse still undesirable even if it was possible. Both the forgiveness Jesus told us to show to one another and the forgiveness God supposedly has for us are fundamentally flawed and rife with problems.

If I was to ask a random person what the most important teaching of Jesus was, they would probably answer the importance of forgiveness. The quotes are well know, “Treat others as you would like them to treat you” (Luke 6:31) and “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well” (Matthew 5:39-40). Now this sounds quite nice but is completely impracticable in life. Imagine if we really did forgive everyone no matter what they did? Imagine if we never judged anyone (Luke 6:37) Imagine a world of love, forgiveness and empty jails? What if we really not only forgave thieves but also gave them the rest of our possessions? What if our response to violent thugs was not to call the police but to turn the other cheek?

The result is obviously too absurd to contemplate. This is a fact that even devout Christians themselves acknowledge and realise that the core teachings of their faith are completely unrealistic and unworkable in real life. Now I would think that would make them question their beliefs, but what do I know, I’m only a heretic myself. You see talk of forgiveness is merely nice sounding empty words, the kind of stuff you put on fridge magnet, not the stuff you base laws and societies on. This means Christianity is at best a nice thought for the day and not something to live you live by. The debate on the role of religion in society should be much easier to resolve once everyone points out the obvious fact that it is impossible to truly base a society on religion.

Second of all there is the forgiveness that God is supposed to have for us. To many this is a comforting thought, as let’s face it; we have all broken the rules at some point in our lives (especially religious rules). So we all are comfortable with the thought of receiving forgiveness, but people don’t think about the fact that this forgiveness is open to everyone. Murderers, rapists, thieves, thugs, liars, cheats etc can all be forgiven and spend eternity in Heaven. The problem is that some people don’t deserve forgiveness. Our newspapers and history books are full of horrendous crimes that many believe deserve eternal punishment. The idea that perpetrators of mass murder (Colonialism was perpetrated by mostly Christian countries, to use one example and to say nothing of genocides in Rwanda and Germany) should receive eternal reward is a thought that would make many practicing Christians sick.

The core problem with forgiveness is that it completely undermines organised religion. You see the main purpose of organised religion is to provide various rules and a moral compass for its members. Rules are at the core of this (the Ten Commandments for example). However, forgiveness makes all the rules null and void. This is because I could break all the rules, be forgiven and enter Heaven just the same as though I had never broken a single one. I could live (what the Church would call) an immoral life of sex, debauchery, sin and cruelty, and so long as I make a deathbed conversion with an appeal for forgiveness, I shall enter Heaven just the same as the Pope. In fact, why bother following any of the rules if trespass will be forgiven?

You see forgiveness completely undermines the rules and therefore the meaning of the Church (I have the Catholic one in mind, but they are all pretty similar). You can live the life of an Atheist free from any rules, moral guidance or respect for God and so long as you change your ways somewhere towards the end of your life, you will be forgiven. Jesus died for your sins, so don’t just sit there living a good life, go wild. After all, you have a blank cheque. You see you can have forgiveness or you can have the Church, but you can’t have both.

About Guest Contributor

Robert NielsenRobert Nielsen blogs at Robert Nielsen, a blog dedicated to explore issues in economics, politics and religion. Robert was raised a Catholic, but in 2012 he lost the last of his faith and is now an Atheist (See Robert’s Story: How I Became An Atheist). I(Prayson Daniel) am being edified and challenged through reading Robert’s blog. Robert’s blog offers a ground for debating and discussing, in gentleness and respect, ideas and ideologies  that are not similar to mine.