General Question

rockfan's avatar

Does this moral philosophy sound immoral to anyone else?

Asked by rockfan (12009points) July 4th, 2015

I’ve been asking a lot of questions about religion lately, but I feel like I have to share this. I was visiting my grandparents in Fort Worth, TX last week and we attended the Southwest Believers Convention, my grandparents (unlike me) are devoutly Christian. A speaker said the following during the convention:

“I may be talking to a murderer today. You kill people. But you wish you hadn’t and now you think there’s no way out. Well, just ask God to forgive you for it and make Jesus the Lord of your life and he’ll take care of it and you can go free. Glory to God. Isn’t that mercy? Glory to God hallelujah.”

I’ve always assumed that some Christians believe this, but I’ve never heard it preached so openly in public. Personally, I think this ideology is deeply immoral. What are your thoughts?

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45 Answers

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

Forgiveness is immoral?

rockfan's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One It doesn’t seem like forgiveness to me, it sounds like a cop-out.

ragingloli's avatar

“If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here, we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner”
– Martin Luther, founder of Protestantism.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’ve always found the “get out of jail free” brand of Christianity disturbing.

But I’m not Christian, I’m rational.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

It’s not about getting out of jail free. The bible is clear that we are to surround ourselves with good things and avoid “sinning that grace may abound”.

It also covers forgiveness and reaping what you sow. So, while you can be forgiven, it doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences.

zenvelo's avatar

It’s not a “get out of jail free” card. It’s a confrontation with one’s own errors, one’s own misdeeds. Confession, or reconciliation, or seeking forgiveness, involves taking responsibility for ones actions.

Yet it is that reconciliation with society, with one’s Higher Power, is quite demonstrably shown in the remorse and emotional rebirth of many.

rockfan's avatar

It is a “get out of jail free” card. Because the murderer will be going to heaven for eternity, based on those teachings.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

So you believe that sinners should all go straight to hell?

zenvelo's avatar

@rockfan, so in your dualistic thinking, there is no forgiveness? Then there is no degree of error, no forgiveness for stealing? Then no reason to differentiate between manslaughter and cold-blooded killing?

If there is a difference, where do you draw the line? And how come you get to play God and draw the line?

stanleybmanly's avatar

There we go again. An ignorant man gives a speech in which he literally tells serial killer wannabes that they can kill all the folks they please, if they embrace Jesus afterwards. Even if religions weren’t preposterous on their face, the insertion of flawed people between God and believers renders the message varied from silly to dangerous.

JLeslie's avatar

It certainly is a good way to lure people to your church. You will be forgiven, accepted, loved, no matter your past mistakes.

While I think it’s good for people to be introspective (which I think happens when genuinely asking for forgiveness) I also think this can get twisted into bad behavior is ok. It depends on the person and their own internal morality I think.

I know more than one Christian woman who had an abortion in their youth and the church helps them deal with it. Don’t get me wrong, I think being Christian also makes them feel worse about it. It’s a bazaar dichotomy.

I went to a church event once with a girlfriend, a mega church. It was a woman’s fashion event with dinner and there were about 1,000 of us. Once the fashion part was over the speaker talked about coming back to Christianity and what it did for her. Then, as she rambled about forgiveness and other things she raised the topic of how many women in the audience probably had abortions, named some stat, and said they should forgive themselves. I was blindsided. WTH? I never in a million years would expect that to be part of a speech, but there it was. Not that I compare a murder to abortion, but my point is I guess forgiveness for regrets is a big theme in soliciting the masses.

ragingloli's avatar

It is a get-out-of-jail-free card.
It does not require any self reflection, only self deception to accept a ficticious external absolution.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One -

Hell? Sinners go to hell? Good people go to heaven? Hah!

I don’t believe in either a heaven or a hell. Both of those are man-made constructs for behavior modification (i.e. brainwashing).

The best ‘reward’ for a murderer or a kidnapper or rapist is that they reached their burial place quickly.

What is a sin anyway? Why is it that the same act is a sin for some folks and a good thing for others? What is a sinner?

LostInParadise's avatar

Apparently Hell is only populated by non-Christians. That means I will not encounter any of those self-righteous twits. It may not be so bad after all.

cazzie's avatar

It sounds like a recruiting tactic of a really desperate club. ‘Yes, Sir! We even let in the likes of you, the murderer. Simply join up and you, too, will live forever!’

I’m looking forward to this:

Dutchess_III's avatar

Uh, well. To me that’s basically saying “Do what ever you want to do, no matter how much it hurts others. Then just ask for forgiveness and it’s all better….for you.”

flutherother's avatar

It’s a mistake to get God mixed up with morality. I don’t think He understands the concept.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That is something about the Catholics that always blew me away. Many of the murdering Italian mafia were Catholic, and they just repented of their sinning ways every week.

cazzie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I grew up with Catholic parents and that is not entirely true. They believed some sins damned you to hell and were not forgiven. It might be different today, but when my mother learned her lessons there were things called ‘Mortal sins’.

jaytkay's avatar

“Your reward is in the afterlife”. If you believe that, you should not be allowed to vote. You clearly have no interest in making Earth better for people.

It’s the same “morality” held by Islamic suicide bombers.

zenvelo's avatar

@Dutchess_III That isn’t quite true. Reconciliation, what used to be called confession, requires an affirmative repentance in good conscience. And Catholics are taught from an early age that a dishonest confession does not absolve one of the sins, but is in itself sinful.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I have little experience with Catholicism and I appreciate the lessons. However, what if someone is seriously sorry at the moment? Is that not good enough?

lynfromnm's avatar

I don’t think it was the speaker’s place to issue any forgiveness. He wasn’t the one to have a loved one ripped violently from his life. As a non-believer, I think it is immoral to excuse a person from consequences. A murderer who wants to clear his conscience is somehow better than a murderer who feels no remorse? Not to the family of the victim.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think of that as more of a “Christian” thing than Catholic. The Christians seem to think in terms of a sin is a sin, all equal in the eyes of God, but the Catholics I know I don’t believe think like that. I don’t know what the Catholic Church actually says on the subject, but I’m reminded of my close friend’s grandfather who was dying from lung cancer and was terrified until his last day. He was sure he was going to hell. He didn’t feel any apologies, asking for forgiveness, or last rights was going to save him. It was very unsettling to the family.

Buttonstc's avatar

It’s certainly way too glib and simplistic. No wonder nonbelievers have negative reactions.

But that’s the problem inherent in preaching the gospel as a form of ” hell insurance policy” as is the fashion nowadays .

It’s a matter of emphasis and perspective. What would happen if the whole eternal roasting in non quenching flames were taken out of the equation altogether? What’s left?

Interesting food for thought.

Without the whole distraction of unending hell there might be much more room for dealing with present reality and how the life of Jesus affects us on an everyday basis. Remove the special little exclusive club of those who won’t be roasting and if you have nothing else left…what then?

Maybe that’s why some Christians are so reluctant to give up the whole eternal hell myth. You’d think it would be great news. But they cling so desperately to this outmoded concept of this harsh unending punishment with absolutely no hope of mitigation in any way. Once there, you’re stuck for eternity. It really boggles my mind sometimes. (that they so enthusiastically embrace and defend this and the negative and needlessly harsh type of god which it portrays.)

I agree with your impressions of the words of that speaker. I think sometimes it’s too easy to ” preach to the choir” and forget that many types of thoughtful people can also be listening to your words and despising your personal brand of bless me club which your words presume.

Its pretty thoughtless overall.

snowberry's avatar

It sounds to me like what you quoted from that speaker was taken out of context. There is a difference between being set free from possible prosecution and jail, and being set free from the consequences of sin.

And I’ll add that If you related the story accurately, it DOES sound bizarre.

Buttonstc's avatar


I can only speak from my personal experience and state that, in the past, I have heard precisely that in many a Fundamentalist church where I was going at the time.

Granted, that was more than 20 years ago, but I have little reason to think that the exact same glib automatic answers are not as reported since their theological positions are virtually the same.

Their viewpoints on this subject are as glib as ever and as long as someone says those magic words (whether or not he truly has a penitent heart) they’re golden. Got their ticket punched. They’re on their way to heaven.

Yes, it sounds bizarre to intelligent folks whether Christian or not. But most thinking (progressive) Christians don’t express the gospel that way. But the Fundies always have and continue to do so. Hell plays a big part in their theological expression.

(Are you familiar with a classic of the genre from the turn of the century: a sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) ?

It is much admired in Fundy circles. And it is equally bizarre. :)

snowberry's avatar

I don’t have lots of time to respond, but I looked up Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon and couldn’t understand it as it was written (a combination of the font and the language made it quite the challenge for me), but I found a modern paraphrase of it here which I will read when I have more time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie How very sad that your friend’s grandfather died in terror because of all the bullshit he was fed in his life.

snowberry's avatar

@JLeslie Agreed. It’s sad that your friend’s grandfather died like he did. It’s not supposed to be that way. It must have been a terrible life for him too.

bestbroseph's avatar

It depends if you’re truly wanting of God’s forgiveness. You can’t just say you want it on your deathbed after murdering ten people as a cop out for what you did. You must work for the forgiveness.

JLeslie's avatar

He was a pilot in WWII. Had a lot of scary missions, saw a lot of people die. He came home an alcoholic and had some anger issues and other issues. He wasn’t a bad man. Not one of his children or grandchildren thought ill of him even though at times he could be difficult. Mostly, they were extremely proud of him. His talents, his service to his country, and that he always provided. He was very hard on himself at the end. It was very sad to hear.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@cazzie Mortal sins are forgivable. I committed and confessed to a few of them when I was a kid. Lying, stealing. I might have skipped out on mass once. To die with a venial sin on your soul will get you a stretch in purgatory, to die with a mortal sin left unforgiven will get you eternity in Hell. Mortal sins take a few more Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s in penance than the venial sins. But if you commit one of these against your parents, it gets a lot more serious. The priest might throw in a dreaded Credo or two, maybe a even complete rosary. Something like that could keep you on your knees at the altar rail well into Saturday afternoon. Your parents would start to wonder what the hell you did to get such a long penance and that could open a whole new can of worms. The priest, when it’s really, really bad, might even give you a private talking to. That was never good. That usually concerned impure thoughts or something like stealing your big brother’s Playboy magazine. A two-fer.

Murder is a mortal sin, but I have no idea what the penance would be as it was a bit out of my league. I know that if you committed the same sins repeatedly it meant that you really weren’t serious about absolution, so a busy mafia hit man would probably be denied communion once the priest caught on. The mafia guy could only obtain forgiveness if he was truly repentant. I have no idea how the priest could determine that, though. Two weeks without killing anybody? Is he really sorry, or just on vacation?

There were a set of sins not much talked about in our juvenile catechism: the Cardinal Sins. Those were serious business, but kids didn’t generally commit those. They got an honorable mention only. Adultery was one of those, I think. Penance for something like that might involve going on a weekend retreat, a kind of re-education camp for Catholics.

Then there were the sins that may have been unforgivable but not explicitly so. The punishment for these sins include automatic excommunication. I think they may have told us about these sins briefly during our ramp-up to Confirmation just to keep us from falling asleep.

But really, how are you supposed to be forgiven if you are no longer allowed access to the Church, the sacrament of confession, or the priests who conduct it? So, effectively, these are unforgivable sins, I suppose. By excommunicating you, they certainly make it difficult.

These excommunication-able sins included worshipping other gods, renunciation of the faith (apostasy), and the procuration and completion of an abortion. There are probably others. Murder won’t incur excommunication, but the desecration of the Eucharist would. Still, the Church maintains that all sins are forgivable. I dunno. I stopped trying to figure any of this out around the fourth grade. Looking back on it all, it’s still confusing. If you grew up to take it seriously, I imagine that you’d feel like that cat on a hot tin roof. You’d need a priest to keep it all straight. Maybe that’s what it’s really about. The Church just wants to feel needed. I mean, they’re people, too.

Anyway, you’ve probably guessed that I wasn’t listening very hard. There really were more interesting things, like baseball and girls.

cazzie's avatar

My hat is off to you, @Espiritus_Corvus for remembering so much from 4th grade. Most of my knowledge of the Catholic church comes from the study of Literature. The works of Milton etc and the Reformation and Civil War in England. I went to exactly 2 of my lessons in catechism and the nuns didn’t want me there because I hadn’t been baptized by the church and thought I was a vessel for the devil. (oddly enough, I was the shyest and sweetest little thing who wouldn’t have said boo to a mouse) But this made my mother so tired of the church (she had baptized me herself before I was 1 year old while I was close to dying of a flu) and she and I had a very grown up talk about belief systems. She basically told me I didn’t need some old fool in robes to make me feel bad about being born and that I should read about Jesus and try to be like him and remember to take a note about how brave his mother was and try to be like her when I had children. That made more sense to me then and now than any preaching I’ve ever heard.

I think you might find now though, that ‘purgatory’ no longer exists? is that right? or is that only for newborns that die unbaptized? I don’t remember exactly. I have enough to remember about tax codes and chemistry in the real world. I’ve given up on trying to remember these things that are made up by people who believe fairy-tales are real.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@cazzie Your mother seems like a very wise woman. I think mine and yours would have liked each other a lot.

Oh, I was in this much longer than fourth grade. I was in Catholic school through the tenth grade. I just stopped taking it seriously in the fourth grade. I went through the motions for my parents, mostly. They wanted us to get a good education and my dad wanted us to at least be familiar with the Church and its rites. I was an altar boy and started my novitiate the weekend Kennedy was shot. Talk about a baptism of fire. The AB’s kinda got a free ride. Once you could do the Mass in Latin I guess they figured you were in. I’ve learned since that I probably got what I call Catholic Lite. The 2nd Vatacan Council had just liberalized everything and I had a bunch of young Irish Nuns who were really into the new rules. But we had an old gnarly Monsignor in control of Sacramento at the time who wasn’t about to anglicize the Mass, no way. They had to tear that one from his cold, dead hands.

So, I got a different kind of Catholicism than my father did. His was all fire and brimstone and threats. Whereas I was taught that the Gospels were metaphorical, he was taught that they literal—upon the pain of heresy. I later met Catholic kids who’d gone to schools on the Eastern Seabord—New York, Boston, Baltimore—and they were browbeaten like my father’s generation. It was like the VC-2 had never happened. I noticed those people who’ve left the Church shared a real animosity toward it. I’ve never felt that way. It just doesn’t make much sense to me, life is much simpler than all that, I figure.

But these people who were basically emotionally abused were really hostile toward the Church and all Christianity in general. You really can’t blame them, I guess. Being abused just gives you a shitload of extra internal work to do before you can have fun, I think. I’d probably be pissed too.

Much later, I worked with a guy from Boston and while out having a few beers one night after work we both discovered that we were Catholic school kids. He told me this horrible story about when he was in 2nd grade. He was in the restroom at school and was, for some reason, checking his pockets and his rosary fell out onto the floor. He totally freaked out and thought for sure he was going to hell. He didn’t tell his parents or anybody because he knew he was doomed and nobody could help him anyway. His mom couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, so she had one of the school nuns talk to him. He wouldn’t talk, so in comes the priest. He was lucky. He got a young one. The guy explained to him that desecration has to be intentional and that everything was OK. He gave him a couple of Hail Mary’s as penance for being careless with a blessed artifact (evidently a venial sin in this case) and everything was alright. The boy recovered, but as a thirty-five year-old man, he still remembered that traumatic month vividly.

The worst the nuns did to us was continuously remind us that we were spoiled rich kids and we needed to remember that the rest of the world didn’t share our advantages and that we were destined to lead benevolently and with greater responsibility. Even today, after all the countries I’ve visited, I can’t argue with that. These were girls from the poverty-stricken west coast of Ireland where the old-style Catholicism that was taught was exceptionally cruel, especially to women, and where I later found out that there was only one phone for every four households and one car for every eleven. Dog carts. Unpaved roads. Lousy weather. Pretty, but rough.

In contrast, all our moms and dads had their own cars and many of us had swimming pools in the backyard. California of the 50’s and 60’s. Sunshine. Vineyards in between the clean, new suburban neighborhoods. I think the comparative wealth blew their minds and they felt a responsibility to let us whining ragamuffins know how good we had it. Later, we had Jesuits. They were tougher about certain things, but big into sports, liberal politics and critical thinking—which became glaringly apparent in the classroom as the Vietnam War and the Draft began ramping up. They did a good job on us. We all grew up to be pretty good people I think.

Anyway, I’m having too much fun writing about this which means I’m probably boring the hell out of you all, so I’ll knock it off now.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Nope, not boring. Fascinating, as usual @Espiritus_Corvus.

It is amazing how people can wind up with such opposite experiences from one source, especially when that one “source” is supposed to be ever unchanging.

cazzie's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus You’ve never bored me yet. PS. I hope your health is improving and you’re recuperating well.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@rockfan It is a “get out of jail free” card. Because the murderer will be going to heaven for eternity, based on those teachings.
It is nowhere near a ”get out of jail free” card, the repented murderer, (fornicator, drunkard, liar, etc.) doesn’t get to just do as he pleases. If he repented earnestly he has to deny himself and live in service of Christ, who you can say, paid his bail, which is all the more important to be covered by the blood. If the hapless victim was not covered and they missed heaven, too bad for them, one never knows when they are going so it is better to get in the boat when you know you have the chance.

Do you think it is better the moment anyone sinned justice would be swift and immediate? The God would rain down his wrath on that person, hitting them with pestilence or simple sending fire from Heaven and smoke them on the spot like a rotisserie chicken?

@ragingloli It does not require any self reflection, only self deception to accept a ficticious external absolution.
Guess the better way would be to think if one is tired of living here on this planet, since there is no punishment after death because you disappear into the great white zephrum or something, load up your Glocks, take some extra clips, march down to the high school and shoot it up, taking out as many of those young punks as you can, then when you have but one bullet left or the cops are closing in, stove top your cranium. Then you can kill up a bunch of folk and never have to pay for it, YOU WIN!

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Wow. Just wow.
Isn’t it? Incredible, Old Slew Foot done such a number here I am sure all the demons are hi-fiving him. The best way to the fowler can trap you is to make you believe you are not trapped.

@elbanditoroso What is a sin anyway?
In a world without God, there is no sin, so a killer who kills a child, kills a senior, kills a gay guy just because are no different. If a man kills his daughter in the Middle East because she held hands with a boy she was not engaged to, no foul and no harm. Whatever you can get away with… is just fine and dandy.

LostInParadise's avatar

What about death bed repentance? Is the person sincere? If the person is so incapacitated that sin is no longer an option, even the person making the repentance does not know for sure. There will no longer be any temptations to test the “former” sinner. After living a life full of sin, the soul is now presumably cleansed and ready to enter Heaven.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The Bible just finds a way to encompass everything we humans wish could be true. That we won’t really have to be held accountable for our actions. That we won’t really ever die.

keobooks's avatar

One of the reasons Martin Luther started the Reformation was that he was obsessed with the fear that he would sin between his last confession and dying and he’d go to Hell even though he was constantly repenting and confessing his sins. He went to confession several times a day and was constantly performing rituals of repentance, like climbing this huge set of stone steps on his knees over and over.

@LostInParadise is IS possible to sin on your deathbed, as even a stray thought counts as the deed itself, and is a sin. Since thoughts count as sins, technically, you could go to Hell because seconds before your death, you had a stray lusty thought.

Luther had a revelation that once you were saved, you were forgiven of ALL sins past, present and future. You were forgiven of all of the sins that you refused to believe were sins. You were forgiven of stray “thought sins” that you forgot about as soon as you had them. Every single sin that you ever committed or would commit in the future—you were forgiven.

He also believed that if you were truly saved, you wouldn’t WANT to commit sins like murder because your heart had changed. So there were no “get out of jail free” situations in his mind. Part of believing in the divine forgiveness of Christ was believing that the way he lived was the best way to live. So you wouldn’t do most of the horrible things that supposedly most sinners want to do. You wouldn’t commit murder—not because you were afraid of Hell, but because harming another person would be unthinkable for you once you were saved.

This is why @Hypocrisy_Central gets under my skin. I’m sure he’s anti-Catholic, but he has a very old school Catholic way of looking at sin. I was raised with very strict Calvinist principles. I can’t bring myself to believe that Jesus and God are in cahoots and are going to surprise all these people who thought they were saved by sending them to Hell for a stray sinful thought. That just goes against everything I was ever taught.

Anyway, I thought the OP guy was talking about going to do a prison ministry or something. I didn’t think he was talking about meeting murderers at the event he was attending. I’m sure plenty of murderers in prison deeply regret what they did. And they have lost all hope because they are trapped behind bars for the rest of their life. What’s wrong with offering them some hope and giving their life some meaning? One of the more admirable practices of Christianity is supposed to be showing mercy to those who least deserve it. (Not that I see that happen too often… but it IS a good principle.)

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@LostInParadise What about death bed repentance? Is the person sincere?What about death bed repentance? Is the person sincere?
The Lord knows, there will be some to make it into Heaven smelling of smoke with no furniture, but they will make it in the 11th hour, if they are sincere about their repentance.

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