Growing up, I was taught about the kind of love God the Father has for his children; it was called "agape love." I understood it as the kind of love that allows a parent to forgive their children for wrongdoing, and the sort of love that allows God to forgive humankind for sin. It was something to take comfort in. The message that we had "fallen short" was pounded into my head, and God's love had to be extremely powerful to overlook how unclean and unworthy I was. Everyone cried and wailed around me, thanking God for forgiving them, feeling lucky and grateful their depravity was being overlooked by a loving Father.

Also, as a child, I dealt with a step-father who was abusive in many ways... although also constantly begging for forgiveness. This man had been abused himself, and dealt with many demons of his own. He constantly ebbed and flowed between a hair-trigger temper and a desperate contrition. He wasn't insincere when he pleaded, on literal bended knee with a tear-soaked face, for us to forgive him. And we did. Over and over, we forgave him. My mother forgave him. My brothers forgave him. I forgave him. 26 years into his marriage with my mother, he's finally matured into a fairly mellow human being.

When I was 23, I began building a relationship with my real father. He left before I was born, and left a trail of abandoned children behind him. He was a heart-breaker most of his life. When I decided I needed to know this man, he was reeling from being divorced by the one woman who had a grip on his heart. Because I hadn't known him my entire life, it was easier to forgive him than if he'd left while I was a child. He answered a lot of questions about myself just by being himself. Now, 30 years later, he has a lot of regrets. He's moving forward by building relationships with his children, but not all of them have found it within themselves to let it go. I have.

I've more than forgiven him, actually. I love him deeply, and there's not really anything he can do to shake my love... and I have been shaken. I see all that he's done to my mother, to other women, to my siblings... I still love him. I'll always love him. Maybe my step-father is unworthy; maybe my real father is unworthy... but I love them. I have agape love for my fathers.

The lesson I learned recently, while talking to my mother, is that it's actually up to children to forgive their parents. A parent is far more capable of sinning against their children than the other way around. We depend on them to be our safe place... to be our teachers, our kindest critics, our heroes, our mentors, our home. They're all just human, and they will inevitably fail us in some way or another. They will literally fall on their knees and beg us for forgiveness. Depending on the grievance, we might find it in our hearts to do so. Not everyone can forgive their parents; not everyone should. But a parent who's wronged their child should be grateful when their children are able to forgive them, and love them, despite their "sin".

This is one of the main things wrong with the idea of Christianity; with the idea that humans should ask their Heavenly Father for forgiveness. This god, who created the universe with so many flaws, and so many traps, and so many temptations; who created us with so many flaws, and so many weaknesses, and so little help... should be pleading for our forgiveness. He is the one, should he exist, who is unworthy of it. Christianity, or any religion, would make so much more sense if the Creator was the one assuming responsibility and repenting of his sin against all of creation.

I know what it's like to forgive a parent (or three). I know what it's like to love them in spite of all the hurt they caused, their character flaws, their imperfection... and it's most profound when that kind of agape loves flows from the child back to the parent. It's a given a parent loves and will forgive their children; they can't help it. It isn't a given for a child to forgive a parent.

Dear Christians: your message is wrong. God should be begging his creation for forgiveness for all the ways in which he's failed us. If only he existed.

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Comment by Wesley on July 14, 2013 at 10:33am

Cara, can I borrow this post?  You make some great points here that I'd like to share in another group.

Comment by Wesley on July 14, 2013 at 10:35am

Just the last 4 paragraphs.


Comment by CJoe on July 15, 2013 at 10:52am

Feel free. If you're posting offsite, just link back to Think Atheist for us :)

Comment by Wesley on July 15, 2013 at 1:39pm
Thanks Cara. It's a yahoo group of which I have belonged to since 1999.
Comment by Wesley on July 15, 2013 at 7:29pm  and here's a link back to the yahoo group though I doubt many here would be interested in the history, cosmology, lineage of the various arguing factions of the RadhaSoami path.

Comment by Simon Paynton on July 15, 2013 at 7:38pm

@Wesley - I have to register to get through to this link.  FT. 

What's the difference between RadhaSoami and Sikhism?  

Comment by Wesley on July 15, 2013 at 8:22pm

You cannot control how another person thinks, acts or treats you, but what you can learn to control is how you let that person affect you.    Many times that's all we have.

My wife had to learn to do this with her step-mother.  It was extremely difficult, but when she finally figured it out, not only did she not let her step mom drive her nuts.... their relationship itself became much better.     I think by learning how to do this she taught her step mom at the same time without any conscious effort.


Comment by Simon Paynton on July 16, 2013 at 8:30am

"I think by learning how to do this she taught her step mom at the same time without any conscious effort.

Damn right, Wesley! 

Comment by Simon Paynton on July 16, 2013 at 8:47am

All of this kind of behaviour is a result of someone's ego being bent out of shape: doing its functions inappropriately.  One of its main functions is to keep us feeling OK from moment to moment.  This is why the religions all talk about transcending the ego.  Transcending "feeling OK from moment to moment" in favour of the long-term results.  Some people feel a lack of control in their lives - say, because of an over-controlling father - and therefore seek to control other people.  Some people are desperately lonely and afraid, and therefore seek to get under someone else's skin as a way of making a connection.  All of these behaviours are inappropriate and destructive.  Neurotic people need to find appropriate ways to feel OK.  - courage, stoicism, self-knowledge, selfless love, transmuting their shit into gold ... etc. 

Comment by Simon Paynton on July 16, 2013 at 8:51am

"without any conscious effort"  - flatteringly, I'm known around here as a very powerful person.  It seems all I have to do is lift a finger and everyone goes scurrying.  I don't care if people think I'm powerful or not.  I just want everyone to be as happy as me. 


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