Forgiveness Diminished By Religion

bibleI am no scholar on religion, but I always assumed that all the major religions of the world embraced forgiveness as one of the highest virtues to which all humans should aspire, along with mercy, tolerance and love. Apparently this is not so.

Robert Perry, one of the foremost authorities on A Course In Miracles, exposes a fact about religion and forgiveness in his most recent book, Return to the Heart of God, that will shock you. It did me. Here’s the quote:

” … I have found it very revealing to look up forgiveness in The Encyclopedia of Religion. This is a comprehensive and masterful encyclopedia which had the great scholar Mircea Eliade as its editor in chief. It contains thousands of entries on virtually every conceivable topic in world religion.

Most of the entry titles are so obscure that they would be familiar only to the specialist (the first three entries, for instance, are Isaac Abarbanel, Abbahu, and Abbaye). Yet there is no entry on forgiveness. There isn’t even a subheading on forgiveness within any of the entries.

In the fifteen volumes of the encyclopedia, there are two hundred passing references to variations on the word ‘forgiveness’. Over 80% of these are about receiving forgiveness, from God, the gods, the church, the community, the pope, the king, other people, etc. Only thirty refer to one person giving forgiveness to another. Of these thirty, sixteen are about the ministry of Jesus, either about him giving forgiveness or about him teaching others to do so.

If The Encyclopedia of Religion is any indication, the spiritual value of giving forgiveness is a very minor note in humanity’s religions, a note that is primarily associated with the ministry of Jesus.”

Can you believe that? A “minor note in humanity’s religions”?!?

In my model of the Soul’s Journey, I tentatively indicate that religion is driven by fear, not Love, and is one of the means by which we create (on purpose) the separation we came in to experience. The above quote by Robert Perry confirms it for me.

What is forgiveness if it not extending the energy of Love to another and joining with him or her? What is forgiveness if it is not the key to our awakening? What is forgiveness if it is not the ONLY way to overcome the illusion of separation?

By relegating forgiveness to a mere footnote, religion shows its true colors and, ironically, it’s divine purpose. In denying the power of forgiveness to create oneness, it blocks the path to Love and draws the veil even tighter between the illusion of this world and the Truth.

The only antidote to this is Radical Forgiveness. But then, I am biased! Try it for yourself and find out how you can feel One with everyone and everything in spite of what religion does or does not tell you.

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21 Responses to Forgiveness Diminished By Religion

  1. Nancy Carroll says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head again, Colin. Religion is driven by fear, not love or forgiveness. The talk about forgiveness in Christianity is primarily to highlight the vast gap, the chasm, the separation between God and humans, and the impossibility of bridging that gap without Jesus’ assistance and favor. Keep up your good work. Radical forgiveness is essential teaching. Love is all there is.

  2. ScoTT SenaTe says:

    I am reading a book called “When Sorry Isn’t Enough” by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas published by Moody Press. (It seems there is another book with the same title on human rights injustices, but this is not about that book.) It is about healing relationships using what the authors define as 5 languages of apology and forgiveness for wrongs done. It is not the Christian slant that bothers me, but, as I’m reading it, I find that there is no healing or getting away from the concept of “You perpetrated a wrong upon me and made me a victim.” (traditional forgiveness) How can you heal and get past it, if you are still in victim/perpetrator mentality? Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies. It confuses the hell out of them.” While he does not overtly say it, the implication is that we need to refuse to be someone else’s victim.

  3. Kathleen says:

    I guess that the 20 years that I have studied the Course of Miracles and not being part of an orthodox Christian church has left me socked to learn that forgiveness is not more of a priority. In my twenties I did attend an orthodox church that did a series of messages on the Lord’s prayer. As I remember it brought me to the understanding our forgiving others was essential. However this was one church and how often they had messages of this nature I don’t know for I was just visiting while I attended college for a semester in that town. Forgiveness has been something that is part of my daily exercise.

  4. Forgiveness is changing your own perceptions so that you are free to move forward.

    • Jessica says:

      Indeed! From the standpoint that everything is energy, even forgiveness and when we broaden our perspective or look at life from a different vantage forgiveness is a given.

  5. Wahabah says:

    As a scholar of religion (two degrees worth) I can say that certainly established institutional religion tends not to emphasize what the Course says about forgiveness. But it’s also important to remember that what the Course calls forgiveness is something quite different than what most mainstream religious bodies mean by that. In order to find teachings about forgiveness it is necessary to go into the mystical teachings contained within these same religious traditions and there you will often find forgiveness more along the lines of the Course being discussed (in Sufism, or mystical Islam, for example, there are 14 distinct words which are used to describe the levels and processes of forgiveness, while in Vajrayana Buddhism, the mystical tradition of Tibet, forgiveness is talked about explicitly in the practice of tonglen). These are mystical practices/ideas to be sure, and not in the mainstream, although that doesn’t mean many regular people don’t do these practices. In fact, populations who do practice these ideas are regular targets of Islamic fundamentalists (in Somalia and the Sudan, for example) and the Chinese government who would like to wipe out such traditional practices in Tibet. In Sufism, it’s understood that the practices of forgiveness transcend any religious practice and constitute the original circumstances of humanity, thus Sufis are frequently seen as heretics. Christian mystics were also often seen as heretics until Catholic authorities could find ways of absorbing them into carefully constructed “orders” where behavior and theology might be controlled and monitored. And so it has gone. Religion as a system often does have little to do with forgiveness as defined by the Course, but forgiveness is often present nonetheless. It’s our job to see it where/when it occurs and encourage that. The rest is just form.

  6. Donna says:

    I generally agree with the thesis and I like the connection to the act
    of love toward oneself and others as embracing forgiveness.

    But what about Jewish liturgy for their holy days such as Roshashonah?
    These prayers and participatory congregational responses seem to
    me to embrace heartfelt repentance, forgiveness and brotherly love
    extended in reconciliation. Although I am not Jewish, this is my
    perception.
    Also, I read somewhere about a Native American tribe that used
    admonition and discipline, but followed up with embracing and loving the
    person who had done something that needed to be corrected.
    Similarly, good Christian teachings on parenting encourage the same
    followup: instruct the correct behavior, but continue to embrace and love
    the child. We do have the famous biblical quote: “Love your neighbor as
    yourself.”

    Notwithstanding all this, as a society we are greatly in need of PRACTICING
    love and forgiveness.
    Colin provides the in-depth processing understanding and skills for people
    to learn how to change their emotional energies, their perceptions and their
    actions that result from their consciousness. This is rarely given in theological
    doctrine.
    Also, try looking up a text entitled World Scriptures ed. by Andrew Wilson and read
    the most quoted saints on LOVE in the history of world religions.

  7. Donna says:

    I generally agree with the thesis and I like the connection to the act
    of love toward oneself and others as embracing forgiveness.

    But what about Jewish liturgy for their holy days such as Roshashonah?
    These prayers and participatory congregational responses seem to
    me to embrace heartfelt repentance, forgiveness and brotherly love
    extended in reconciliation. Although I am not Jewish, this is my
    perception.
    Also, I read somewhere about a Native American tribe that used
    admonition and discipline, but followed up with embracing and loving the
    person who had done something that needed to be corrected.
    Similarly, good Christian teachings on parenting encourage the same
    followup: instruct the correct behavior, but continue to embrace and love
    the child. We do have the famous biblical quote: “Love your neighbor as
    yourself.”

    Notwithstanding all this, as a society we are greatly in need of PRACTICING
    love and forgiveness.
    Colin provides the in-depth processing understanding and skills for people
    to learn how to change their emotional energies, their perceptions and their
    actions that result from their consciousness. This is rarely given in theological
    doctrine.

  8. Thank you from the bottom of my artichoke heart. Recently a close friend who considers herself very spiritual confessed that she would never forgive her mother. It seems to be a contradiction in terms, but I am still processing and pondering.

    This is excellent information and gives me food for thought.

    • Noelene Cameron says:

      Whilst forgiveness is not always easy even for those who fully understand it, I think many people get confused and believe that forgiveness means condoning the behaviour that hurt/harmed (emotional, physical, financial etc), and continuing the relationship as before. Perhaps this is the case with your friend.

  9. Tim Gomersall says:

    You are right, forgiveness and equality under God has not been common among religions or trendy to the powerful, but I’m not buying that the ministry of Jesus was a minor note in humanity’s religion. His ministry may deserve a second look for some.

  10. RadiantLux says:

    Perhaps the limitation has to do with the encyclopedia that Robert Perry was using? I’m not familiar with this book, so I don’t know whether it is a credible source for assessing how forgiveness is used in all religions.

  11. Even in the Bible, although there are many references to forgiveness, there is little advice on “how to” forgive.

  12. Ruthless Ed says:

    Self-serving rhetoric and narrow-minded interpretations of myopic perceptions from a limited and filtered source for purposes of “marketing propaganda and brainwashing practices” instead of any true and usable statement or practical insight concerning the reality of love and forgiveness. Which are often learned skills through actual experience. Not from the study of abstract books.

    All Blessings of Love & Light!

  13. Peter says:

    Mattew 6:14 says in my modern translation…. “for if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you.”
    This tends to imply ‘forgiveness’ has to start with us… otherwise we get none from above. Letting go and forgiving is the first step to healing both ourselves and the person who may have hurt us in some way (even if the hurt was actually imagined by us).
    Like your work Colin!

  14. madhurima says:

    loved reading this…

  15. Mark Thomson says:

    Hi Colin, I wouldn’t be quite as negative about organised religion as that. It is a much more nuanced picture. There are quite frequent stories in the media about people with those beliefs forgiving those who are being tried for murder or other horrific crimes for example.

    It is quite a prominent part of the 12 step anti addiction programmes which were based on the ideas of the Oxford movement, a prominent Christian movement within the Anglican and Episcopalian traditions in the 1920s and 30s. Those programmes have helped millions of people deal with addiction and one of the tools is forgiveness – and indeed with step 9 it goes further and asks people to make amends to those they have harmed in a structured way. I know because I am in one of those fellowships.

    And without the ministry of Jesus it is possible that you may not have even encountered the concept of forgiveness to start with to then build radical forgiveness on. It is part of the Lord’s Prayer for instance, which many Christians – and yes I am one – say every day.

    If you look at the Wikipedia entry on forgiveness it includes a summary of what many of the major religions teach about it, and also some research done in the psychological and health fields in terms of the benefits.

    There are plenty of people who belong to organised religions who use forgiveness as a tool and who are open minded enough to explore the new age tools as well. I use radical forgiveness myself.

    And if you can get Christians and Muslims to use forgiveness in a more effective way it is working with the grain of their faith to bring about changes to them, and the people around them.

    But do spare me blanket criticisms about organised religion which simply indicate your own bias. We all know people who are religious who don’t demonstrate the ideals of their faith very well. And then of course there are those like Martin Luther King or Desmond Tutu.

    • Colin says:

      You might be interested to know that I have had a Christian person edit the Radical Forgiveness book and make it appropriate for those who see the world through that lens. It will be out in the new year.
      Colin

  16. Anne says:

    All helpful and insightful messages, but what if you know you CANNOT forgive ?

    It is this that kept me stuck in my Church of England days. How come I could not perform this act, even though beloved Christ told his disciples they needed to “Seventy times seven ” times when they asked how often they should forgive their neighbour. Why could I not forgive those who hurt me? I must be very bad or stupid, surely.

    Colin taught that I need only be WILLING to forgive. He gave a staged process to help me become willing. Beyond that, I did not need to go, as Forgiveness seemed to come along and meet me at Willingness.

    My Zen teacher explained that “I” was an illusion , and that this illusion’s strong hold on my mind could be overcome by simple physical responses to the sensations of anger (bowing, allowing the sensation to be fully felt, bearing and enduring it, while repeating
    “This is also me”). I had to be willing to do that, but it worked when I was.

    The 12-Step group taught me to ask my Higher Power to love those who “I ”
    found unloveable. I learned that my Higher Power was good at loving people through
    poor little me, but I had to be willing to ask.

    All depended on my choice to allow the real feelings of anger, hurt, jealousy etc. to be as fully experienced as possible, as simple energy movement that needed to flow, regardless of what “I” thought about it, and to be willing to change my mind.

    I’m certain that Christ answered my prayer, “Please show me how to do this, because I cannot”, and showed me, through the love and care of those men and women, how to free myself of unnecessary pain. (Forgive myself?)
    With deep gratitude and praise for your willingness to help, Thank you so much.

    • Colin says:

      It seems you got a lot of good advice, Anne. If you haven’t done one already, you might download a Radical Self Forgiveness worksheet. That will help.
      Colin

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