Why religious people are more likely to forgive

From the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion comes a new study highlighting why people who are religious tend to be more forgiving than those who are not. Interestingly, the study traces the propensity toward forgiveness to adolecsence:

... the source of these orientations and beliefs appears to be a specific socialization, one that can be traced to the formative period of adolescence ... those raised as religious adherents (measured via proxy at age 16) have a greater propensity to forgive themselves and others later in life. Socialization into trait forgiveness, especially the development of forgiveness schemas, is apparently sticky enough to last through religious and denominational switching later in life. However, those who leave a religious tradition entirely (i.e., those who were religiously affiliated and no longer were at the time of the survey) are less likely to forgive themselves and others compared to those who stay in a religious tradition. What seems to matter in promoting forgiveness, then, is that a person adheres to a religion or denomination; on the whole, the religiously unaffiliated have less of a propensity to forgive.

University of Notre Dame researcher Daniel Escher's study is summarized by David Briggs in a column he did for the Association of Religion Data Archives. His question: "Who is most likely to forgive?" As it turns out, there is a great deal of data available to help answer that question.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Religion
Books
Collections