A lot is made in Christian theology about forgiveness. Jesus forgives us of our sins. God forgives us of our sins by sacrificing His only son. Forgiveness to Christians is available to all who open their hearts to Jesus. And I think that’s crap.
Praying to a man who is also God who died 2,000 years ago is not the way to go about forgiveness. It might make you feel better, but it’s a fairy tale. Real forgiveness comes from understanding the action that you have done that harmed another person. It comes from telling the person that you are sorry for what you did. Sometimes, you can make it up to the person. Sometimes you can’t. You can change your behavior and not make the same mistake again.
I truly wish I was able to receive forgiveness as easily as a Christian. Confronting someone I have wronged is hard. I have done it and will continue to do it because it is the only way that true forgiveness can take place.
If I were to cheat on my wife and I were a Christian; I could pray, confess if I were Catholic, feel really bad about it, and be forgiven without telling my wife. I could feel really bad about it, wait a couple of years, do it again, and not tell my wife. I could still go to heaven so long as I pray and feel really bad about it. My religion would constantly teach me that as a human, I am nothing but a sinner and the sins that I have committed were the result of my sinful nature. That’s OK though, because although the wages of sin may be death (side note: who thinks of these things? Wages of sin? Does anyone think that sinning gets paid?) Jesus’ sacrifice will spare me the torment of hell.
I prefer to think of myself as someone who tries to do the right thing. Sometimes I think I’m doing the right thing and it doesn’t work out. Sometimes I make bad decisions. However, if I were to cheat on my wife, I’d like to think that I would at least tell her about it and figure out what to do from there. She would be the person harmed the most and I would have to acknowledge that she might leave me for my actions. I’m not saying that Christian men don’t tell their wives, I am saying that from a punishment/reward perspective there is a much bigger incentive to keep their mouths shut.
Wagerists also acknowledge that they have to forgive themselves. When I make a bad decision, all I can do is review the data that led me to make the decision. I learn what I can and I don’t beat myself up over it. For example, if I’m trying to lose weight and I go into the kitchen at work and then eat a cookie, I don’t believe I was predestined to fail. I think to myself, I wasn’t planning on eating that cookie but then I saw it in the kitchen. Wait a minute, there’s always junk food in the kitchen after lunch – maybe I should avoid the kitchen in the future after lunch? No deity needed.