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J Pers. 2006 Feb;74(1):85-118.

Religion and unforgivable offenses.

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  • 1School of Science and Health, Philadelphia University, School of House Lane and Henry Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144-5497, USA.


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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