I don’t want to be ‘saved’: vicarious atonement is immoral

 

I find myself in the unusual position of thanking the Jehovah’s Witnesses for inspiring me. After dismissing the pair who tried to “save” me yesterday, I started thinking about those who proselytize, for Christianity in particular, and this eventually lead me to the idea expressed in the title of this post: Christianity’s offer of atonement is immoral.

The idea is, at its most basic, this: Two thousand years ago, so we are told, a man is executed, and that as a result all of our sins are forgiven, and we are permitted to enjoy everlasting life.

Apparently this is my fault. Erm… sorry everyone… I don’t know what came over me. Wait, it’s your fault too? How could you?! I’m very disappointed in you. (Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth by Marco Palmezzano, c. 1490)

First consider the execution. Jesus is flogged, humiliated and mocked before finally being crucified. Who among us would not, if they had been present and had sufficient influence, have tried to stop this horrifying treatment of another human being? And yet we are told that in order to have our sins forgiven we have to accept responsibility for the torment suffered by Jesus, even though we had no part in it. If we reject this responsibility, or commit our own sins, that apparently serves to increase the suffering inflicted.

I did not ask Jesus to take responsibility for my wrong doings. Nor do I expect or want anybody to absolve me of the same. I take responsibility for my own actions. If I do wrong, I am the only person who can be considered responsible. A friend or family member could, if they were feeling incredibly selfless, and I unspeakably selfish, accept punishment in my stead, but nobody can relieve me of the fact that I am the one who is responsible for my misdeed.

Imposing responsibility upon an innocent person is known as scapegoating. This originates from the ancient practice of imposing the responsibilities for the sins of the tribe upon a goat, and then casting it out into the wilderness, in order that the gods forgive the tribe and stop punishing them (via disease, drought, or some other natural phenomenon). Jesus dying for our sins is obviously an example of this absurd practice, only with a human being sacrificed rather than a goat. How is this inspiring? I don’t like the idea that someone else has taken the blame for my mistakes.

If all that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. Not only was the torment allowed to take place so that our sins could be forgiven, but it was required as compensation for a much earlier sin. The original sin of Adam. Here’s where things start getting ridiculous (as if they weren’t already). God creates Adam as an imperfect and curious being, and then forbids him from seeking to satisfy the associated urges to investigate, learn and understand. So the ‘original sin’, the sin for which man is cast out of Eden, is to attempt to gain knowledge. What a cruel, tyrannical dictator is god! Even if the story was true (which it isn’t), I’d have to applaud Adam and Eve for setting mankind out on our eternal quest for knowledge. The quest that has given us all the wonders of the modern age, and will ultimately, hopefully, deliver us from silly and dangerous superstitions.

If, like me, you find all of the above quite distasteful, then that’s ok. For we are all granted the gift of free will, with which we may reject this tainted offer of redemption by proxy. But beware, in doing so you condemn yourself to eternal torture many times worse than anything experienced by Jesus during his ordeal, which as I’ve already mentioned is made worse by your rejection.

So the offer is this: gain eternal life and be relieved of the responsibility of your own sins by taking responsibility for the pain, agony and suffering inflicted on another person by people who lived and died long before anyone you know was born; or reject that offer and take responsibility for your own actions, but increase the agony suffered by the aforementioned individual and spend eternity in torment. This is the offer put before you by a religion claiming to bring hope, peace and love: join us or burn in hell.

There is, of course, a very simple, very obvious flaw in the whole thing. It’s all nonsense. You don’t need to fear for your immortal soul (who wants to live forever anyway?). You don’t need to take responsibility for acts of torture and murder committed two thousand years ago. You can celebrate the constant efforts to expand humanity’s understanding of the universe without worrying that you’re committing the same original sin as the mythical inhabitants of the non-existent Garden of Eden. You can condemn the practice of scapegoating without being a hypocrite. The only moral choice, from what I’ve seen, is to wholeheartedly reject the offer of those you wish to “save” you. I only regret that I didn’t think of this before the Jehovah’s Witnesses visited. Oh well, there’s always next time…

 

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4 Responses to “I don’t want to be ‘saved’: vicarious atonement is immoral”

  1. writinggomer Says:

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult, they mean well but enough said.
    You obviously don’t understand the bible with the comments you have made in this article.

    Jesus paid the price for our sins willingly out of love for us and a desire to obey the Father. We all have sinned, but we can be forgiven by asking Jesus to forgive us.

    God set the penalty for sin, death. This means spiritual death, we all will live forever, not all will live with God however. Those who do not accept Jesus as Lord will wind up in hell for all eternity. It does not need to be that way if one accepts Jesus as Lord and His free gift of salvation. God Himself in the person of Jesus came to this earth and paid the penalty He Himself instituted for sin. Jesus Christ was and is both God and man, therefore He went through all the same things we do, yet was perfect. As He was perfect, Jesus was the only one who could offer a sacrifice that was acceptable to the Father to pay for our sins…there is no way we could pay for our sins. If not for the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, all of us would go to hell.

    Adam and Eve were created perfect. They chose to sin, and so the fall of man began. They were allowed all things in the garden but the one tree. They walked with God Himself, there was no need for them to touch that tree, Satan incited Eve to do so.

    This is all in the bible, look it up.

    God will forgive your sins if you ask, but you do not get a free pass as you stated. God can and does punish His children, those who have accepted Him. You will, Believer or not have to explain yourself to God in the end.

    Read this article I wrote, http://believinggodtoday.com/2012/07/09/whose-truth-do-you-follow/

    • thinkofhappysquirrels Says:

      Thanks for your comment. You make some interesting points. I’ll do my best to respond to them.

      I was trying to convey that by paying the price for our sins Jesus apparently relieved us of the responsibility of having committed those sins. I am arguing that I refuse this offer. I cannot in all conscience allow another person (holy or not) to take responsibility for my actions. I’m not a child anymore. I can and will answer for my own misdeeds. Besides, I didn’t ask to have someone else take the blame. Doing so would make me a horrible person.

      I’m glad you mentioned that the way to get into heaven is to accept and believe in Jesus’s offer of salvation. I’ve heard the same message from various clergy members of different Christian sects. Not one ever mentioned leading a good and moral life. The only condition on whether you go to heaven or hell is whether you believe or not. It seems incredibly unreasonable that there have been billions of people who have been allegedly condemned to an eternity in hell just because of the circumstances of their birth, and regardless of how good a life they lead. I am referring here to those who are/were born into a society in which they are/were never exposed to whichever religion is the one true one (if any of them are). By this definition, heaven is a strict members only club.

      I’m also glad you mentioned sacrifice, because that precisely what this is. The entire Christian faith is based upon a single act of human sacrifice. This seems monstrous to me. Human sacrifice is wrong, no matter how you try to justify it. This is another reason for my rejection of the offer of salvation. I refuse to have any part of such deplorable acts.

      In response to your Adam and Eve points, I simply repeat my assertion that they were supposedly punished for doing what comes naturally to a animal which is curious and inquisitive about its surroundings – qualities which god as their creator must have instilled in them in the first place, and thus he must have known what would happen.

      The free pass regarding forgiveness is a little ambiguous, I admit. Catholic doctrine states that if you seek forgiveness it will be granted, and you get your free pass to heaven. Other Christian sects have differing views, and in fact that made the whole post quite difficult to write. So if you disagree with the interpretations I quote, then that might be because I’ve taken teachings from a different branch of Christianity. Regardless, my general points still stand: I am responsible for my own actions, and trying to lump them on another to absolve me of the blame is a sly, underhanded attempt to avoid being punished.

      Finally, if it turns out that there is a god, then I will gladly face him and explain that I was not prepared to let anybody else take the blame for my actions. I have free will. I choose to act as I do. I alone will bear the responsibility that comes with it. I also see no reason to abandon my other main statement that accepting the offer of having Jesus accept responsibility for my sins is an immoral idea that I cannot accept. It is contrary to my idea of right and wrong.

      • writinggomer Says:

        You are correct in saying you have free will. You have the freedom to choose whether or not to accept God’s gift of salvation.

        As for standing before God and telling Him you could not
        accept His Gift of salvation, well you are condemning yourself. You are dishonoring God in doing this. Why in the world would you say you are not a child to be saved from your actions? This being who offers to save you from your sins is a God, the only God. It is not as if you were being
        offered anything by a another human, If you are to proud to accept His offer of salvation, you will be the one to pay the price…eternity in hell. As for those who have not heard of God, well creation itself speaks of God, and before the end comes the Gospel will be preached in all the world.

        Sacrifice…yes Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. But remember He did so willingly, no power on earth could have crucified Jesus Christ had He not allowed it to happen! This was done willingly out of love for us. And, Jesus was not just a man, He was also God at the same time He was a man.

        What is immoral is telling a Holy and perfect God that He got it all wrong when He sacrificed Himself in love for you to be saved. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to sound like a jerk, but you cannot tell the Creator of the universe that He erred in saving you and all the rest of us if we but chose to
        accept His gracious offer.

        God does expect something in return from you for this however. He wants you to go and tell others about Him and how much He loves them. He wants you to serve Him.

        I can only tell you what He has done for me. I was a raging alcoholic with no desire to stop drinking. God took that from me in one day…no more desire to drink at all. I smoked as well and could not quit though not from lack of trying. God took that away as well.

        God loves you and wants to welcome you into His family. God is a gentlemen, He will not force Himself on you. It is your choice. All will bow the knee before Jesus at the end and call Him Lord, even Satan and the demons, but they are not going to heaven. Hell was created for them, unfortunately those who reject Jesus will end up there as well.

        I hope you think about Who you are rejecting, I understand that you find the sacrifice repugnant. I get that, but that is the way it had to be. No shedding of blood, no forgiveness of sin. Keep in mind that Jesus rose from the dead is even now alive and well and is seated next to the Father in heaven. We will be resurrected to life again as well, all of us. One group will go away to eternal punishment as they refused to accept the Lord Jesus, the other group will inherit eternal life.

        I hope that you will come to be in the group that receives eternal life. You had stated that “who would want to live forever anyway”, well all will live forever. Every person that was ever on the face of the earth will live forever, do you want to live forever with God as a perfect being with no more sin and no more unhappiness, or do you want to live in hell forever more, choice is yours to make. You will be in one of two places.

        you into His family.

      • thinkofhappysquirrels Says:

        I admit that the idea of having all of my misdeeds forgiven and being relieved of responsibility is a tempting prospect. But surely it is more moral for me to stand up and say “No, I will take responsibility for my own actions.” I know the difference between right and wrong, and as such can be held accountable for my mistakes. It is in this regard, that I know when I do wrong and so can be called to account, that I assert that I am not a child and do not wish to be treated like one.

        It seems wrong to me that the simple desire to not burden another person with my transgressions, to not make a scapegoat of Jesus, even if I do no wrong in life and so have no need of that offer, will condemn me to eternal torment. I repeat the statement that entry into heaven based on the strength of your faith rather than leading a good life is an obviously immoral selection policy. Any god that finds my disbelief so offensive that he feels the need to inflicting unending torture upon me for it, regardless of how I have lived my life, is a cruel, heartless god with very low self-esteem. Besides, why would I want to go to heaven given that very few, if any, of the people I would want to spend eternity with will be there? The only reason I would want to go to heaven would be to avoid the wrath of this celestial dictator. This is hardly a moral reason for believing.

        I also maintain that god’s demand for a human blood sacrifice is abhorrent. This is not the action of a loving god. If I am capable of forgiving people who have transgressed against me based on nothing more than a sincere apology, then I’d hope that any god worthy of our worship can at least do the same. If it turns out that there is a god, then I agree it will take a lot of guts to tell him I think he was wrong. I will, however, apologise, admit that I was wrong in thinking that he did not exist, and that I am genuinely sorry for anything I may have done to offend him. If that’s not enough for god, then he is not as good and loving as some people make him out to be.

        The subject of death and what happens, if anything, afterwards is a difficult one. Nobody knows for certain what happens after you die. So until I do I will continue to live my life based upon moral principles that I have arrived at through careful consideration of right and wrong, and part of that is taking responsibility for my actions. It is tempting to let someone else take the blame, but through my interpretation of morality doing so seems wrong to me.

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