The sins of forgiveness
According to the Bible we are all sinners. In one context I can agree with that. We all make mistakes, we are prone to doing things we don’t think we ought to do. We sometimes hurt other people. Call it what you may we do wrong. Sometimes we do it unintentionally. Sometimes we do it knowing full well we doing so.
My goal is not to debate or discuss what is right or wrong here. Instead I am addressing the incentive to do right and wrong provided by a secular, rational view compared to the faith-driven, mainly Christian, view.
The Christian will tell us that without God there is no morality. They operate on a very low level of Kohlberg’s scale of moral development in most cases. For them the fear of punishment in the hereafter is what keeps us moral.
If we didn’t believe that we are going to go to hell for our sins then we would sin ever more, harm more people, do more evil, etc. It is the fear of punishment that keeps us from doing evil. That is the moral thinking of a small child. As we grow we realize there are other reasons not to hurt others. In fact we can even accept there are general moral principles applicable to all.
But does this fear of hell keep Christians from evil? Not at all. Even if they were as morally developed as a five year old they would have no reason to avoid sin. They also believe in forgiveness of sin. They say that because Jesus was tortured to death 2000 years ago that their sins are forgiven. They are “as white as snow.”
I don’t believe that at all. I am aware that when I have caused others pain that nothing wipes away that action. What was done was done. I can ask forgiveness from them. But I can’t undo it. I can’t remove the knowledge that I did it. I can’t change the past. I can only change my future. I can make amends to those I hurt but nothing I do will make the hurt vanish as if it never existed.
And I know that. And it is something I am aware of daily. And for me that is a very strong incentive to do right. There have been people I loved very deeply who I have hurt in my life. We’ve all been there. And I regret it constantly. I wish I could I undo the pain but I can’t. So I live with it. I don’t like it. But it is reality and reality is king in my universe.
I also know that those there is no second chance to heal the pain in another life. Once the person is gone they are gone. There is no way to ask their forgiveness then.
All this tells me that it is critical, for my own sanity, to act morally today. If I don’t I am the one who lives with the knowledge of my actions. Even if I “don’t get caught” I still live with the knowledge.
I can’t get on my knees and be “washed in the blood”. The torture of Jesus won’t wipe out any wrongs I have done. I can’t live a lifetime of “sin” and find salvation on my death bed. My sins stay with me for my entire life.
But consider the Christian who knows that whatever sin they commit it is covered “by the blood”. They confess and seek forgiveness and it is given. They get second chances. Screw up once and try again. Screw up again and try again. A few magic words on your deathbed and everything is forgiven and eternal salvation is yours.
No wonder Christians are so often malicious and vicious and so willing to inflict pain and suffering on others. I can’t do that myself. I don’t believe in magic bullets where sins vanish. If I hurt someone that hurt is part of them for as long as they live. And that pain is part of my memory for as long as I live.
It would seem to me that those who believe in the magical forgiveness of God are the ones who have the lest incentive to act morally. They may argue that we atheists are the immoral ones. But we find Christians are more willing to engage in torture than atheist. As I’ve shown they are more likely to be criminals, more likely to get pregnant outside marriage, more likely to have all sorts of problems.
Why? Could it be that one reason for this is that they also feel that no matter what evil they do they can always have the penalty paid by someone else: Jesus.
They often say that God looks on the spread sheet of our life and he sees the evil we have done. And it is so bad that no amount of good can outweigh it. He prepares an invoice for us. It is eternal damnation. But his son comes along and in his own blood writes on the invoice: paid in full.
It is sort of divine socialism where you rack up the costs and somebody else pays the bill. But what is the lesson of the welfare state? That when you separate consumption from payment people over consume. When the penalty for your sins are paid for by someone else you will tend to sin more not less. The same incentives that screw up how people act financially also screw up how people act morally.
If Jesus, not you, is responsible for the moral debts you rack up you will overspend and rack up more debts than you would otherwise.
I don’t overspend my credit card because I’m the one who has to pay it. I am also careful about what I may do that harms others since I’m the one who has to live with it. Without someone else paying my debts for me I have to watch what I do carefully. But give a teen a credit card that daddy will pay, no matter what, and what how reckless they become with their spending. Christian morality is much the same thing.
Also consider this other incentive that works against morality within the Christian framework. Punishment for sins today in a life hereafter is a very weak incentive to do right. If you don’t have to pay the bills you rack up now for several years you will overspend.
Notice how governments that lend students money for university encourage heavy debt by the students. As the debts get heavier they make it easier to borrow because the funds are “more needed”. The result is growing debt burdens on students not lessening ones even though they argue that their plans will reduce debt. Students don’t see how quickly the time will come for them to repay those debts. So they max out their credit limits since $1 today is worth more to them than $1 in five years.
As I see life we pay for our sins from the moment we commit them. We are the ones who live with the knowledge of what we have done. For the secularist the punishment begins immediately. For the religionist it won’t start for lifetime and even then, if they pray for forgiveness before they die, they won’t have to pay it back at all.
This is nothing but a system which encourages evil not good.