My last post about the Christian writer got me to thinking about mainstream Christian doctrine a little more.

One of the core ideas of Christianity concerns the connection between the forgiveness of sins (as defined variously by different types of Christianity) and the necessity of Christ dying on the cross. In other words, in order for sins to be forgiven by God, Jesus had to suffer and die. And because all humans are born with sin automatically (unless you subscribe to the immaculate conception of Mary theory) then all humans are born already needing forgiveness. And forgiveness is granted after the sinner repents.

In my opinion, this notion does nothing to improve the moral character of the human individual and accomplishes nothing of real value; “true” repentance requires the use of two God-given gifts: conscience and reason. By using these two gifts appropriately, one can come to an understanding of the harm (sin) one has committed. If by sin we mean causing harm when we should have or did know better, then repentance from sin must involve understanding, deeply, what we did and why it was wrong. What was the impact on my friend when I told her secret to others? How did she feel? How did she act? What is the connection between my action and hers? When we really think about what we’ve done; understanding the negative consequences of our harmful actions; acknowledging that we had the power to act differently; and then making a conscious effort to 1. ask for forgiveness to those we’ve hurt and 2. make a real and genuine effort not to engage in the same act again then, I believe, we’ve found real repentance.

Merely assenting to a doctrine and then telling God that we’re sorry isn’t enough.

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