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Psychometric and Rationalization Accounts of the Religion-Forgiveness Discrepancy


  • This article was supported in part through the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation, Radnor, PA.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jo-Ann Tsang at Baylor University, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, One Bear Place 97334, Waco, TX 76798-7334 [e-mail:].


World events and psychological research often fail to support a relationship between religion and forgiveness. We suggest that the gap between general religious support of forgiveness and actual forgiveness by religious individuals (the religion-forgiveness discrepancy) described by McCullough and Worthington (1999) may be partly due to methodological shortcomings. We present three studies with 452 undergraduate participants to illustrate how psychometric weaknesses can obscure the relationship between religiousness and transgression-specific forgiveness. We also propose a rationalization explanation that describes how religion might justify unforgiveness. We present a pilot study of 38 undergraduate participants that demonstrates correlations between retributive and compassionate religious beliefs, and transgression-specific forgiveness. We discuss future research directions addressing the religion-forgiveness discrepancy on psychometric and theoretical levels.

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