Christian Atonement Theology
(Top Posts - Distance From Belief
in christianity - 040405)

Here's an exposition consisting of probing
questions and answers into the claimed
atonement of christianity, the 2nd definition
of atonement in Merriam-Webster's dic-

Main Entry: atone·ment
Pronunciation: &-'tOn-m&nt
Function: noun


2 : the reconciliation of God and humankind
through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ

3 : reparation for an offense or injury :

4 Christian Science : the exemplifying of
human oneness with God

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Gary Eickmeier wrote:

> The central belief of Christianity is that Jesus died for us to atone
> for our sins. It's a beautiful thought, and has inspired a lot of
> converts, and makes us feel even guiltier than ever before, but...

> ... it just doesn't make any sense, if you think about it any further
> than the guilt you feel about yourself, your life. I have a
> three-pronged objection to it, if I understand it correctly. If I'm
> wrong in my understanding of just what atonement is, then please
> chime in and enlighten me. My three prongs are as follows:

> 1. They say we have been saved from some sort of original sin. Even
> if you understand the Adam and Eve story as allegorical, there is some
> original sin which has been passed on through the generations, ensuring
> guilt for all.

> Well, I don't buy passing on guilt for previous generations
> or any other person's sins. But even if we acknowledge that we all
> are, indeed sinners in our own right (that is, if you buy the concept
> of "sin" in the first place), it is because that is our nature, the way
> God created us, so what is the problem with it? Why is he blaming
> us for all this? OK, let's move on.

I replied:

Guilt is a concept passed down from generation
to generation, from parents to children. It's a con-
trol tool. With the church, it's a control tool they
use to try to impart their influence on everyone
they can.

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

> 2. So God becomes man, preaches for three years, and gets us to
> kill him on the cross, absolving us of all of our other sins... Right, that
> doesn't sound too believable... so Jesus commits "suicide by cop" by
> doing things he knew would get himself in trouble... not much better...
> well, I'm out of ideas. How does killing the Son of God absolve us of
> anything?

> Bill Litchfield has told me that it is nothing more sophisticated than
> a blood sacrifice, like when the ancients would kill a goat or an ox
> on the altar, supposedly sacrificing it to God. Jesus was a human
> sacrifice for all mankind, but that doesn't make sense on two counts.
> First, it is against the law of God to make human sacrifices. Second,
> how does killing something on an altar appease God, and how can
> killing an innocent man atone for everyone on the planet's sins from
> that point on? It just boggles my mind.

I replied:

Blood sacrifice, really big in ancient faiths. Used
to be a lot of human sacrifices were involved. As
for why ancient and prehistoric evolved apes got
a brain big enough to come up with the idea of
killing humans and animals for their magic imag-
inary beings? Well, I suppose blood was consid-
ered life, for them, and as such, it was perhaps
not too large a leap to think that sacrifice/blood
was somehow impressive to the magic imaginary

Like guilt, above, another control tool for the leaders
of tribes, and later, leaders of organized religions.

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

> 3. The story is that this atonement is for all humankind, but it isn't
> true! You're only saved if you buy into the story. I don't know what
> happens to you if you haven't heard the "good news" yet, but if you
> have heard it and do not believe, then you are not saved. So Jesus
> died for all humankind, but only if you believe it. This is the last straw
> for me. This would be a diabolical game second to none, the work
> not of a loving God but a sadistic monster, like a parent who had
> children only to murder them if they couldn't figure out how to play
> some game.

I replied:

Another control tool, believe (and, of course, follow,
attend worship services, tithe, raise your children
in the faith, spread the word, proselytize, convert,
ask the magic beings for things you want, praise it)
and get the goodies, disbelieve and be (at various
times in religious history) ostracized, tortured, im-
prisoned, killed, or (in the current day) get excluded
from the immortal candyland club, with your fate
being one of many (see individual believer for the
exact nature of what will befall you -- seems they
just can't agree on that -- prior to modern times,
however, the church was quite strong on your fate
being immortal torture, hellfire and brimstone style).

So, the theme of all 3 of the atonement issues is
-control-, methods the church (and religion/tribes
prior to organized religion) devised to try to control
you, with the church acting as the beneficiary if you
buy into their theology. However, of the 3, the 1st
one, guilt, can easily be blamed on nature, and
religion has only taken advantage of our natural
instinct to blame (guilt-trip) others for things we
don't like. Then again, the other 2, also guilt-trips,
albeit guilt-trips by virtue of the blame that's placed
on every human for having 'caused' Jesus to have
to be sacrificed, due to all those naughty things
we humans tend to do, from time to time, believe
it -or else-.

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

> If anyone can make sense out of this, and especially if I have the story
> wrong, please let me know about it. This is your chance, all you holy
> people out there, all you proselatisers, ministers, preachers, whatever
> - tell me just how this works so that it makes sense theologically. Then
> we'll work on all of the mythology surrounding it.

I replied:

If one buys the premise, one buys the bit. With
religion, the premise is that humans do naughty
things, Jesus came to save humans from them-
selves, God is good no matter what he does
(words like perfection, loving, all-knowing, all-
caring, prayer-answering, heaven-granting flow
effortless [and oft-times mindlessly] from the
mouths of believers), and belief in ____ (insert
beliefs required, there) along with applicable
actions (those which a true believer naturally
engages in) result, or so their theory goes.

It's the premise, that's the selling point, buying
into the premise, and to achieve the sell, they
try to get children, innocents, virginal minds,
into which they spin-spin-spin way before the
children have been taught how to actually think,
ponder, reflect, and doubt in what their parents
and others have entrapped them into believing.

The level you're approaching it from is way
beyond the level at which most bought the
premise, the sell, when they were too young
to know any better. The only religiously indoc-
trinated 'believer' minds willing to address
those types of issues in any kind of way
remotely close to reason (as if anything reli-
gious could be remotely related to reason)
are those that are typically well-trained in apol-
ogetics, oft-times via religious books, semin-
aries, and religious educational institutions.

A good version of apologetics (if by good,
one is referring to heavyweight theatrics blind
to or dismissive towards doubt and disbelief)
is found in the online Catholic Encyclopedia.

Here's a link to what they have to say about
atonement theology:

Catholic Encyclopedia : Doctrine of Atonement

Now, since most who post here are not Catholics,
since the majority of religious exposure in this
particular country is from religions spawned by
non-Catholic christianity, not likely that very many
of the believers you are seeking information from
have given the topic much thought, simply be-
cause they've bought the premise, as an article
of faith.

Actually thinking about matters is *not* something
encouraged by Protestants, in general, and Catho-
lics have worked up a very sophisticated array of
apologetics to deal with all matters of doubt, on
many levels, with an entirely church-designed
panoply of doctrines / teachings far beyond the
simple-minded notions of fundamentalist reli-

You'll note, however, while reading articles in the
Catholic Encyclopedia, you have little room to
actually breathe and pause and reflect, for their
flow of dogmatic 'as ifs' is all-but endless, with
their high-handed presentments as if they are
tuned into the mind of the almighty flowing from
one sentence to the other almost endlessly ...

(hey, it's infinity [or immortal torment] defined,
spending a lot of time in the Catholic Encyclo-
pedia, in my view, but as the saying goes, dif-
ferent strokes for different folks).

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

> I don't spend a lot of time in the Catholic Encyclopedia - still looking
> for answers to the basics. I am questioning the whole infrastructure.

> I read your referenced article a couple of times. It seems like more
> theological gymnastics, second only to dreaming up the trinity to
> explain why Jesus prayed to God in heaven. It admits in the article that
> they have been arguing back and forth for centuries trying to explain
> away the very question that I have innocently raised

> [...]

> It says, finally, that protestant theology has Jesus's death as a
> vicarious punishment for us and our sins. Again, silly, because it has
> original sin blaming the entire human race, then the redemption
> releasing us all from that sin. All before I was even born, and without
> my permission or knowledge. Or action. Or...

I replied:

Religion is not, by and large, an intellectual venture.
It's based on fear, threat, deceit, and pretense.

Atonement theology, as you and I have pointed
out, is just another (of many) aspects of religion
that makes no rational sense.

Here are some more perspectives on religion, in
general, with parts applicable to the atonement
mythos you referred to above (mostly, indirectly
applicable) ...

The theory goes God is all, God can do anything,
God is perfect.

Therefore, whatever God does, that's perfect, no
matter what.

When imperfections in life are pointed out, believers
point to a perfect afterlife.

When it's brought up why not now, in this life, heaven
on earth, believers blame humans for this life's short-
falls (reference, original sin).

When it's brought up humans are no more, per
their theory, than what God made them to be, they
bring up free will.

When it's brought up the dynamics of the limited
choices humans have, and the fact that no one
chooses outside his/her genes, stimuli, and life
experiences, + random brain activity, all of which
yields a result, not something that could ever have
been different without altering part of the afore-
mentioned mix ... <deep breath>

... a typical believer might go huh, say what, that's
too difficult to relate to, so that's not true, besides
that takes thinking and I, a believer, am not into
either deep thought or doubt, I am 'god' of my
own fate on earth with all due respect to God and
the times when he takes my fate into his own wise
hands, the bible tells me so, and ... <the believer's
postulation, unfortunately interrupted by a stroke> ...

... and months later, with the individual incapacitated
in a veggie-like state, another believer chimes in ...

... it's God's will <and the circle of faith is complete> ...

... it's for the best ... it's part of the mystery of God,
and God is all-love, all-just, all-right ... just believe ...

You see, making up stuff that makes no sense is
central to religion, placing all responsibility, power,
ultimate will in a be-all end-all being, pretending that
being grants immortality to the 'right' people, pre-
tending that being condemns the 'bad or unworthy
or otherwise not qualified for the immortal fantasy
land trip', pretending everything that happens is
either good, the will of God, or a result of humans
lacking in something or doing something wrong
(when things go bad), and placing belief in that
almighty being *above* *all* *else*.

What is allowed to fall by the wayside in that en-

Logic, reason, common sense, human decency,
honesty, forthrightness, freethought, appreciation
for the mystery of life, appreciation for the mystery
of existence, recognition that an all-powerful ultimate
being has ultimate responsibility for whatever hap-
pens in its creation and that responsibility cannot
logically, reasonably, or with any sense whatsoever
be parsed down to mere mortals ...

... who, from all evidence, evolved from apes in a
harsh cruel world far removed from any garden-land
fantasy of myth, acknowledgement of the likely finality
of this, our one and only *sure* chance at life, ack-
nowledgement that in a natural world it's up to the
beings entrapped within that world to do their best
to overcome the challenges of trying to exist within
that world ...

... and thanks to science, progress is being made,
though the risks remain extremely high that most, if
not all, will some day, in small numbers at a time, in
very large numbers like in the recent tsunami, or in
a mass death event of devastating impact to tens or
hundreds of millions or billions or everyone ...

... cease to exist.

To the extent that can be prevented, science offers
the only hope humans have (although there is the very
slim chance that contact with other intelligent life will
happen and will yield a positive outcome despite the
likelihood that cross-species contact will be deleteri-
ous to us), but unfortunately, in that hope, there's also
risk that science will end up being the death of us all,
so ...

... once again, returning to a theme, here, it's up to
us to make the best choices as quickly as possible
to increase the odds that some day, some way,
maybe, if humans are fortunate, a heaven-like envir-
onment will exist on earth, and beyond, for us, or
our descendants, or their descendants, or ...

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

> Great exposition. What can I tell you. So why do so many
> still believe?

> I know, fear, threat, deceit, and pretense.

> [...]

> How about the "son" of God concept? Have you thought
> about the absurdity of that before?

I replied:

For some, they like pretending (or believing, kinda
sorta, especially when attending worship services)
that there's a be-all end-all of all who loves them,
who listens to them, who cares for them, who rewards
them with good things in this life, who no matter what
bad happens in this life whisks good people (that
qualify for the eternal life ticket -- see assorted reli-
gious dogma/doctrine for details) up to an immortal
candyland of eternal joy ...

... and who dispatches bad people (or otherwise
good people who failed to adhere to the 'right' reli-
gious dogma/doctrine) in a manner that believers
oft-times disagree about (see assorted religious
dogma/doctrine for details).

Kind of sounds like a fantasy when viewed in that
way, to me, but of course, religions treat any pre-
sentment that's deviant from their particular dogma/
doctrine as blasphemy or heresy or damnable or
punishable or sinful or ______ (see assorted reli-
gious dogma/doctrine for details). Used to, they
locked people up for having conversations like
you and I are having, even going so far as to tor-
ture and kill folks like us. I'm glad they don't do
that anymore.

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