Forgiveness is Over-Rated

One of the disturbing aspects of Christianity is that babies are born sinners and need forgiveness right out of the chute. In the eyes of God, the innocent child requires and receives the same forgiveness and pardons as the jailhouse convert. Yet there is no sense of justice if a newborn and murderer can both reach heaven through God’s unconditional absolution, if forgiveness is doled out like little uniform candies in a Pez dispenser, no matter the crime or offense.

It seems to me that the Christian God and his followers exercise poor judgment in forgiving people this way. Indeed I do not think our children should forgive everyone of everything because it encourages them to be doormats and victims. Preachers who counsel battered wives to forgive and endure abusive marriages are not magnanimous Christians but are perpetrators, too, just like the abusers.

Perhaps it is better to teach our children that, when people show us who they are with their words and actions, we should listen. They are telling us what makes them tick, and it’s not personal. If a person causes us harm or hurls insults (Donald Sterling), it stems from a flaw or an insecurity within him or her. If necessary, retribution for crimes or hurts are made through fines, confinement and estrangement.

This idea guides my life. When someone has treated me or others badly, when I see that a person is abusive or unkind, I choose not to have a relationship with him or her. This doesn’t mean that I’ve been reciprocally unkind. On the contrary, I believe in being cordial and keeping the peace. But I do not have to share my time or resources or foster a relationship with anyone—relative, stranger, coworker or neighbor—who would bring dysfunction or cause harm to me or my family.  

I try to live so that I don’t need to give or receive forgiveness from myself or anyone else. There is peace this way. There is no anger, no sense of victimization, no need for revenge. It is simply making choices to do the right thing and to surround myself with people who bring no harm or deception. Sure, we all hurt each other sometimes, but small, occasional hurts can be tolerated and fixed.

What does forgiveness mean to you?



143 responses to “Forgiveness is Over-Rated

  1. This is another one of those “all or nothing” hypocrisies that seem to be ripe within religious constructs. “If you forgive, that means you totally forgive and forget the transgression, as God will forgive and forget.” Except… forgiveness to the point of forgetfulness negates our ability to learn from past mistakes. It took me a good number of years, and a couple of difficult and emotionally-abusive relationships to truly understand that forgiveness is not compulsory. You can walk away, *not* forgive, but also not stew on the events of the past either. It’s that place beyond forgiveness where learning actually happens: where you become self-aware of your allowance of an abuse enough to recognize the pattern when it starts to repeat. The place where you forgive *yourself* for your failed attempts at holding together an abusive relationship, and you move on, just a little bit wiser (or maybe a lot wiser 🙂 )

    • @Shanan Winters Great comment. I also think with that “self-awareness” comes a deeper understanding of morality. When you understand what hurt is and how it feels, you know when you are doing it to others, too.

  2. I don’t mess around with forgiveness at all. I simply work to get to a point where (1) I am not exposed to the thing/person presumably needing said forgiveness, and (2) can get on with life and stop thinking about said thing/person/action/damage.

    And I don’t forget — I learn from mistakes and traumas incurred.

  3. One of the disturbing aspects of Christianity is that babies are born sinners and need forgiveness right out of the shoot.

    The idea of original sin never made any sense to me. It is incompatible with the idea of a God of love, or with the idea of a just God.

    As far as I know, there are some Christian denominations that do not include this in their required doctrines. Yet other denominations take it to be a core belief.

    What does forgiveness mean to you?

    To forgive, is to put a past action behind and not let it interfere with the future of a friendship. But a battered wife can only forgive past batterings. She cannot forgive future batterings, not can she forgive a continuing threatening behavior.

    • @Neil I would like to know which Xtian denominations do not teach about original sin. If there are such Xtians, they are in a very small minority or in some kind of non-denominational brand. Thanks,

      • As far as I know, this is a view of at least some of the Restoration Movement churches.

        Here’s an online quote:

        The majority of Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement Churches, such as theChurches of Christ, Christian Churches, and other Congregational Churches of thesame origin, reject the notion of original sin, believing only in the sins for which menand women are personally responsible.

        Above quote found HERE.

        • First of all, I can’t find that quote on the page you’ve linked to. Are you sure you put up the correct link? Or quote?

          Another quote from the site you link to:

          “The pioneers of this movement did not see themselves as establishing new denominations; rather, they sought to reform the church from within.”

          Yeah, I’m quibbling a bit about the word “denomination,” but my point is that original sin is part-and-parcel of every major Xtian group in the world today.

          Throw out original sin and you don’t need a son of god to die for humanity. That’s the problem with theology: you pull out one strand, and the whole garment falls apart.

        • Hold on. Found it. I think because the text is backgrounded blue, my original search wasn’t successful. Weird.

          So the quote is there, thanks. I didn’t know this, but my comments from the earlier post remain: this is a very small speck of Xtianity. I mean, good for them, I guess, but I still don’t see how the theology holds together. Then again, I don’t see how any theology holds together. LOL!

          • I mean, good for them, I guess, but I still don’t see how the theology holds together.

            They still hold that humans have a natural tendency to sin. It’s just that people are not born sinners, they have to actually commit a sin first. I’d say that’s enough for the theology.

            Then again, I don’t see how any theology holds together.

            It doesn’t hold together. But they make it seem to hold together. To do this, whenever a problem is discovered, they just make up new theology to paper over the problem.

            • It’s kind of like the RCC teaching about limbo that is now being walked back. Until 2007, theologians actually taught that unbaptized babies who died (and maybe still-borns, I’m not sure about that) couldn’t go to heaven because they were still stained with original sin. Of course, the babies were never impacted by this cruel teaching. The parents, on the other hand, whose babies died shortly after childbirth, that’s another story.

              And it only took about 1500 years for them to come around. Nice job, guys.

    • @Neil, Sorry for my typo up there. I meant to change “shoot” to “chute.”

      I’ve actually heard that, too, that there are some progressive Christians who don’t believe in original sin. And I’ve said that I don’t understand how they can call themselves Christians since the reason that God sent his son was to save everyone from original sin. It makes no sense to me. It’s interesting, though, the changes that are occurring in Christianity as people are moving away from the organized aspect of it. They’re coming up with their own “religions,” ones that don’t need a building or other church members.

      • @deb This is why I specifically asked about denominations, as Neil states. Sure, individual Xtians reject the notion and even individual, local churches might, but I know of no Xtian denomination that doesn’t hold to original sin.

        It’s really a twisted teaching, I think. It’s the original (if you’ll pardon the pun) self-esteem deflater. God made you in his image, but humans are imperfect, which is why you need god to forgive you for your imperfections.

        It’s like someone breaking your leg to sell you a crutch.

        • @deo LOL. True. People believe a lot of convulted things, though. Yeah, we’re dirty sinful things forever and ever because one woman was curious. Talk about an abusive parent. The funny thing is, this is what worked. If you were curious and questioned religion, you understood that it was all man-made. (You wouldn’t go to heaven.) If you blindly believed and didn’t question, you got to go to heaven. (Or so you thought.


  4. I experienced both my parents my entire life NOT forgive my father for earlier affairs. I think it is impossible for someone to forgive or feel forgiven without a tremendous amount of healthy communication, personal responsibility and a discontinuation of the behavior that hurt (usually hurting all parties involved). My father died 10 years ago and just after my mom dies I plan to aggressively work to locate a 1/2 brother from those early life events. I just hope he lives longer than my mother.
    I think not forgiving eats away at the body in a number of ways regardless if it is forgiving oneself or another.
    Great question and information as always.
    love dayna

    • @Dayna Thanks for sharing that. I imagine it was difficult for you, too. I remember a friend grew up in a household where one parent had multiple affairs and the anger was destructive.

      Part of forgiving is understanding that other’s behaviors are not personal–that it’s their flaw or weakness.

  5. lancethruster

    Christians ask for forgiveness on Sunday for the same sins they’ll commit on Monday.

    (though one wag pointed out to me that for Catholics, the Sacrament of Confession is generally on Saturday – and I was raised RCC and should have remembered that)

  6. I’ll give my perspective.

    “Original sin” — Yeah, I believe in it. It’s less the notion of “evil” than it is the original meaning of the word “sin”, though. The latter is an archer’s term that means missing the bullseye. God, to me, embodies all the good of creation — patience, kindness, forgiveness, truth, love; those things are what I should aspire to. When I am impatient, rude, jealous, boastful, those things are “sin”, i.e., missing the mark.

    The different perspectives on forgiveness is interesting. For me it’s a healthy exercise. From my side, it frees me from any lingering guilt or regret. From God’s side (I believe) it takes down any blocks that I may have put up myself. I don’t think he needs me to ask forgiveness, it’s for my benefit. From the perspective of others, if I ask them to forgive me it demonstrates empathy, that I love them, and that I desire to be reconciled. Some people I would never have to ask forgiveness of. We understand each other.

    I agree that forgiveness is cheap if there is no real desire to change (“repent”, turn aside from past behavior) on the part of the person asking for it. That’s what you’ll find most often in your accurately described “Sunday Christians”.

    • Dave, very interesting fact about the word “sin.” Thanks.

    • Dave, I appreciate your perspective. Thank you for sharing. It’s interesting that, “God, to me, embodies all the good of creation — patience, kindness, forgiveness, truth, love; those things are what I should aspire to.” How do you reconcile the unkind acts God does in the Bible with this idea that he is patient, kind, etc.? I know the Bible is the underpinning of your faith. How much do you consider literal? Thanks.

      • I think that question is too vague, honestly. The reasons for each specific instance are pretty varied. I do believe that God as portrayed in the Old Testament is consistently portrayed as patient, merciful, and loving.

        Just as an example: God (several times) orders Israel to destroy an entire populace. Men, women, children, livestock. Putting aside the character of God for a moment, do you know the way Israel made war? They sent people to announce that they were coming, often several times, before the army ever arrived. People fled; old men and women, children, etc. I’m not saying that as a justification; it’s just the broad strokes of how it’s painted when folks talk about the Old Testament that I call into question.

        In your post you mentioned the consequences of crimes. I am not a supporter of the death penalty, but I do support governmental offensives against regimes/government that are hurting the innocent. One of the many things the Canaanites, for example, practiced was child sacrifice as a religious rite. This is documented in archaeological finds that included both the urns and comemmorative stelae found at the sites. So, we have God ordering the destruction of the nation of Canaan for their crimes. Israel sends word ahead that they’re coming in judgement. Some flee, some choose to stay. Israel kind of-sort of destroys them, but leaves enough people alive to influence Israelite culture later.

        That’s just one example; it’s hard to talk in generalities.

        As for how much I consider literal. Also a tricky, general question. For example, Genesis 1 in the original Hebrew is written as a historical account. Genesis 2 is written very metaphorically, poetically, and arty. You can’t tell the difference in English.

        Additionally, the Bible doesn’t tend to gloss over anything ugly. It presents events like they occur. This gives the appearance of condoning or supporting the event in question. Example: Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and having sex with him to get preggers. There’s no mention of the morality of the situation; just that it happened. One reason is because the text was written for a high-context culture. As a primarily oral tradition focused culture, many things that would be a “duh” to the folks reading it then are mystifying to us now.

        So I guess my answer is that I try to do the research and put things into context; was this written as an account or as art? What is the author’s intent? What do I get from this? What I don’t understand I will gladly say “I don’t know.”, and then try to know.

        Sorry for the length!

        • lancethruster

          If the story of Noah is true, God drowned many innocent victims because of anger issues, and laying blame on humanity when “He” was in fact the manufacturer in charge of quality control. See how many babies, puppies, and kittens you can drown (watching their terrified agony as their lungs fill with water) before you become repulsed. This is the “patient, merciful, and loving” God of the OT?

          …a God who could make good children as easily a bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave is angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell–mouths mercy, and invented hell–mouths Golden Rules and foregiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!

          ~ Mark Twain – No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger

          • I think that’s a faulty premise couched in an as derogatory way as possible. I’m not interested in fighting, sorry. Just here to enjoy different perspectives.

            • LanceThruster

              @Dave – I truly apologize if it came off that way. It is the reality that many if not most Christians promote/defend as a valid; even as a metaphor.

              There’s no polite way to summarized “God so loved the world he drowned the ones that ticked him off (as well as animals and other living things that were entirely 100% blameless). To add insult to injury regarding the carnage, it didn’t even work. God selected the ‘good ones’…who saw first hand what happens if you upset the Almighty…and shortly down the road, things were pretty much as bad as before (pick any metric of people doing horrific vile things and you’d have to admit they’re shockingly prevalent).

              Your tone has been commendable and I do not want you think that my intellectual broadside was a personal attack. I consider it a sign of respect to speak openly and honestly of my views to anyone. That respect requires that all who choose to weigh in, with whatever worldview/godview, do so knowing that it’s a fair ‘fight’/discussion in the arena of ideas.

              Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

              ~ Thomas Jefferson

              • @LanceThruster & Dave As long as LanceT has been commenting here, I’ve always known him to be respectful. I think he lives by this, ” I consider it a sign of respect to speak openly and honestly of my views to anyone.” I also wanted to add that, after the flood, God said he would not send such destruction again, but he later burned two cities (Sodom and Gommorah) for similar reasons. The idea that we were created in God’s image with a clear objective to live up to his standards and yet we fail so miserably and are deserving of complete destruction, suggests that God is neither omnipotent or kind. What powerful creator makes a product that is so flawed it requires complete annihilation? I find it more likely that the Bible is man’s creation.


              • Roger that. I will take it into account, no worries. I appreciate the fact that although you (and Deb) have plenty of reason to be irritated with Christians you’re not personally attacking me. You have free license to attack my beliefs, I’m a big boy.

                Responding to both Lance and Deb’s comments about the flood:

                I have a couple thoughts on that. Trying to sum up a lot of theology in a nutshell, Christians believe that when sin was introduced all of Creation was put in the same boat that mankind was. “The very ground was cursed”, etc. That included introducing predator/prey relationships, the sweating and bleeding over farming, natural disasters. Why did it work that way? I have no idea why everything was tied to mankind’s choices, other than theorizing that God created mankind in his image to be a steward over everything.

                I can’t go in depth into free will, but I’m pretty sure you’ve heard those arguments before. We believe that God created us, loves us, grieved when the wrong decision was made, and put a plan in motion to fix things. Why did he create a flawed being in the first place? My opinions on this involve space & time and if you’re curious I can expound.

                The biblical account says two things that contribute to the idea that I think it’s a faulty premise to say that innocent humans (I can’t speak to the animals; other than the idea that all of creation was cursed) perished in the flood. One, the account says that none were innocent, full of violence and “wicked things”. The presupposition there is both original sin and a lack of repentance. Two, there was a long time between the ark being built and the rain starting. A hundred years? People got the word and kept doing what they were doing. My perspective goes back to what Deb said about crimes in her original post and the example of the Canaanites; there are instances when judgement is right and correct, I just believe that God is the arbiter of that instead of society. None of this will satisfy the objection, I understand that, I’m just shedding some light on the thoughts behind it.

                The rainbow covenant says that God promises not to wipe the earth clean ever again (believe it or not, this gets argued a lot in Christian circles; did God mean he’d never use water again, or is he promising not to wipe everything out all at once again? Because the former means they can yell at people that they’re going to be set on fire, I guess.) Sodom & Gommorah were individual judgments (and again, the crimes were big enough to justify the punishment, which is subjective, but the cultures were pretty horrifying) so they’d be outside the covenant.

                Let me just restate that I am not here to justify, preach, or convince. I’m hoping (sincerely) that a more in-depth perspective can enlighten just as much as your perspectives are enlightening.

                • Dave, as I began to study about the brain and our biology, psychology, I had one reoccurring thought. The god of the bible didn’t know anything about ‘his’ creation. People had an excuse to rely on superstition not understand about how fragile our brain are, and how they are profoundly affected by the environment. People didn’t know about brain plasticity or brain atrophy.

                  People didn’t know that when the brain is damaged in certain regions, i.e., the amygdala or frontal lobes, that behavior can’t simply be reversed because a god said you better shape up or ship out. People didn’t know about adverse childhood experiences and how that changes and shapes the persons personality and well being and society. Read the extensive ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study done by the CDC.

                  There are at least 50 peer-reviewed studies on adverse childhood experiences. Hundreds on the psychological ramifications of a negative environment, i.e., war, poverty, natural disasters. Read the studies about traumatic brain injuries. Read the studies about attachment disorders and pons dysfunction.. Read the studies on hyper-religiosity and how it’s the major feature of mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, temporal-lobe epilepsy and related disorders.

                  Read the studies on hormone imbalances, such as having too much dopamine in the brain, and how that can disrupt normal cognition and emotion, leading to gross errors in judgment, imperviousness to risk, huge egocentricity and lack of empathy for others.

                  I could go on and on. Humans had an excuse to claim ignorance back then. They don’t now. All of this information is available at our fingertips and a click of the mouse.

                  • Your premise is that all believers of any religion are brain damaged. That’s an interesting concept. I’ll just leave it at that.

                    • Not at all Dave. Not even close. My premise is that the bible was written by men who didn’t know anything about human neurology, biology, and psychology, except that humans have a propensity to follow (studies show that at least 95% follow without their conscious awareness) could easily be programmed, and especially children who are naturally in a low alpha/high theta suggestive brainwave state. Once programmed, this can make it very difficult to prune synapses in adulthood if the children were indoctrinated during critical brain development stages. This is why religion is so focused on targeting children.

                      You see, Dave, if the god of the bible was all knowing, ‘he’ would have taken the time to educate his creation (humans) rather than wiping the slate clean in the flood. I spent two decades studying (faithfully) the bible as a christian, and “born-again” christian. I was in love with Jesus. It took me 10 years to deprogram myself, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

                  • Well, I’ll also just add that I agree with your last sentence. There is lots of information available at our fingertips, enough to justify nearly any position or belief. The internet can be an echo chamber of biblical proportions, pardon the pun. Lots of people commonly accept the idea that Jesus didn’t really exist, a concept presented before in the late 1800s by a historian and dismissed as unworthy of consideration because there was too much evidence he was a historical figure (by respected secular historians). That just to say that the internet has enabled both a resurgence of fringe ideas that are propagated by like-minded individuals who support each other, and new ideas that gain traction because they seem to answer prejudices and objections already held.

                    Neuroscience is the latest holy grail of atheists that promises to prove that all religion is superstition and a result of poor thinking. Granted, it could be true. There is not enough evidence to support it yet.

                    • How about the fact that the first five books of the bible have been debunked and this has been known for decades. They are a myth. Now, that causes problems with Jesus’ and Paul’s credibility as they mentioned Moses and Abraham.

                    • You’ll have to expound on that. There have been theories that Moses couldn’t have written them because they didn’t have a written language – debunked with archaeological finds detailing a contemporary mail system. There are a couple other theories — if you’re using Bart Ehrman as a source, I suggest researching the supporting evidence before accepting his conclusions.

                    • Dave, I didn’t get notification that you were directing this comment towards me, regarding expounding on that. I generally do not post a link to my blog on other peoples blogs, but I think that this is one of those times that I should. The reason I doing this is because there is a very lengthy discussion in the comment section further down, and I think you will find it educational. Scroll about 26 comments down.


                    • Thanks for the link. I have read most of that before; I’m just saying that informationally, not as a judgment. There is a lot of missing information that is not taken into account; the myth side is represented well, but the objections from the other poster are worth noting.

                      A lot of the argument against the historicity of the pentateuch accepts the lack of evidence on the one hand as proof it is mythical, but ignores the other finds that provide evidence of the Exodus, for example. When the evidence is found, the finder is labeled an evangelical who found what they wanted to find. When the finder is not, and finds nothing, that’s proof. While Christians can be really convoluted about trying to justify inconsistencies/contradictions in the bible, that’s also true about the other side; it’s all about discrediting the source and dismissing the evidence. Bias definitely has to be considered, but the evidence gets confirmed by unbiased parties. Nothing in the archaelogical world is taken at face value, and woe to the digger who doesn’t thoroughly document and invite other experts to validate.

                      There is contradicting evidence on both sides. I appreciate the secular sources indicated by John, and it’s certainly something to consider. Objectively, I don’t think either side has conclusively proven it. Subjectively, there are plenty of things that have been uncovered even relatively recently that support the biblical account.

                      Example: Daniel comes to mind, with Nabonidus being the last recorded Babylon ruler. Daniel references Belshazzar as ruler. An obvious error, that. Then we found out Belshazzar & Nabonidus were co-regents and Nabonidus had left the country, which finally made Bel’s comments about Daniel being a third ruler make sense.

                      Weighing the evidence between the historical camp and the myth camp still leaves too much undiscovered area to claim it one way or another.

                      I know we’re not going to convince each other. I respect your position and understand why you hold it. I believe if you objectively look at all the evidence you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have: we don’t know.

                      You can find part of the basis for my belief here (it is from a decidedly evangelical perspective):


                      Okay, we’re getting long. I enjoy this kind of dialogue because it makes me question what I think and what I believe. I mean that. I keep telling my kids to question everything and try to set that same example. I’d be more than happy to continue the discussion with anyone you’d like via email at – I just don’t want to hijack (any more) these comments.

        • @Dave, Yes, I think this is true: “As a primarily oral tradition focused culture, many things that would be a “duh” to the folks reading it then are mystifying to us now.” It is difficult to read the Bible from our contemporary standpoints. (Perhaps a good case for a new and updated version of the Bible?) Some of the stories seem so unbelievable…sometimes so cruel. Of course, there is beauty (and art as you mentioned), too, such as the Song of Solomon.

          I just find that the loving, merciful God that I learned about in Catholic CCD is not presented as such in the Bible. Anyway, thanks for respectfully sharing your views.

          • “sometimes so cruel” — yep, exactly right. I saw contradictions for years between the OT & the NT, and finally buckled down to investigate them myself, mostly because everyone else claimed it was a mystery, or God was sovereign, or most of the other cop-outs. While I see the narrative of love & mercy there, I do not expect anyone to either take my word for it or want to do the legwork required to understand it. Why would someone want to in light of the behavior of most Christians?

            I also grew up Catholic and rejected confirmation into the church when I was 13. I did not agree with some of the things the priest asked us to repeat or claim.

            Side topic: Rev. Finlator that you linked me to in email? He was the grandfather of one of my two best friends in high school, go figure. I didn’t clue in until I read a little more about him. I lost touch with the grandson a while ago, but he was both very intelligent and an atheist. We had a few challenging conversations, was fun.

  7. It’s true, the idea of passive submission (“If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them”) and vicarious redemption are fundamentally immoral teachings.

  8. lancethruster

    Long and ribald, but Jim Jefferies talks about Limbo and Baptism here —

    Lots of other irreverent stuff there too.

  9. “What does forgiveness mean to you?”

    Letting go of the desire for revenge and establishing—maintaining healthy boundaries with those who have crossed yours.

  10. I believe forgiveness must be earned–by owning up to what you did, admitting it was wrong or hurtful and showing remorse, and making amends to the person or people you wronged. Sounds harsh, but that’s the way I feel about the subject.

  11. So many good posts, so I don’t have much to add other than this:

    Forgiveness is one of those concepts that means different things to different groups. To Donald Sterling and other public persons who don’t like being outed for being bigoted or hypocritical, forgiveness is a pass. South Carolina’s disgraced governor, Mark Sanford, got re-elected as a representative on a Jesus-forgives-me-so-should-you campaign.

    For some people, forgiveness is an exercise in self-help. I see the benefits of forgiving others, forgiving yourself, and moving on.

    For religious leaders, forgiveness is a way to control a group and get them to conform. Their forgiveness comes with strings attached – you must conform first, then you will be forgiven.

    Christianity is the only religion that erases sin. In Judaism you can repent for your sin. There is a similar concept in Japan’s Shinto religion, which does not teach about sin, but rather impurity of one’s behavior. Islam teaches that God is merciful, but you carry around your good and bad deeds until your judgement. Your good deeds must outweigh the bad in order for you to enter paradise.

    Only in Christianity can you be ‘cleansed’ of sin. Today, very little effort is required. You just need to have a chat with a priest or with God. In times past, you actually had to do something hard like go on crusade and kill a bunch of infidels, climb a hill on your hands in knees, flail yourself bloody, or abstain from anything physically pleasurable for the rest of your life.

    Oh, and sometimes forgiveness is little better than saying ‘excuse me’. Forgive me for the long post.

    • Such a great comment, Patti. When I was Catholic, as a kid I remember they had “group” confession. (Do they still do that?) I also remember going to confession in a confessional and being terrified of the priest. He gave me a lot of Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers to say for fighting with my brother. I just can’t imagine a priest sitting there listening to children who are scared of eternal punishment for normal childhood behavior and taking these things as serious offenses. As an adult, I realize that was probably the same penance required by adults who commit serious crimes…

    • >>Christianity is the only religion that erases sin.

      I think that the superficial versions of Christianity (Sunday Christians) think that it erases sin. That’s where you get self-righteousness, pride, hellfire & brimstone preaching, judging all kinds of marginalized people.

      I believe that the judgment for sin has been ultimately erased, but the consequences of sin do not go away. The acknowledgment that we all have the same flaws should induce humility and the knowledge that we are no better than anyone else. No judging to elevate yourself; that’s Pharisitical. That’s what Jesus teaches; obviously not what the majority of Christians follow.

      So to say that Christianity erases sin is not true; we have to confront it, recognize it, learn from it, decide not to do it anymore, then we’re forgiven. We still have to deal with the consequences and do not get a free pass. Or, rather, it shouldn’t be true. Plenty of folks believe what you posited.

  12. lancethruster

    @Dave -What a godless existence entails from my perspective (from a comment elsewhere – the thread was how can you have ‘hope’ without God?) —

    I hope human beings quit mistreating each other and work to make every person feel part of the human family and loved and cared for as such. I hope we learn to live in harmony with the rest of nature. I hope we continue to learn and grow as a species and are able to pass this knowledge on in ways that alter the current equation of existence in that life is often “nasty, brutish, and short.”

    I do not look to an entity that I consider mythological to bring about any change, but rather…if it is to be, it is up to me.

    And for believers I pose this hypothetical question:

    – If you were to arrive at the conclusion that we live and exist in a godless universe (not PROVE it, not FORCED to accept that view, but determined for YOURSELF that there was no CREDIBLE evidence for the existence of any god or gods and therefore the default position was the same for your views on the existence of say, leprechauns) how would you live your life from that point on?

    Suicide? No limits? Rape, rob, murder, steal?

    Try to (de)convert everyone else?

    Go insane?

    Or would you continue on pretty much as you do now? Love your family, or kids, or spouse, or significant other? Continue to partake in the joys, sorrows, and challenges that our lives entail?

    Most believers I ask won’t even humor the question. It’s usually some version of, “God exists so the question is meaningless.”

    I ask “Which god?”

    They usually answer, “There is only one.”

    This then digresses into figuring out accurately this supposed gods message for humanity.

    I conclude that if god exists, and god wants humans to know of its existence and its blueprint for ours…then it has failed miserably because virtually NO ONE is on the same page.

    Your attempts at deconstruction God remind me of this quote:

    “Theologian: An uncommon individual who, though possessing finite abilities, has been called by God himself who, though possessing infinite abilities, requires the assistance of the former in explaining Himself to the rest of us.”
    [Translation: if God existed, theologians would be out of work.]

    ~ “Rev” Donald Morgan

    • Yes; I would continue on as I am now and make the most of my life. There’s nothing I would change, except I’d get to sleep in on Sundays. I’d still give to charity, my money would just go directly to food banks instead of via church to food bank, etc. I’d still follow a lot of the NT guide to behavior, I think, because of the profundity of the messages on love, tolerance, and charity.

      I think society would continue on much as it does now, with a social contract that allows us to live with each other in safety and comfort. It can always be improved, but I would not be in fear of mass rioting and violence.

      I would hope for the same things you do. I know from experience that atheists can be good people, better than most Christians. They are frequently kind, generous, serving, humble, and tolerant. I count them among my favorite people because they are honest and do not gloss over, cover up, or otherwise obfuscate what they believe.

      For the quote; I am not so prideful that I think God needs me to proselytize or his work is unfinished or hampered. He doesn’t need me to do squat if he’s God. Again I’ll reiterate; when I post I am sharing how I think and why. I like the insights into how other people think here, and I would like to think that other people would like my insights and not simply dismiss them because I’m One Of Them, yeah? I’ll treat you with respect even if you attack, belittle, use “gotchas”, or if you skip over my reasonable responses and come at me with another question. ; )

      • “I’d get to sleep in on Sundays.”

        LOL Dave. That tickled me. 😀

      • lancethruster

        For the record, the quote isn’t about the pride of humans so much as it is an expression of the observation that God is not very good at communicating effectively with its creations.

        • Yeah, I got that from it too, but I disagree with the premise that it’s a bad thing that God requires assistance from us to communicate. I skipped over it because my thoughts on that are way too involved for a WP comment.

          • lancethruster

            Whether it (God – I do not like giving this entity a gender as it really makes no sense to me) needs humans to communicate the message or not is secondary to fact that the communication itself is horribly garbled (if true in the first place). There’s quite a range between the doctrinal messages of Fred Phelps and John Shelby Spong. Look at all the friction and suffering mankind has endured because God couldn’t be bother to craft a uniform and coherent message.

            Tech writers have a saying – “If the instructions are not understood, it’s the writer’s fault, not the reader’s.”

            • If the instructions say that you have to put the bolt in the hole and then screw on the nut, but someone else decides that the bolt has to be red, the nut has to be blue, and the board has to be oak… is that the fault of the writer or the reader?

              There are only two instructions to be a Christian (three if you split the sentences) and everything else is tertiary. It’s the tertiary stuff that arrogant people (like Phelps) take, twist, and stir up to make everything so confused that people think that the instructions are unclear or there is a doctrinal spread. Everything can be tested against those two doctrines, and if they fail the test they are not following the instructions.

              • lancethruster

                An all knowing God might have had the sense and foresight to anticipate the problems with humans grasping the essence of the supposed message (allowing that it is indeed one of ‘revealed knowledge’ from outside of the human experience).

  13. I agree with 1,000%. Having worked in the field of mental health and its related fields I cannot count the number of therapists who not only encouraged, they insisted, that their client(s) forgive a physical or sexual abuser in order to improve their mental well-being. I disagree! It’s a prop for further abuse and perhaps locks the victim to the counselor/therapist as being the only person on the planet who soothes the pain and calms the fractured psyche.

  14. lancethruster

    God sent God to die for God so that God could forgive God’s creations according to God’s unbending rules.” ~ LanceThruster

    Too Rube Goldberg for me.

    Jesus had a bad weekend for your sins.

  15. Human forgiveness is something I do to, for myself, to be at peace with whatever the trespass was and move on. For my own peace and health, forgiveness is a good discipline I try to practice. Rebuilding trust, however, is not equivalent to forgiveness. Depending on the trespass, trust may remain broken indefinitely.

  16. lancethruster

    The essence of Christianity is told to us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the Tree of Knowledge. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on. You could be in the Garden of Eden if you had just kept your fucking mouth shut and hadn’t asked any questions.

    — Frank Zappa, interview, Playboy, May 2, 1993

    • “If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata–of creatures that worked like machines–would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.” -C.S. Lewis (better than Frank Zappa at explaining the essence) 😀

      • “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
        Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
        Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
        Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”


        • lancethruster

          One of my favorites. Always effective at getting to the heart of the matter.

        • Too constrained. The premise is only about evil; but if you remove evil, you remove good. Absolute good requires letting there be absolute evil. Can’t have light without darkness. Can’t have heat without cold.

          • But aren’t all things possible with god?

            • lancethruster

              I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

              The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

              Carl Sagan – “In the Valley of the Shadow”, Parade, 10 March 1996

            • I heard this riddle once upon a time as “Can God create a rock so heavy he cannot move it?” Nope. God is incapable of doing things that are against his nature, if he exists how we think he exists. Can’t lie, can’t be tempted, can’t cease to exist. It’s not a valid question because I don’t assume all things are possible. 😀 That’s just a frequently used platitude taken out of context.

              • Then there are limits to god’s power and he is not omnipotent and he is not god.

              • To take up your terms: if god has a nature, then there is something unnatural, something outside of god’s nature. Therefore, there is something outside of god, beyond god, and so, he is not god.

                So there is the logical puzzle.

                The epistemological conundrum: how would you even know what god’s nature is? You can’t even prove that he exists, and now you claim to know his nature? How do you obtain knowledge of something that you don’t even know exists in the first place?

                We do agree on the answer to your riddle, though: god cannot create such a rock, because there is no god.

          • lancethruster

            If God wanted to grant us free will as part of our final exam for eternity, it did not have to be with such a wide latitude for hurting each other. After all, your God did not give us death lasers in the middle of our foreheads. God could have had a limiter, a governor of sorts, on our ability to do harm to others. In that world, you could go to hell for stealing someone’s parking space instead of some of the more traumatic horrors we inflict upon the innocent.

            I contend a six year old child could envision a better, more just universe. So what if they made ice cream our primary food source? They could just wish it to be nutritious and wholesome.

            Philosopher Alan Watts had a thought exercise. If you were god, what sort of universe (if any) would you bring into existence? The second part was, observing the universe as it is, what is your explanation for its origination and why it is the way it is?

            *All* religion comes from attempting the second part (because we’re unable to do the first part).

            I agree with Mark Twain wholeheartedly when he says –

            If there is a God, he is a malign thug.

            • >>If God wanted to grant us free will as part of our final exam for eternity, it did not have to be with such a wide latitude for hurting each other.<<

              It did if he wanted truly free creatures that are not limited or governed by an artificial construct. If you put a fake constraint on someone you're still limiting their free will. You can impede your OWN free will (i.e., cut off your right arm, your ability to freely use your arm is now non-existent).

              This supposes that this is the way we exist, though; we have free will. We claim the decision for free will is so that we will voluntarily love him. Otherwise might as well just feed someone love potion #9.

              "I can't make anybody fall in love with anybody else!" -Genie

              Serious question: How would you create a being that is good that will love you voluntarily without letting them choose evil? Isn't that forced?

              • lancethruster

                I was part of a panel at a Harvard Veritas Forum on our campus (at the time I was the adviser to the student atheist group). The topic was “Is there a blueprint for our existence and a purpose to our lives.”

                I answered the ‘blueprint’ is our DNA, and our purpose is in being who we are (which is fortunate because no one…NO ONE…could be a better you than you).

                It is embodied by the understanding that your life consists entirely of “What will you do next? (and for ‘extra credit’ – why?).

                To say that God has a plan and that everything happens according to “His” will is an abomination to me (more on that later – got to wolf down lunch – sorry pigs, if God hadn’t wanted us to eat ham, She wouldn’t have made it taste so good).

      • lancethruster

        I read “The Problem of Pain” and felt his view that maybe animals only appear to suffer was pretty much obscene.

        I’ll take Zappa over Lewis any day.

        You’ve got to be digging it while it’s happening ’cause it just might be a one shot deal.

        — Frank Zappa, Waka/Jawaka

        • Yeah, that was unpalatable. I understand your objection to the flood a little more. You value animals enough to see the killing of them (esp. by drowning) is horrific. I agree, and I do not understand that piece of it.

          • If we have complete free will, then there is no sense in praying. And if we pray, and God intercedes, then how awful is it that all the prayers of others–such as abused or sick children–go ignored?

            • This is gonna be a tough answer, as it almost requires being a believer to relate to it. Prayer for us is not about having our needs met, but aligning ourselves with God’s purpose. We trust that he both wants the best for us and that we can’t know all his reasons for what goes on. But it’s all about trust; the examples that we have in the text, like Paul and Silas being illegally imprisoned and beaten by the magistrates in I-don’t-remember-where leading to the foundation of the Mesopotamian church and basically brought Gentiles into the fold. From bad came good (at least in our eyes).

              I liken it to how we trained our kids to respond to fire. They know that if I am outside and they are in the window and I tell them to jump, they should jump without hesitation or questioning. They trust me, but they’ll break limbs. And understand why; but if I never told them why I asked them to jump, they’d still trust me. Neither would make the fact they were safe by the pain any less true, they’d just know in one case and not know in another.

              None of that is a comfort to people suffering abuse or sickness. I would never, ever tell someone “God has a plan!”. I’d just do whatever I could for them and try to comfort them.

              From my view, it’s about the character of God and trusting him. From the outside, it looks like a cop-out. Good things happen, it’s God. Bad things happen, it’s God. Prayers answered, it’s God. Prayers not answered, it’s God. Everything is God, woo.

              • How can you say everything is god when you say god has a nature and there are therefore things unnatural to and outside of god?

                You can’t even prove that god exists and yet you go on and on about his character and nature.

                I’m not trying to be nasty. I’m just not letting you get away with logical sleights of hand here.

                If you admit that you can’t prove god exists, then I’ll stop answering. Otherwise, you’re going to have to realize that many people on a list like this will take what you’re saying seriously.

                • I totally admit I cannot prove God exists. I’ve never stated I could, though. I am only relating what I believe.

                  • OK then.

                    I believe people are free to believe what they want, but I don’t see why I should accept what you believe when it comes to nature and character of something that you admit you don’t even know exists.

                    Like I said, though, you’re free to believe what you what.

                    Be well.

                    • It’s not necessary for you to accept what I believe; I’m sharing for insight and conversation. There is no way to prove God exists; that doesn’t mean I don’t know he does. You don’t have to accept that either.

                      Thank you for not being belittling and sarcastic… any more.

              • “it almost requires being a believer to relate to it.”

                Don’t forget Dave, we were once believers. We can relate.

                “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” Luke 10:27

                So if you have a hard time feeling love for your god, do you think that strains your relationship with this god? And do you even know what the will of god is? Are you basing that on the man-made bible? And if someone told you to jump from your house because it was on fire, but you saw no fire in the house, would you jump anyway? You get my drift?

      • An excerpt of what Dave quoted:

        “The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.” -C.S. Lewis”

        Mere milk and water? Christian men are, for the most part, lousy lovers. *wink* Why? Because they give their best love away to an invisible entity that requires faith to believe in it. And because the Christian god is a jealous god. But it might interest you to know that when you are in love with your god, (Jesus the bridegroom) as well as seeing Jesus’ father as your maternal father, too, and especially more “raptured” with your god than your partner, like C.S. Lewis points states, you are at an even greater risk of deactivation of neural networks associated with negative emotions (towards your god) and critical social assessment. In other words, your love for your god has blinded you. Plus, you are getting a neurochemical buzz from believing. 😉

        The Neural Correlates of Maternal and Romantic Love

        Both types of love activated regions specific to each, as well as overlapping regions in the brain’s reward system that coincide with areas rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. Both deactivated a common set of regions associated with negative emotions, social judgment and ‘mentalizing’, that is, the assessment of other people’s intentions and emotions. We conclude that human attachment employs a push–pull mechanism that overcomes social distance by deactivating networks used for critical social assessment and negative emotions, while it bonds individuals through the involvement of the reward circuitry, explaining the power of love to motivate and exhilarate.”
        fMRI scans have been done with believers, devout believers, and what do you know — same areas of the brain light up with lots of reward chemicals. Same area of the brain that processes cocaine and heroine. So Dave, if you didn’t get rewarded neurochemically, you wouldn’t believe in your god. Don’t forget the dopamine (dope). Neuropharmacological studies generally show that dopaminergic activation as the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity.
        PMID: 16439158 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] “The role of the extrapersonal brain systems in religious activity.”

        • >>Mere milk and water? Christian men are, for the most part, lousy lovers. *wink* <>So Dave, if you didn’t get rewarded neurochemically, you wouldn’t believe in your god.

          I wouldn’t be married if I didn’t get rewarded neurochemically, and I wouldn’t get pleasure out of interacting with you fine folks if I didn’t get rewarded, sure. That is an explanation of how the brain works, but it’s not conclusive as to cause and effect. You can interpret it that way if you have bias, yeah, like the Duke study about religion causing brain damage. It wasn’t the exercise of religion, it was the stress – but that was propagated alllllll over the blogosphere as “religion causes brain damage”. That was some fun.

          I’ll tell you something I don’t even share with other Christians. I don’t feel like I love God. That is, I have no real emotional reaction to exercising my faith. I find myself incapable of feeling emotion towards someone I can’t see or touch. I definitely get rewarded for my other human connections and take pleasure in those attachments. My “love” for God/Jesus I practice through obedience and loving other people as… a surrogate? I would love to get brainaly (/makesupword) rewarded for religious activities, even if it makes me more stupider.

          • @Dave For an emotionally healthy person, this actually makes a tremendous amount of sense: “…I don’t feel like I love God. That is, I have no real emotional reaction to exercising my faith. I find myself incapable of feeling emotion towards someone I can’t see or touch.”

          • ” It wasn’t the exercise of religion, it was the stress ”

            Yes — stress with born again Christians, both Protestant and Catholics and those with no religious affiliation. It was brain atrophy in the hippocampus due to the release of stress hormones, as you are aware. I’m not sure if you are an evangelical, but evangelical Christianity is fear based but so is Catholicism.

            “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: ” 1 Peter 5:8

            The two largest denominations are the RCC and the Southern Baptist Convention — and both believe that women are to submit and obey and can’t hold ‘priestly’ positions because — Eve was the first to sin and her husband shall have the rule over her according to mythology in both the OT and NT. Can Christianity be any more insulting to half the human species? Christianity even cursed motherhood — making it a punishment.

            So I can understand why you have difficulty loving such a god. But why on earth would you want to spend eternity with this god? Even if this god existed, I’d rather be eternally separated from this god than to worship it for eternity.

            So why do you believe, if you are fully aware that one doesn’t have to be a Christian or believe in god to have prosocial behavior. Is it about being reward with eternal life? it is about death anxiety? And, btw, I appreciate your courage (taking the heat) in engaging us ‘heathens’ in discourse. 😉

            • I’m a Christian that wholly believes what Paul said when he berated some folks for saying some follow Apollos, some follow Peter, some follow Paul. I look at denominations, the strife, the warped doctrines, and the state of the Church today as consequences of not heeding that warning.

              I became a Christian to change, in a nutshell. I saw in myself, thoughts and otherwise, my base instincts and concluded they were wrong. Not instincts like food or sex, but contempt of other people, pride in myself, the willingness to do anything to get what I wanted. I concluded that while these thoughts are natural to pretty much everyone, they were wrong. I felt like there were moral absolutes and I was not living up to them. I saw a dude fundamentally change throughout a school year in college. I wanted to change like that. I asked him what happened and he ranted on about Jesus and I thought he was completely bonkers. After a couple times of crazysauce I got exasperated and decided to test out what he said.

              So I was a full practicing Christian for a few years, got married. I quit church and quit practicing for about 16 years after that (I’m 42). I never really stopped believing in the justice of atonement, but it was the only thing I still believed. Didn’t believe in the bible, thought Christians were hypocritical fakers, preachers were useless and I couldn’t learn jack from them being talked at for an hour and a half, and “worship” drove me out of my mind with the saccharine songs and clappy-clap. I was just disgusted with the whole thing. Naive and superficial.

              That changed about three years ago; what happened is deeply private. I’m not ready to share that here. I started studying in earnest about a year before that to see if I could debunk things.

              >On women – I know this is going to open up a can of worms. The common narrative is that the Bible puts women in an inferior place to men. At the time, women were basically property. Men could put them aside with a divorce and toss the woman out on the street. For the time (and that’s important) the NT elevated the women to equal status with the men. Paul states in Galatians, unequivocally, that everyone is equal – men and women, Jew and gentile, slave and free. Paul did believe that the duties of men and women were different, and instructed the churches according to the culture of the time. Society has changed, those cultural norms are no more, and women should be free to be pastors or teachers or whatever they want.

              • “Didn’t believe in the bible, thought Christians were hypocritical fakers, preachers were useless and I couldn’t learn jack from them being talked at for an hour and a half, and “worship” drove me out of my mind with the saccharine songs and clappy-clap. I was just disgusted with the whole thing. Naive and superficial.”

                Oh, the irony. It burns!

              • “I became a Christian to change, in a nutshell.”

                Fair enough, and I really appreciate your honesty. It appear to me that needed acknowledgement for someone you thought created the universe and everything in it? HUGE dopamine buzz. 😀 Primates will give up a cherry juice reward to view images of dominant primates of their own species. A form of hero worship. You didn’t think you had it in you to change so you put your faith in faith? But the ironic thing is Dave, — it was you to did the changing. Your belief in god was a placebo. Placebo’s can be very effective, which is why physicians commonly write placebo prescriptions for pain relief. The brain is powerful.

                “That changed about three years ago; what happened is deeply private.”

                I understand. I had an unbelievably life-changing experience in 2005. So, you had a ‘religious/spiritual type experience’? I’m not asking you to share something very private. It took me a long time to share my experience and it’s only been in the last month that I did. I needed to understand what happened, so I spent countless hours doing research. But if you did, I recommend you reading my post on interhemispheric intrusion in the “Neuroscience Explanation for Spiritual Experiences”. Had I had this experience while I was a believer, I would have most certainly attributed it to the Christian god.

                • >>You didn’t think you had it in you to change so you put your faith in faith? But the ironic thing is Dave, — it was you to did the changing. Your belief in god was a placebo.

                  You already know what I think about that. 😀

                  >>So, you had a ‘religious/spiritual type experience’? I’m not asking you to share something very private.

                  It was more of a practical one that showed me I wasn’t alone in my beliefs about the general Christian community. But, yeah, there was emotion and spiritual stuff and a religious experience involved. The dopamine was a’flowin’.

                  I appreciate the thoughts, the civility, and the discussion. 🙂

                  • “I appreciate the thoughts, the civility, and the discussion.”

                    As do I. 🙂

                  • Btw, my apologies for the typos and words left out. Serves me right for not proofing. Should you need any clarification, please let me

                  • “It was more of a practical one that showed me I wasn’t alone in my beliefs about the general Christian community. But, yeah, there was emotion and spiritual stuff and a religious experience involved.”

                    So, you had an epiphany? And emotions? And spiritual stuff? Oh, I am getting tickled now. I’d say you had an interhemispheric intrusion. 😉

                    • I went from your blog to the excerpt on Murphy’s blog (he needs to fix his blog! /webadmin) and found this interesting:

                      “Because positive thoughts (involving the right hippocampus), and positive feelings (involving the left amygdala) are on opposite sides of the brain, prayer changes the balance of activity on the two sides. Whenever that’s happening, the chances of the activity on the two sides (for these areas) falling out of phase with each other goes up substantially. Sensed presence experiences become more common until the day arrives when God’s presence is something the person feels at all times.

                      Their behavior matches the mood of their prayers more and more. Eventually, the day can arrive when the person’s experience of God goes past just feeling his presence, and begins to appear as a guide, even one with a voice, The person can surrender to what they feel is ‘divine will’, and ‘let go of their ego’.”

                      While I’ve never felt like I’m being watched, I’ve definitely experienced the “still small voice”, according to the lingo. Along with the “peace of being in the center of God’s will”. The brain chemistry behind it is fascinating.

                    • Dave, since you quickly went to Murphy’s site, you may have not noticed that I didn’t experience a “sensed presence”, but I can cause that to happen via neurotechnology and a few simple concentration/focus techniques. I hope that Debbie doesn’t mind that we have gone OT — but I would like to share this, because it all really ties in when you look at the bigger picture. I am still working on forgiving Christianity for all the crap it’s done to humanity and especially women and children. If it wasn’t for studying about the brain, I would be quite bitter. And, I agree with Debbie that forgiveness is over-rated. But beside that, I wanted to share from another link regarding prayer. Murphy, who is a behavioral neurscientists states

                      “Although I’ve met people who claimed that they ‘know’ that the universe has a creator, I’ve never met anyone who claimed to have been there when it took place.

                      Ordinarily, our two ‘selves’ work in tandem with one another. The one on the left is sort of in charge of things, but constantly gets input from the sense of self on the other side. Both of them are accustomed (or habituated) to this arrangement. But, once in a while, (or for some people, quite often) the two fall out of phase with one another, and the left-sided ‘self’ manifests by itself. When this happens, we experience our own, right-sided, silent sense of self coming out where the left sided sense of self can and does experience it.

                      If God is actually a part of our own selves, then prayer might just be a way we talk to ourselves to bring out that silent self. There are types of prayer that traditional spirituality respects most, like those of thanksgiving, prayers for others well-being, and healing, and prayers to be granted spiritual gifts, like healing skills, wisdom, insight and faith. When a person prays in these ways, they divide their attention between positive thoughts, and positive feelings.

                      Because positive thoughts (involving the right hippocampus), and positive feelings (involving the left amygdala) are on opposite sides of the brain, prayer changes the balance of activity on the two sides. Whenever that’s happening, the chances of the activity on the two sides (for these areas) falling out of phase with each other goes up substantially. Sensed presence experiences become more common until the day arrives when God’s presence is something the person feels at all times.

                      Their behavior matches the mood of their prayers more and more. Eventually, the day can arrive when the person’s experience of God goes past just feeling his presence, and begins to appear as a guide, even one with a voice, The person can surrender to what they feel is ‘divine will’, and ‘let go of their ego’.

                      Remember we’re talking about the sense of self here. this process can unfold to the point where ‘they’ are all but gone, and the boundaries between their self, and God’s presence begin to blur. Carry that to it’s extreme, and you might find people saying things like “I and The Father are one”. And we all know where THAT can lead……” More

                      Oh, yes we do know where that can lead. 😀

                      Had you been in Saudi Arabia — you would be worshiping Allah. Had you had this experience in India — the Monkey God.

                    • First, this is good stuff. I respect your journey and agree that the institution of Christianity has done a lot of harm to many people as you said. I don’t think the institution is representative of Jesus himself, but that is a topic for another time, if ever.

                      I disagree with the idea that geography has anything to do with what religion someone follows; it definitely influences what religion someone is raised in, their natural inclination, and what they will traditionally stick with if they just carry on. There are plenty of people who have grown up one religion and then denounced it to follow another at the risk of estrangement or life & limb in Islamic countries. That goes for any faith. The consequences are less severe in some cases, but I’m under no illusion that risking death makes the truth of a belief certain. All that to say that the world is a big neighborhood now and faiths are cross-pollinating; it’s no longer a legitimate argument to say region is X faith. You can be statistically correct in a broad sense, but it’s pretty irrelevant.

                      Okay, back to the brain. You know the traditional belief is that a person is composed of more than one part – the flesh, the spirit, and the soul. The soma, pneuma, psyche. I can gather that both the flesh and the soul would be explained as one. Just the brain in the body. I’m not sure if there’s a specific explanation for the spirit there, but it sounds like you would not differentiate between spirit & psyche, right?

                      Heading home now with a kid’s school event tonight, so I may not be back til the morning, we’ll see. I look forward to more.

                    • “I disagree with the idea that geography has anything to do with what religion someone follows; it definitely influences what religion someone is raised in, their natural inclination, and what they will traditionally stick with if they just carry on. There are plenty of people who have grown up one religion and then denounced it to follow another.”

                      I believe that culture/environment plays a huge role, and we see this with near death experiences, too, but again, that’s another subject. Traditionally, person would never know about or practice Christianity in a non-Christian culture unless missionaries came to evangelize, or the country/culture was over taken by another culture/religion like has happened all throughout history. But what is happening is that people are leaving traditional religion in droves because of education.

                      Also, I do consider myself a “spiritual” person, just not in the traditional sense because it got tainted by religion.

                      “I can gather that both the flesh and the soul would be explained as one.”

                      Yes, and even the bible states that in Genesis “And man became a living soul.” Hebrew —> nephesh chayah. Same as “living creature” when describing animals in the same context.

                      “but it sounds like you would not differentiate between spirit & psyche, right?”

                      Correct. Hope you have a nice evening, Dave, and I look forward to picking this up later. Thanks again for the civil discourse, and my thanks to Debbie for being such a gracious host.

                    • I’m still cranking over the information. I read some excerpts from “How God Changes Your Brain” last night. Reputable or not? I did not investigate the authors. Also, it may take me a couple days, I need to do some coding and stuff which means head down. Do you mind if I email you via your blog?

                    • Please, do Dave. I look forward to your email when time permits. 🙂

                    • Btw, Dave, I repeated what you quotes, because I wanted to put it all in context. You left out the most important part which is what I highlighted. *wink* Sounds just like what you shared with us today regarding following the will of god — which is, of course, your sense of self. 😀

                      How do I know this? Because you don’t have to be a Christian to experience this. That pretty much makes Christianity generic. Yes, you are right — the brain is awesome.

                    • Ooops, you did quote that part. My bad. I was reading your response from a little reply window on WP, and didn’t catch that.

          • I was laughing at the first part of what I quoted above, but I made a bad objection face and it didn’t take.

            • LOL — I’m sorry if I came across as me calling you a lousy lover. Obviously, C.S. Lewis was. But it’s a common joke among Christian women. I was a Christian counselor for many years, both in church and on Christian radio. 😉

  17. lancethruster

    @Dave – Here’s the message that resonates to me from, not a higher power, but a simple human reaching out to share his worldview in hopes of our betterment.

    “Be aware of this truth that the people on this earth could be joyous, if only they would live rationally and if they would contribute mutually to each others’ welfare.

    This world is not a vale of sorrows if you will recognize discriminatingly what is truly excellent in it; and if you will avail yourself of it for mutual happiness and well-being. Therefore, let us explain as often as possible, and particularly at the departure of life, that we base our faith on firm foundations, on Truth for putting into action our ideas which do not depend on fables and ideas which Science has long ago proven to be false.”

    ― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

  18. lancethruster

    @Dave – this is a repost where I said I’d love for humans to ask god to resend/clarify its message because we’re not all on the same page and it’s causing trouble/friction between us.


    One of the things that comes to mind when discussing how various beliefs are treated, which usually depends mostly on whether they are in the majority or minority (majority often makes arguments based on populism, minority generally has to defend against the tyranny of the majority), is the difference between ‘respecting’ someone’s belief system versus ‘tolerating’ it.

    We certainly can be respectful towards someone holding a particular worldview, while finding the worldview itself ludicrous. While it seems like a contradiction of sorts, that’s just the way it is. We tolerate different views in general, but when it comes to specifics, we often insist that the belief system do no harm such as when the welfare of children is concerned as with faith healing verses western medicine (though there are grey areas such as with blood transfusions).

    It’s interesting to me that a worldview (the belief in a god of revealed knowledge – i.e. sacred texts) insists on special status requiring kid gloves rather than willing to go toe to toe in a knock down drag out in the arena of ideas because it feels it can’t compete otherwise. While I feel no one’s belief should be arbitrarily and unnecessarily demonized, the claims of ultimate knowledge on the nature of the universe must be suitably scrutinized.

    They can’t all be right, and as I’ve written before, a true leap of faith would be to jettison ALL sacred texts and offer a prayer from all of humanity asking “God” to resend and clarify its message if it is really out there. Can you imagine the level of scrutiny that would be given globally to those claiming to be prophets and messengers of God? Talk about sectarian friction.

    And if this “God” petitioned humbly by all of mankind to put up or shut up is a no show, then we can get on with our lives in a rational manner and quit distracting society with infantile fairy tales.

    • Even if the message was resent, how long would it take for people to latch onto the pieces that say what they want to say? Even the simplest of things gets turned about. Einstein, for example. Theists and non-theists both claim him as proof of their beliefs. You have the quote on the side of the blog, and you have him saying “Religion without science is blind. Science without religion is lame.” It’s like some silly fencing contest and both sides try to score points (not that I think Deb was trying to score points, it’s just a good quote).

      The message has to be investigated, not the messengers. Reduce it to the basic truth(s) and what do you get? Something that stands up to investigation or not? The criteria for that investigation will always be colored subjectively. There will always be noise surrounding any message, and we have to put our brains to deliberately tuning it out and finding out for ourselves. I don’t think snopes or straightdope would exist if even the simplest of messages didn’t get warped and twisted by mankind.

      • lancethruster

        So you think the task is just to complicated for your God? We could wake up having all dreamed the same dream. We’d still have free will…but the cat and mouse games of this shadow god would be history.

        I remember a comic whose line was…

        Sure I believe in god. It’s just that my God is a capricious prick.

        The concept of God as “all good” just isn’t supported by reality.

        • I think I’ve said all I can say about the topic. We’re just starting to repeat previously said stuff now. Thanks for the discussion, ‘preciate it.

      • lancethruster

        What also comes to mind is, “Would it have killed Jesus to write it all down himself?”

  19. lancethruster

    When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

    But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money!

    ~ George Carlin

    expanded text here –

  20. I love this post! What an important but often undiscussed idea. My personal definition of forgiveness, as I apply it to my life, is that I forgive those who have hurt me in the sense that I try not to become bitter about the wrongs done to me. As the saying goes “forgive someone not b/c they deserve it but b/c you deserve peace.” However, just because I’ve “forgiven” someone does NOT mean that I’m going to continue a relationship with someone who’s seriously wronged me. Absolutely not. That would just be irrational & fundamentally stupid, to be frank. In the end we have to stay true to ourselves & do what is best for our own safety, both mentally & physically. If it’s something small & I see that the perpetrator has truly taken steps to change their behavior, I am very quick to “forgive & forget,” but if it’s something serious, you better believe I’m not going to forget it b/c that would just be opening myself to a continued world of pain.

  21. Hey, 100 comments and not much angst even with a crazy believer in the house. You guys are awesome.

  22. I enjoyed reading your comments, and the many wonderful insights. I see this as a community blog, so always feel free to post to other sites or your blogs. This is a collective effort. I love seeing/hearing/reading people being respectful and trying to understand each other. I don’t care what your views are. Each of you brings an interesting perspective. 🙂

  23. Just a few years removed from a lifetime of evangelical Xianity, the idea of a god who requires human sacrifice in order to forgive someone strikes me as both repulsive and ridiculous. If one of my kids came to me and asked forgiveness I wouldn’t say, “Sure, but you have to bring me your brother first so I can kill him. Don’t worry, I’ll bring him back to life in a few days.” Even if the resurrection could somehow be proven, why would I want to follow a god who required it in the first place? As for the OP, I pretty much agree, Deb. Good job.

    • lancethruster

      I agree. There’s so many aspects of the whole narrative that just don’t pass the ‘smell test’ as far as I’m concerned.

  24. Late to the party, as usual.

    I very much agree with you, Debbie. I think forgiveness is overrated, too. The notion of forgiveness has been shoved down my throat by well-meaning people for years concerning my mother. She and I are estranged, and have been for many years. She’s just one of those bitter, toxic people with whom a healthy, positive relationship is not possible. But many people can’t fathom turning one’s back on one’s own family – one’s mother, for god’s sake! – and I’ve had “forgiveness” preached at me time and time again. It’s not that I bear her any ill will, I just choose, for my own emotional well-being, not to have her in my life (or in my children’s lives).
    If we can find peace in our thoughts and feelings towards people who have harmed us, that’s certainly healthy for us (but also not easy to do – I still carry around a HUGE amount of anger towards my first husband who was an abusive alcoholic drug addict who died of an overdose 15 years ago), but to categorize “forgiveness” as a virtue . . . there’s something wrong with that, i think. For people who have been deeply harmed and scarred, not forgiving is a form of self-preservation.

  25. Also, here’s a nice take on the Christian notion of forgiveness. I love this guy. My oldest son turned me on to his videos.

  26. lancethruster

    “Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgment Day: We never asked to be born in the first place.”

    ― Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake –

  27. Wow, Debbie, I agree with your definition of forgiveness. Sure, I can forgive misunderstandings, bad days and little hurts, but I feel it necessary to STOP over looking dangerous, consistent faults of others. While I was a Christian I tried my best to show myself friendly and prayed often for everyone, even the meanest abusers in my life. When I became an atheist, I suddenly felt just fine about permanently cutting off my abusive parents at the age of 40. I also find myself struggling less with trying to find favor with others. The Bible weighs heavily in forgiving everyone as a New Testament believer, and always asking God to give you favor with those around you. In reading this as I type, I can see so clearly why Christianity was such a bondage for me. HIS yoke is NOT easy and HIS burden is NOT light when you really study the Bible, attend church and pray without ceasing as followers of Christ are commanded to. That’s why I prefer to believe that there is no God versus the idea of the sadist I tried so desperately to know for almost four decades.

    Joyce Meyer and John Bevere are two Christian leaders who are super big on this whole forgiveness movement. So much so, that they actually promote toxic relationships. Meyer fed, clothed and housed her mom and dad, the same man who raped her several times a week every week for years. Bevere knowingly allowed one of his kids to be taught by an incredibly mean teacher at his kid’s Christian school for at least a whole year. Sorry, this isn’t about forgiveness, it’s the ultimate in control and manipulation. I’ve been in enough toxic Churches to recognize this. This is a huge reason why religion has such a strong hold on so many people. This type of teaching is everywhere and encourages people to be God’s bitches. (More of the slave type, not buddy kind.)

    • Hi Charity. Good to hear from you as always. I didn’t know that Meyer was a incest victim. Wow. The whole forgiveness thing encourages people, especially women, to place themselves at emotional and physical risk. Sad.

      • lancethruster

        @Deb & Charity.

        Me either. Has me see her in a little different light (though nothing changes on my view of her theological understandings).

        • Hey Lance and Debbie. Joyce often talks about divorce and incest because she had horrible experiences with both. I’m afraid that when women hear her story about the repeated rape and how she responded to her rapist, they’ll continually think that something is wrong with them for not being forgiving or generous enough to their rapists. I don’t know about you, but I find that mindset incredibly dangerous! That’s strong enough to cause people to have mental disorders and even more heart ache for they’ll fear that they are not “good” Christians. Joyce Meyer also talks lowly about her deceased Vietnam veteran brother. Of course, she uses manners and nice religious terms when she speaks of him, but it’s obvious that she believes that she took the “high road” because she’s in the ministry and her brother “gave up” because he over-dosed himself to death a few years ago. Again, a very toxic way of thinking. My mother has been a huge Joyce Meyer fan consistently for at least two decades and she acts naive about her part in the extreme neglect and abuse of my childhood and even the consistent bullying for many years after that. She played the forgiveness card with me up until I cut things off with her dad last summer. She would even refer to Joyce Meyer’s teaching often in the emails she sent me. Throughout various periods of time in my former faith I often read books and watched programs based on the ministry work of T D Jakes, Joyce Meyer, John Bevere, Sid Roth and many others. I saw quite a few preachers, mega church pastors, faith healers, prophets, teachers and evangelists in person. When you push and push for people to forgive, no matter what or how often, you are setting them up to actually be enslaved to the person/people who hurt them. It’s a way to control and manipulate the masses, that’s why rulers and politicians are so successful in using religion to dominate over their citizens/kingdom. Knowing all of this now, though I suspected it years before my deconversion, I now look at the beatitudes of Matthew 5 quite differently. In other words, “be a good little bitch and don’t make waves and you’ll inherit the earth in the end.” The Jesus in the Bible isn’t quite so loving after all, is he?

          • @Charity I agree– that mindset is very dangerous. After all you’ve said about your parents, I understand the separation–it’s healthier for you and your kids.


          • lancethruster

            @Charity – Took me a bit to see your response but I agree completely. Allowing someone to entirely escape the consequences of their actions is too much like enabling.

  28. lancethruster

    “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

    ― Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

    • @LanceT Good quote…provided that the other folks around you aren’t harmful.

      • lancethruster

        True, you can send out some generic love their way in the hope that it might help set them on a desirable direction, but never to the point that it does yourself damage, as you/I/all of us are worthy of that same loving care as well. Like with rescue teams, you can’t help anyone else if you fail to look out for yourself.

      • lancethruster

        …love whoever is around to be loved.

        I would add that I think that part entails the notion that you can remove people from your circle to be loved by you whose actions have made it so.

  29. Well, as someone who was hurt repeatedly as a kid and unable to stop it at the time, I had to learn to forgive to move on with my life and not be stuck in victim mode. Forgiving them freed me up to be able to love again, and was really for me, not for those who hurt me. So, forgiveness has done more in my life than about anything else.

    I do agree to be careful who you are around, but as a kid you can’t fully.

  30. I’m just tacking on a semi-unrelated comment here Deb. I want to THANK YOU for Growing Up Godless. A religious neighbor called me today (with a non-religious concern) and ended up preaching to me about jesus and the bible and then proceeded to tell me that if I really loved my children, I’d want them (and I’m paraphrasing here) taught right and saved on judgement day. It was a losing battle and I tried to end it kindly and gracefully, but HOLY CRAP it left me overwhelmed and angry. I immediately broke out your book and read some meaningful chapters, and felt not-so-alone again. Thanks for being our voice and supporter.

    • @Jody That was so nice of you to write and tell me that, Jody. Thank you.

      I’m really sorry you had to experience that with your neighbor. (She’s not judging, is she?) Maybe you need to tell her that you hope she chose the “right” religion. Otherwise, Gawd’s going to be pissed and send her to hell anyway.

  31. LOL 🙂 I just might do that as I’m sure she’s not done with me…

  32. The last two of your posts had viruses in them. Even trying to go to your post raises my virus protection’s hackles.

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