I know, a cheap provocative post title–but at least I’m not putting up any pics.
This article explains:
The atheist actress, star of A Dangerous Method, said she is desperate to be Catholic because she would “just get to ask for forgiveness”.
She added: “It sounds much better than having to live with guilt.
“It’s absolutely extraordinary. If only I wasn’t an atheist, I could get away with anything.
“You’d just ask for forgiveness and then you’d be forgiven.”
I don’t know the young woman’s personality well enough to tell if she is being snarky or sincere in these quotes. But for sure, the people on Facebook passing this around with approval, were interpreting the episode as yet another arrow in their quiver against idiot Christians. I have a few comments:
(1) Notice how the Christian (or other theists to whom this would apply, but I can speak more knowledgeably about Christians) is stuck no matter what. If his religious views require him to do things that are considered unpleasant by the average secular American–like getting up to go to church on Sunday, abstaining from masturbation, waiting for marriage, etc.–then the atheist ridicules the silly superstitions for their ridiculous hindrance of enjoyment. Yet, to the extent that the Christian’s views provide earthly comfort, this too is taken as further evidence of just how wrong these views must be.
(2) Ms. Knightley is certainly correct: It is very comforting to truly believe you have been absolved of your guilt for past offenses. The older I get (not that I’m Yoda or anything) I think you can understand more and more of people’s actions as hidden responses to their fear and guilt. Well say what you will about Christianity, but believing in an omnipotent Being who loves you unconditionally and is willing to forgive your sins, and who has built mansions in paradise for those who want to accept the kind offer…that’s a pretty good recipe for containing your fears and guilt in the present.
(3) I did a little searching and it appears that atheists are very underrepresented in prison populations. However, I wonder if there are better studies that correct for obvious factors like IQ etc. Even here, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were still a negative correlation. My seat-of-the-pants stereotype is that atheists tend to be more principled and rational, and thus wouldn’t be petty criminals, if only because they would see how dumb that lifestyle is. Unfortunately, I think people who don’t fear any God do a tremendous amount of damage in positions of high power, where they’re the ones determining who goes to prison. (Don’t get me wrong, throughout history there have been plenty of powerful people committing awful crimes, believing they were doing what God had commanded.)
(4) I really don’t understand why people are so outraged at God’s willingness to forgive. In a regular relationship with your friends, lovers, or family members, both sides screw up all the time. Is it the mark of a good friend who says, “I still remember that time you screwed me over 13 years ago; I am never ever letting that go”? Would that be conducive to healthy human relationships? Or is it better to forgive and forget?