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Religion and Unforgivable Offenses

Authors


  • Adam B. Cohen, School of Science and Health, Philadelphia University and Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, University of Pennsylvania. Ariel Malka, Department of Psychology, Stanford University. Paul Rozin and Lina Cherfas, Department of Psychology and Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, University of Pennsylvania.

  • This research was supported by the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, University of Pennsylvania. Partial support for Adam Cohen for data analysis and writing was provided by a Positive Psychology Young Scholar grant, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

Adam B. Cohen, School of Science and Health, Philadelphia University, School House Lane and Henry Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144-5497. Phone: (215) 951-2550. Fax: (215) 951-6812. Email: cohenA@philau.edu.

Abstract

ABSTRACT The value of forgiveness is emphasized in many religions, but little is known about how members of distinct religious cultures differ in their views of forgiveness. We hypothesized and found that Jews would agree more than Protestants that certain offenses are unforgivable and that religious commitment would be more negatively correlated with belief in unforgivable offenses among Protestants than among Jews (Studies 1 and 2). Dispositional forgiveness tendencies did not explain these effects (Studies 1 and 2). In Study 3, Jews were more inclined than Protestants to endorse theologically derived reasons for unforgivable offenses (i.e., some offenses are too severe to forgive, only victims have the right to forgive, and forgiveness requires repentance by the perpetrator). Differential endorsement of these reasons for nonforgiveness fully mediated Jew-Protestant differences in forgiveness of a plagiarism offense and a Holocaust offense.

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