Do you believe in redemption?

Inspired by the current thread on William Ayers and whether he has changed since the Vietnam War, and whether that matters. But I hope the conversation is about more than one 60s radical.

Do you believe in redemption? I don’t necessarily mean in a religious sense, though certainly such answers are apt. Is it possible for a person who has committed egregiously evil acts to change in a fundamental way? Why or why not?

I suppose one could experience an epiphany causing one’s entire outlook on life to change, but other than that I think people are who they’ve always been. If you’re a person who’s committed evil deeds for pleasure I suspect you will always have such tendencies, even if you’ve learned to control them over time.

Do I believe in Redemption? No.

Do I hope such a thing is possible anyway? Yes.

As I’ve mentioned in other threads, I’m an atheist. Still, I believe that both Good and Evil exist, and that Good is preferable to Evil.

Me? I am Grey. I stand between the Shadows and the Light. Guess maybe I’m part Minbari. Probably Warrior Caste.

Something that people seem very afraid to state about Ayers is that it’s not 100% clear that his actions were big-E evil. Was he acting out of selfish motives? Was he trying to cause pain and suffering? Or did he act out of motives with which we might sympathize, while taking actions which we can not support?
Except that no politician (ie, Obama) can say so out loud, any more than a politician can say they favor gay marriage, or legalizing pot.

Most terrorists are driven by what they see as idealism, not “pleasure in evil deeds.” .

Yes, I do think that is is very well possible to fundamentally change one’s outlook on life. Personalities will stay the same, however. If you were a fanatic terrorist before, you will be a fanatic…well, a fanatic anti-terrorist, or a fanatic teacher, or a fanatic writer of letters to the editor, or whatever.

I’m not religious but I do think it is possible. Some would cite Albert Speer as one who achieved redemption of sorts.

I don’t sympathize one bit with his motives. I think his beliefs and his motives are themselves evil; his actions were just icing on the cake.

You can never change the Past. What has been done cannot be undone.

But you can change the Present, and the Future.

I agree with this, but I wasn’t talking about terrorists, not specifically anyway.

There’s a non-psychotic element that does evil for pleasure, satisfaction, or acknowledgement. I’d consider Karl Rove to be a case in point. Will Karl Rove seek redemption? Nope. Ol’ Karl believes the ends always justifies the means, and will happily destroy others to please his masters, to satisfy a warped sense of honor, or maybe just for the thrill. Maybe the fat freak got his butt kicked every day in highschool and this is his revenge. Anyway, I see I’m sliding off topic, so I’ll stop here.

I believe that one can redeem himself spiritually in the eyes of God (if you believe in God or humanity if you don’t), but that he still deserves to face whatever punishment his actions warrant. That is, a murderer can express sincere remorse over his killings and not go to Hell (and I believe that even those in Hell can still be redeemed), but he still deserves to be executed.

Vox Imperatoris

Which are the relevant evil beliefs you’re referring to?


People change all the time. Nothing is set in concrete. All that is needed is the will. Whereas I might (and do) condemn Ayers’ actions of 40 years ago, it is entirely possible that he has become a changed man, and now works within the system for the betterment of all. This does not mean that he has forsworn his previous actions, nor would I expect him to. They are part and parcel of his soul. Is he the same man as he was then? No. Since he was never charged with any crime, much less convicted of one, it is only the foolish and blind that continue to condemn him.

I believe, in a completely non-religious sense, that redemption is possible, but rare. In order to be redeemed in the first place, a person must have done something heinous. Simply being a bad person or doing some bad deeds isn’t enough, in my view. True redemption means to me that the person comes to realize what they’ve done was wrong, works constantly to right those past wrongs, and remains ever vigilant to never backslide. People change for the better quite often, but very few people can manage to climb out of a deep enough pit for me to regard it as a redemption.

How do these things happen? A guy like Ayers was involved in SDS. The aim was to try and organize Americans to try to stop the war in Viet Nam. You go to meetings and protests with good intentions. Then the police gas and stomp you. After a while you begin to think of ways to defend yourself. Some people take beating like Gandhi. Some do not. Some think the only thing the government understands is force. The war was like this one in that the majority of the people wanted it to end. Every politician came in and promised to end it. The war lasted a long time and some protesters got hardened.
Finally the war ended and everybody could go back to living their lives. The Weathermen were not trying to kill people. They were sending messages about the war. They had no reason to continue.
Ayers said he regretted that we did not do more to stop the war. He did not say he wishes they bombed more. But a lot of lives were ended by the long droning ,emotionally sapping war. If it could have been stopped sooner ,we would have saved a lot of money Vietnamese and American lives.

Redemtion is something transpersonal and means somewhat the same thing to all people religious or not. It’s a level of awareness that one attains at somepoint in their life. I dont think faith has much to do with it, maybe peripherally.

I consider it possible, rare, and hard to verify.

Evil, in order to qualify as such and not as mental illness requires choice. If a person is doing what they do out of choice, they can choose to do something else. As I see it, if someone is so inflexible as to be unable to choose good, unable to redeem themselves, then they aren’t evil in the first place. Malignant, predatory and dangerous, but not evil any more than a storm or lion is evil.

I regard it as rare because adults typically don’t change to that degree very often.

And it’s hard to verify for the obvious reason that a good liar whose acting nice because he’s been caught is hard to tell from someone who has actually changed his mind.

This is a good way to sum it up. True redemption is something dealing with the internal state of a person. Unfortunately, all we have to judge by is the external actions. If I see someone who’s done evil things in his past, that’s going to be one element by which I judge him. If I see that he’s now no longer doing evil deeds, or that he’s trying to correct his previous evils, that’s also going to be an element of my judgment. And even with all of a person’s deeds laid out, I might still judge incorrectly, in either direction.

Redemption with the small “r”. If you’re over 30, I hope most of you have had that experience. Examples of evil redeemed: Alcohol binge drinking, nicotine, illegal drugs, selfish lifestyles, self-hatred, any destructive behavior, just stopping the crap you did as teenagers and early twenties. I said, did, and thought plenty of things I regret and have now learned from.

Example are everywhere; reformed addicts counseling, AA members and organizers, persons recommitting to religion and its good works, people going back to school for education, going for medical/psychological help.

Some of these redemptions have more public visibility than others. Look at President Bush - Mr. Frat Boy. Regardless of what your opinions are now - he would have been unacceptable to everyone until he straightened out. Ayers - still against the Vietnam War with no regrets but now a distinguished professor and education authority. This is probably why we have an age minimum for the Presidency. With age comes wisdom, or at least, less stupid stuff. I discount most of what these guys/gal did when 20ish.

Any positive change you can make with your life can have great consequences in the future. Not just for you but for others. Is positive change the same as redemption? I think so.

I think redemption is possible.

I don’t think Ayers needs to be redeemed for anything, though.

Bill’s just the impetus of the discussion, not its subject. Hence the absence of his name from the thread title.