Is forgiving and turning the cheek the right thing to do.

I was watching Joel Olsteen this morning. Just because it stirs me up, maybe a bit of a masochist. He was talking about how we should honor people, even those that are not acting in a kind way. Then I got to thinking about boundaries and how turning the cheek and always looking at things with rose color glasses may not be the moral thing to do. My wife's mom was a great person and everybody loved her but her husband was abusive and she stuck around for the abuse. Should she not have stood up for herself and told him to take a hike. I remember Christopher Hitchens talking about the way Christians preach " love your enemy" and how that is a bad thing, that we must defend ourselves against those who are abusing us. I guess its a question of balance and i would be interested to see others opinion on this matter. I astounds me how some people can forgive someone who has say killed a loved one. Are these people better off because living with the hate would consume their lives or are they crazy? We can see how at some point, like with wars between countries, we need to move on.Does this only happen with forgiveness? Another strange thing is that usually left wing atheists don't believe in the death penalty but Christians do. I may be wrong on that one. I'm sure there are many posts related to this and i guess i should do more reading and less writing, I am new to this place.

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Reg, you make a good point.  Forgiveness is such a universal and fundamental part of morality that it occurs in a wide variety of situations and comes in a number of different forms. 

"Forgiveness must come with closure for both parties."  - I think this is the common factor. 

I think there are times when to forget about something and move on is a form of forgiveness in itself.  A "sorry" would be nice but hey, life's too short to give a fuck sometimes. 

Not to forgive when you ought to, when the person has said sorry and mended their ways, is an offense in itself I think.  It's a form of meanness and spite.  But then - "forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Condemn not, and you will not be condemned.  Act like an arsehole, and people aren't going to treat you very favourably." 

If an offense has been committed, very much depends on the attitude with which it was done.  "They might not even care about the results of their actions towards you."  - or worse.  This is seriously annoying.  On the other hand, if someone's behaved as properly as they can, it makes a big difference to how we feel about it. 

Reg, do you mind if I post your reply on my website?  It's really good.   But I would take out the sentences "No vicarious redemption. That is for Christians."  This is because I'm into building bridges and finding common ground and not alienating people.  

My eventual aim is to build some kind of "atheist bible" but this doesn't mean atheist propaganda.  It just means, our own [systematic] collection of moral wisdom founded on biological and evolutionary principles.  It is also an attempt to bring more spirituality to the atheists, because at the moment they miss out on this.

It should come as no surprise to find that it links in nicely with certain aspects of the existing religious efforts. 

I'm good at coming up with bare-bones principles, but I can see that these are next to useless in real life for the general public.  They're for philosophers only, and they need a lot of fleshing out. 

Most of the site is made up of quotes from other people. 

No problem Simon, if it helps you out feel free to use it as you see fit. I would contend though that “vicarious redemption” is an integral part of Christian faith. It is taken for granted by Christians that they will be forgiven for their sins no matter how heinous the offence. They can scapegoat it by “confessing” it to a third party (a priest) who will tell them they are forgiven. No reparation or closure needs to be reached with the victim of their action. Whether or not that party considers themselves to be a victim or even offended by the action is beside the point.

 The offender has felt guilty enough for doing something their conscience irks them about to make them seek forgiveness. They are more perturbed by how bad they feel than about how the person who was at the receiving end of their action may feel.

This is a major weakness of religious based morality. The desire to be forgiven is based on selfish reasons. They all too often see their offence as having offended their God and not the person they hurt. They ask first for the God’s forgiveness and if they are told they are forgiven by him then they start to feel better immediately. They might even then consider the matter closed.

This form of morality is repugnant to me. The morality that is derived from secular debate and from taking personal responsibility for our own actions is superior to any religious scapegoating morality. I am not looking to reach any consensus with theists that have such poor moral standards. I would much rather live in a society where I saw or heard from none of them. They are welcome to cross to my side of the line but I would have to wipe the soles of my shoes upon returning from a visit to theirs. I am sick of their pious attitude toward moral matters and of listening to them talk about how immoral we Atheists are. They are years behind us in everything. Their standards are just not good enough for the godless.

I am prodding the argument a little...but that is what the point of my moral compass is for....:-)

This is an interesting point Reg.  I can see the value of the religious point of view, but it needs to be joined on to your point of view.  The two are two necessary parts of the whole. 

God's love is something you get just by virtue of being alive.  [this is a biological phenomenon inherent in all life. - quality-of-life and survival-seeking, which is the currency of morality.] 

God's love dictates that if you do something wrong, you will want to put it right, for the sake of the other person and to appease your conscience and put right the bad situation you have made. 

Therefore you will attempt to make the necessary amends and will actively seek forgiveness. 

All because of God's love which automatically gives you the chance to be forgiven.  Like you say, however, forgiveness still needs to be earned, by making amends and mending your ways.  It is not strictly necessary to ask for forgiveness, but this helps. 

Thanks for letting me use your post.  I might re-write it in light of the above, but thanks for the ideas. 

I just threw up.

Exactly.  Well said!

Forgiving someone who is _truly_ _deeply_ remorseful and trying to change their behavior and trying to correct the results of their bad behavior, YES.  This definition of "turn the other cheek" is hard but can produce good.

Forgiving someone who continues their bad behavior, and/or has no remorse, and/or does nothing to right the wrongs they have done, NO.  THIS IS EVIL.  This definition (the one most Christians say is what Jesus meant) IS EVIL!!  It encourages and condones evil, wrongful, immoral behavior.

In my view, forgiveness is merely forgetting nasty actions committed, constructing a new and fake perception of the perpetrator. I mean, just from experience, when we really try to forgive people, it seems like we are only able to do it by forgetting what happened or playing it down. So, forgiveness is a vague term/action that we don't fully understand. 

But forgiveness is necessary for the progress of human society...I think it's pretty self evident that this is the case. We can do whatever we want with past actions. We can distort them, refine them, defend them, condemn them. But, we MUST separate the perpetrator from the action. We cannot condemn USA's government for all eternity because they committed war crimes. We have to move on. We can achieve a certain justice (which is only relative to our satisfaction or retribution/punishment), but it cannot last for all time.

As for the Christian view of forgiveness; it's pretty much inferring that we mere humans cannot and must not condemn others for ANY action, because we don't hold the authority God does. Of course this varies and of course churches have been doing nothing but this for yonks. 

We love to condemn - there won't be peace on Earth if everyone forgives totally, because there will be so much inner conflict. Why? It goes against our pitiful social urges to totally forgive and let go. Shit will get rather tense. 

I haven't read all the replies so I don't know if someone has already touched upon this point. Woops!

Perhaps you'll have to forgive me.


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