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Forgiveness in a post-religious worldview

By sinner ~

For me as an ex-christian, now that I don't have a rulebook to follow, I generally adopt the value of "Ahimsa" a Pali/Sanskrit word meaning do no harm. Or the Wiccan idea of 'An it harm none, do what ye will'

(Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mohammedani...
(Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mohammedanism), Pope Benedictus XVI, Johannes-Paul-II-1987, Mariamagdalena, Borobudur-perfect-Buddha, Lord Ram, Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al Haram. Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach der Ältere (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I find this to be a very practical and skillful way of minimizing suffering, both in myself and others. It is a value I have chosen.

But, as a human being, I don't always live up to my own values. Recently I harmed a friend (and lost the friendship). It wasn't my intention to harm, but looking back, I realize I made serious mistakes. As a shorthand, I'm going to borrow the old term "sin" to refer to this.

In religious traditions, there are remedies for "sin". In Christianity, there is "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" - the Christian idea of God's forgiveness. The ritual of praying for forgiveness and in faith receiving forgiveness was a powerful construct in Christianity. In Catholicism there is the formal confessional and penance that wipes the slate clean.

Other religions too have remedies for "sin" - in Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Janism, and religious Buddhism, there is the idea of karma and merit. The idea that doing good deeds can somehow make up for bad deeds in some great cosmic accounting system.

But now as an agnostic/atheist/whatever you want to call me, I find that I am missing something to deal with my own indiscretions and "sins." In the above example, I can't receive forgiveness from my ex-friend as he will not talk to me. I feel guilt and shame over the situation. I have no baptismal water or "blood of the lamb" to make me feel clean again.

So, I am curious, how do you handle the psychology of recovering from your own transgressions of your own values?


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