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Keywords:

  • forgiveness;
  • religious orientation;
  • religious activity

Scholars have long observed that religion and forgiveness are generally positively linked, but it is unclear why this is the case. This article proposes and tests potential mechanisms by which religion promotes forgiveness. Using data from the 1998 General Social Survey, I find that holding a collaborative orientation toward God, subscribing to a pervasive role of religion, and believing God forgives are primary factors promoting one's propensity to forgive both oneself and others. These factors have varying influence on interpersonal forgiveness compared to self-forgiveness and further illuminate the differences between the two processes. My findings demonstrate the importance of analyzing a person's religious beliefs and orientations directly, in addition to examining other dimensions of religion, such as affiliation, frequency of religious activity, and official religious teachings.