A Non-Theist Perspective on Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not possible except as it might follow redemption, but redemption erases the very possibility of forgiveness by transcending the possibility of wrongdoing. What we forgive is not what has occurred but the sudden and invasive introduction of the possibility that such a thing might occur. If we could be assured that the offensive action had breathed its last, would not revive itself again in the future, that indeed the person who committed the offensive action was not proving himself to be a type of person but merely a person who had committed one, non-repeating action, we should be more or less mollified from the first cognizance of the action. Only we cannot forgive someone for something he has not done yet, nor can we forgive him for realizing a particular possibility of wrongdoing in our perception, as the realization itself was a product of a process inside oneself and not one that he himself manufactured.  Should he of his own accord reconstitute an impression of himself that causes one, in the natural course of events, to cast off the threat of the possibility previously introduced, he has then redeemed himself and there is no cause for forgiveness, for the presence of the looming possibility of offensive action which had itself been the cause of the conflict is simply no longer an influencing factor.

In acknowledging that forgiveness is not possible, we are able to see clearly that by wrongly insisting on its possibility, we have made the grave mistake of denying the possibility of redemption. That is, we have denied the possibility of a person to change on his own merit, for the better.  Indeed, he who argues forgiveness claims authority over the moral culpability of others, an authority that cannot belong to him any more than control of the earth’s rotation.  Rather, we should be glad for each other that we are people who learn instead of people who are forgiven. This has long been considered heretical, but it has been true for even longer than it has been heretical:  the reification of forgiveness is the proper effect of the commitment to the false and harmful illusion of original sin. Indeed, there is no sin, whether collaborative or individual, which is original, none which is inherent, and therefore none which can be forgiven. We cannot oppose sin with forgiveness, for the two depend upon each other. Rather, we can only confront sin with those virtuous human faculties which allow us to overcome it, to learn how to be better.

By jtp

Joanna Tova Price has a lot of heart.

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