January 12, 2001 (Ira Pilgrim)


There is a saying that Germany will not forgive the Jews for the Holocaust. Author Edward Ball suggests that white America has not forgiven black America for slavery. I suggest that Americans have not yet forgiven the Vietnamese for the war America started.

David Hupp, 2000

The vast majority of people have done something or other in their past that they are ashamed of. It can range from a child swiping a candy bar from the grocery store or hitting his kid brother, to murder. The vast majority of people feel guilty. How do they deal with the guilt?

One very reasonable way to deal with it is to make amends. The kid who swiped a candy bar can simply go back to the store and pay for it. More commonly, we forgive ourselves for our childhood transgressions by acknowledging that we were "only a kid" and didn't know any better; and besides it was only a nickel (in my time) or a quarter.

Some people do a penance of some sort. The Catholic church has institutionalized it with confession and penance. This is a very practical and reasonable way to deal with guilt in a religion that has a lot of sins, ranging from the venial to the mortal.

All sex outside of marriage is considered sinful by most religions despite the fact that it is very common. Maybe it is because it is so common. There is no point in banning something that no one wants to do. The Roman Catholic church officially considers sex to be okay only for procreation purposes and assumes that every time that a married couple have sex, that procreation is what they have in mind. However, the clergy accepts sex as a fact of life. They know that it may be one of the most pleasurable acts known, and that most people will indulge in it. The church deals with the dilemma of the sinfulness of the act, and the fact that many people indulge in it outside of marriage, by using confession and penance. Most priests have a well developed sense of humor. There is a story about a man who confesses to his priest that "I had sex four times last night." "With whom?" asks the priest. "With my wife," replies the man. "That's no sin; you didn't have to confess it." "I know," says the man, "but I just had to tell someone."

How about acts like murder, which is about as far from trivial as you can get? How about some one who has killed many people? Most people deal with it by rationalizing it.

The term "rationalize" has little to do with rationality. Rationalizing refers to a way of making a repugnant act seem reasonable. He was the enemy; he was trying to kill me; he shouldn't have been in the place where the bomb fell; and an almost infinite number of excuses which place the blame squarely on the victim of the act. A very common rationalization simply says that he shouldn't have been born black, or Asian, or Jewish, or Catholic or Protestant, or Muslim.

There can be real justifications for killing someone, but what race, religion or nationality the victim happened to be born into hardly justifies the act. Yet, this is the justification for killing "the enemy" in war, along with the fact that the enemy is trying to kill you. It is hard, if not impossible, to morally justify the indiscriminate bombing of civilians on the grounds of self defense.

It is also fairly common for a person to kill the one who is responsible for his having sinned, such as the homosexual or prostitute who has been used by the killer to commit a sin.

I don't know what goes on in the mind of a murderer, but I am sure that it is anything but rational.

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