Forgiveness as a rational necessity: My outsider’s take on Easter

As we end this Passover/Easter time, I am struck and impressed by the emphasis Christian friends have placed on their tradition’s understanding of Jesus having said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Frankly, that resonates with me for two reasons. One, it is good science. Everything we know today about groupthink, war crimes, the authoritarian personality, the origins of genocide and state crimes says to me that most people don’t know what the hell they are doing as citizens, and they end up hurting a lot of people without even knowing it. I am astonished at the collective narcissistic personality disorder of most enemy groups I work with, deeply obsessed with the pain of those they love, and clueless about the rest. So those words resonate: we have to forgive ourselves because we are pretty stupid when it comes to the big crimes we have all committed against each other. Second, “Forgive because it will make you feel good,” that strange new age tonic, never went down with me at all. I don’t feel good when I forgive, not at all. I forgive World War II Germany not to feel good, but because science has taught me that we are all Germans, we are all saints and criminals, and most of the time we don’t even realize the crimes we are committing. The only answer is forgiveness, compassion, and teaching a more enlightened path out of all of our traditions, secular and and religious.

© Marc Gopin