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Does the concept of forgiveness and absolution (inadvertantly or otherwise) lead to Christins feeling they have license for bad behavior?

The thought started in my mind when I learned that atheists, on a per capita basis were grossly under represented in prisons and the committing of crimes. It seems that religious people just do bad things more often than atheists.

I think it is the idea of confession, forgiveness and absolution, that is responsible for Christians behaving badly. After all no matter what they do, they just need confess and be absolved and they can feel liek they are "good" again.

As another user on this sit eput it, they can be a dick/asshole six days of the week and be absolved on the 7th day without making any restitution/reparations to those they actually have wronged.

At least AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and other twelve step groups has as one of its steps to try to make things right with those they have wronged. Religion makes no such requirements.

Any thought?

By snytiger68
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When I was a Christian, I use to see the same people going to the altar to pray for forgiveness. That made me think about all the sins they were doing every week.

xenoview Level 4 Aug 9, 2018

When I see right wing Christian evangelical pastors or like minded hypocritical politicians preaching one thing then being caught red-handed doing the opposite..sexual deviance..fraud..soliciting prostitutes etc etc..

Then they turn up on TV with their wives standing beside them begging their flock or voters for forgiveness..and claiming they were seduced by Satan etc..but they are right with Jesus again..

Well that bullshit makes me laugh and cry...because it's as clear as day that their only true regret is the fact that they were caught!

Hitchens Level 8 Aug 9, 2018

Absolutely! That's the M.O. of Catholicism. Total hypocrites.

IAMGROOT Level 7 Aug 9, 2018

Absolutely. The more religious people I’ve known have really appalling behavior and beliefs.

Sydland Level 7 Aug 9, 2018

Yes, I am sure of it.


I’m not an expert by any means on comparative religion, but as I understand it, this is one of the issues Martin Luther had with the Church which caused the Protestant Reformation (and the later splintering of the Protestant faiths). People were paying to be absolved of crimes high and low, and therefore just went ahead and in many cases did the crimes again. With the mainline Protestant churches experiencing decline, it wouldn’t surprise me that the hard edge they used to have towards indulgences may be dulled a bit.

PenLOP Level 7 Aug 9, 2018

As I evangelical, I never personally took grace as a license to sin, nor was that taught.

I think the bigger problem was how good and bad behavior were defined. It wasn't based on the actual benefits or harms of behavior, but on their "right"ness (conformity to dogma). If dogma said homosexuality is wrong, then "condoning" homosexuality by denying gays equal treatment, marriage, etc., was not harmful; allowing them to act out their sinful impulses would be far more harmful than that anyway. So it was this twisted moral landscape that wasn't empirically grounded in what was actually [un]kind or [un]loving, only what was [in]correct.

This is why I always say that fundamentalism isn't about being good, it's about being right.

mordant Level 8 Aug 9, 2018

It definitely absolves them of a fair amount of guilt. I don’t think they’re automatically more likely to be criminals though. I think a lot higher percentage of ignorant people wind up in jail and the ignorance correlates as much as the religion does. There are a lot more Christians per capita than atheists to begin with so it makes sense that a lot more of the prison population would be religious as well. Also a lot of practically unaffiliated people will either find religion while in jail as a comfort or to help their chance at looking ready for parole. Id say for all practical purposes most of those criminals are as godless as the general population of free Christians is hypocritical.


Of course! It's a ''sin'' to do something but (wink, wink) Jebus can forgive you and enfold you in his loving arms (creepy thought, yes?) go forth and sin no more. Uh, huh.


There is an old illustrative story about this point.

A little boy wanted a bike for Christmas, he behaved well and prayed every night to god for a bicycle, but come Christmas morning Nothing, no bike, nothing else, nada.
So he asks the priest why his prayer was not answered, why had god forsaken him?
The priest advised the boy to read his bible, which he did, diligently for the whole of the next year, and finally he understood what he had done wrong.
So the next year he broke in to next doors garage, stole their son's bike and spent boxing day praying for forgiveness.
Problem solved.


You bet your sweet bippy it does! Why else would someone make it up?How on earth can you figure this any other way? Joe Smith wanted more sex - thus polygamy....AGAINST HIS FIRST WIVE'S WISHES. He hurt her beyond words. A new encounter under the age of 16 for every night of the week! This is how these rules are made. Someone wants something and needs justification.... BAM!

Personally, I couldn't live like this.

SukiSue Level 8 Aug 14, 2018

With the promise of heaven after absolution and forgiveness it does seem that christians are more concerned about the afterlife than they are with the current life.


I think that some do think this. But then I also tend to question the motives of those people in behaving that way and putting themselves out there as Christian. I would tend to think that anyone who engages in reckless, hurtful, behavior because he or she can be forgiven and guilt free through God has some other sort of disconnect.


Also, becoming Christian in jail can literally give you a get out of jail free card.

I like to think that if a christian told someone 'God told me to do it' it will put them in an asylum. technically getting out of prison but still...


I've seen it too many times, so yes. Sorry but Jayzus might forgive you for your heinous BS but I won't if all you're going to do is hit church or the homeless soup kitchen, to make yourself feel better about what a Cee U Next Tuesday you were. Then return to do it allll over again. Nope that &!@@$ from space.

Qualia Level 8 Aug 10, 2018

I think you’re absolutely right, the idea of restitution or making things right with those you have wronged is key. With a Christian, rather than saying “sorry” and offering to do something nice for someone if you accidentally cause them to drop their shopping on the bus, they might just make a note in their “sins to confess” book of “being an a-hole on the bus”. It’s just not good enough.

Denker Level 7 Aug 10, 2018

The Jewish people get absolved of their sins once a year. A little fast and good to go to start sinning again ?Pretty economical.

jab60 Level 6 Aug 9, 2018

that isn't true. part of yom kippur (coming up in 10 days, folks) is asking forgiveness of PEOPLE you've harmed. in judaism, god cannot forgive you for sins against people; only the sinned-against can. not doing it again is a BIG part of it, too. actually, jews do not get "absolved" of sins. that's kind of a christian concept. the important part is asking forgiveness, WHETHER OR NOT IT IS GIVEN (by PEOPLE, i repeat, not by god). it is the penitence that is important, not the "reward" of being forgiven, or somehow absolved. it is also part of the deal to try to forgive, not just ask for forgiveness. if the asking isn't sincere, it doesn't count. that's written in. you're thinking of judaism as if it's christianity. it's not. by the way, i'm a jewish atheist. i like the humanistic parts of the religion but believe there are no gods. you may be surprised to know that (not that it matters, since i am an atheist) this isn't considered a sin.



From my past experience as a Catholic, it made me really try not to repeat the wrong.


Only Catholics I think, maybe Greek & Russian Orthodox have confession too. Definitely not in the Protestant denominations. I can’t really say whether it makes people worse or better going to confession, but maybe atheists are more intelligent in the main and don’t commit so many crimes as they know they are the wrong thing to do. Maybe they are just smarter criminals and don’t get caught!


12 step groups are a religion or cult also. Which religion are you saying makes no requirement for making things right? From what I've seen, most do suggest to make ammends. It's just that as fictional stories and fantasies can do, there are plenty of mixed messages.
There are plenty of pragmatic people who also, strangely, believe in sky fairies. Just as there are people who pick and choose bits of religious texts to fit their needs at the time.

micktoz Level 5 Aug 9, 2018

I got my AA in Addiction Studies. 12 step groups are more a lif philosophy of a way to live and be happy than it is a religion. A life philosphy can be practiced liek a religion, as many Buddhists do, which make make it seem religious or cultish, but the basic program isn't religious.

Of course I guess it depends on where a person draw the lien between religion and philosophy as to hwo a person would label it

@snytiger6 I got my information by attending NA and some AA meetings. They are theist programs that mostly try to say that they are not but are. Just saying spiritual not religious does not make it not religious in practice. AA is the most theist of all. Their concept is that you must find god. It's in all their literature. So, i guess your classes left out the most important information about them. Religious groups do tend to leave out their real information to be able to attract members. Sneaky bastards.

@micktoz Some, well actually quite a lot of 12 step groups are led by theists, who tend to priomote their own beliefs. However, I have been to 12 step groups that were nontheist.

Note: As a part of my education I had to attend many different 12 step groups. I have never had an problem with addiction myself... although my far right wing brother has had both drug and alcohol problems. He never has made to to making amends, or simply does nto realize just how much he has hurt others, and doe snto consider his past actions to have done any harm... Of course he is also religious and woudl be a prime example of the behavior suggested in the original post.

@snytiger6 I am very interested. What were these non theist groups? Did they not use god in their language or literature. Did they not have literature that explained that god would relieve them of their desire to use?
As to the amends, many people take a very long time to get to that process. Nobody really does it unless their thinking has changed to find it important. Or they don't make some out of fear or laziness.

@micktoz The groups emphasize "higher power" does not have to be god or a deity.

At the time I lived in the Los Angeles area, and most 12 step groups I went to emphasized that higher power did not have to be god.

The short answer is that "higher power" is whatever evokes feelings of love and caring to a point where you turn to a "higher power" rather than drink or use. You have to care about something strogn enough that you choose not to drink or use. My college professor used soem higher powers that people chose as examples... one chose his daughter, once chose a kitten, another chose a motorcycle.

I suspect that California (or even the West Coast of hte U.S.) is a bit different from the rest of the country in how htey deal with "higher powers".

Being atheist, I didn't choose to go to meetings that met in churches though, and beign gay, I attended a lto of 12 step groups that were specifically oriented towards the LGBT community. So, th e12 step meetings I attended were probably a lot more open minded in general.

@snytiger6 thanks for being willing to discuss this.
Being atheist, I look at the group of people telling me not to get loaded is a power greater than my own thinking. I allowed myself to be reprogrammed to make using mind and mood altering substances not an acceptable solution to me.
But, all the literature and the majority of people are theist. If it really wasn't a theist program, the god concepts and miracle concepts wouldn't be the basis of it.
And that's why so many don't actually stay clean or get to cleaning up the rest of their lives. When the belief in a miracle, mysterious power, becomes the basis of living, it's way too easy to neglect a pragmatic way of living. Hence the answer to the original question. Their sky fairy will change them when it's ready. They take no responsibility for themselves.
An adapted, pragmatic version of the 12 steps has been a good way for me to cope with my brain chemistry and thinking without using medication.
Again, thanks for the discussion.

@micktoz Yeah, I agree. When people rely on "god" as their higher power, they find he/she isn't there when they hit a crises and need help and so they relapse. I suppose tha is the eason why they have "sponsors" as part of the program, so that someone will actually be there when needed.

@snytiger6 in what way is "higher power" not a god or deity? "higher power" has always been god light.


@genessa A "jigher power" as used by 12 srep programs, can be anything that works for a particualr individual. The best higher powers are those that evoke feelings fo love and caring. One person may choose their child as their higher power, one may choose a kitten, another may choose a motorcycle (because the act of crign for it and ridign it evokes those feelings), and noen of those higher powers are a deity or supernatural... although the kitten may grow to believe himself/herself to be a deity... the person whose higher power the now cat is, will nto see the cat as a deity.

You really have to broaden definitions and horizons to get it. No matter wha tyour higher power is,. it comes form within yourself. Soem people may think it is a god outside themselves, and if it keeps them sober, in 12 step groups that is the bottom line. However, even those who think it is a god outside themselves, their higher power actually still comes from within themselves., and their own beliefs.

@snytiger6 i don't actually have to broaden definitions. that to me is like people who say god is love, or god is everywhere, in a tree, in a flower. god has a very strong, evocative definition, which may vary by religion but always involves a supreme or at least supernatural being. likewise higher power. it is too evocative to be redefined just for someone's convenience. i balk at it. i always will balk at it.


@genessa Bill W. and hte othes who originally formed AA, the first 12 step program, purposefully avoided usign god and religion, as those first few who were beating their addictions were not all people of faith. "Higher power" was a compromise term, because they could not come up with a better existing vocabulary that would include both believers and nonbelievers.

Sometimes we simply lack vocabulary to adequately describe a concept, and in those cases we do oru best approximations to fill itn, resulting in less traditional usage or terminologies. That is a part of how languages change over time..New applications to older terms, or the addition of new words as a means to describe concepts for which vocabulary is currently no adequate.

12-step groups are subcultures with their own vocabulary usages, and atheist 12 steppers are a subset of tht subculture. Within the 12 step groups there is still often confusion about wht a "higher power" is, but the confusion is usually limited to newer members. In addition there are factions with different interpretations fo what "higher power" means.

I've explained my interpretation, but I have never had an addiction myself, and even so, it is up to each individual to find their own definition and interpretation that works best for them. The goal is sobriety, not accurate definitive terminology.

@snytiger6 ah, a compromise. those don't usually work out so well.

nor have i had an addiction -- well, except to nose spray for a while because i had pleurisy for six months and the doctors gave me afrin; when i went to a new doctor and asked how to stop needing the afrin, his response was to use more afrin! duh! anyway, i eventually found a doctor who cleared my sinuses rather dramatically and in two days i didn't need nose spray any longer. let's just say i never had an addiction that required more help than i just described and thus have no inside experience in a 12-step or other addiction program. i HAVE heard that a lot of folks are unhappy with 12-step because of its religious overtones. i DO feel "higher power," compromise or no, in fact maybe because there was felt to be a NEED to compromise (if it didn't mean god, what would be the big deal?) is a deity, and thus outside of my lack-of-belief system (you're right -- our language is perversely inadequate!) and i have read intelligent articles challenging whether the 12-step program even has a high effectiveness rate, but that might be a different story.


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