One of the most contentious issues in Christianity is the nature of Christ’s atonement. Virtually everyone who self-identifies as a Christian believes that Jesus died to redeem humanity. It’s when the question, “exactly how does that work?” comes up that the consensus falls apart.
This topic has become a point of contention in recent years, as thinking people begin to question the stories they learned in Sunday school. Here’s a summary of what most Protestant churches teach about the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion:
God is conflicted in his feelings about humanity. He loves us, yet his just nature demands that he punish us for our finite number of sins by torturing us for an infinite amount of time.
To reconcile this internal conflict, he sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross. God let his perfect Child get beaten and murdered for all the bad stuff the rest of us have done. Then he looked down from heaven and said, “well, that evens the score!”
When we believe that Jesus’ bloody, torturous death placated God’s yearning to torment us, then we receive forgiveness and eternal life. If, on the other hand, we reject this story (for whatever reason) then God tosses us into a giant pit of flame, where we will suffer forever.
A million years from now, those who believed this crazy yarn will be partying in heaven. On the other hand, the rest of us will be screaming in agony at the top of our lungs, for whatever we did wrong hundreds of thousands of years before.
Were you a glutton? It’s fire and brimstone for you, fatso. Did you lust after swimsuit models? Burn in Hell, you dirty perv. Did you stick with the religion of your ancestors after hearing the missionaries preach? Bad choice, chump; Buddha’s not gonna pull your sorry, Christ-rejecting ass out of those flames.
And if you dare to fall in love with someone who has genitals like yours – oohhh bboyyy, are you gonna get it, you dirty faggot!
Is it any surprise that intelligent people have trouble accepting this “good news?” The real mystery is why this nonsense has gone unchallenged for so long. Let’s look at just a few of the numerous plot holes in this horror story.
• How can a God obsessed with justice punish someone infinitely for a finite amount of evil?
• How does the fact that an innocent person got beaten and murdered for someone else’s crimes equal “justice?” Isn’t that just the opposite of justice? For example, let’s say I have two kids. One sets fire to an orphanage while the other is volunteering at a soup kitchen. So, to make things right, I beat the living crap out of the innocent one and declare the scales balanced. Does that sound like the action of a wise, loving father or the despicable crime of a lunatic?
• Why does God need someone to suffer and die in order to cut his children some slack? After all, each of us was born screwed up, according to traditional Christian teaching. We couldn’t have made the grade if we tried. Doesn’t that merit some leniency, since we had no choice but to blow it?
God forces us to be born as slaves to sin, then holds us accountable even though we had no say in the matter. But we get a free pass if we call Jesus’ crucifixion the ultimate act of love. That’s the “good news” proclaimed from millions of pulpits across the globe every Sunday.
If anything ever deserved to have BS called on it, then it’s this perversion of every good and decent moral principle ever affirmed by God or humanity. I’m going to explore this issue in depth in the coming weeks, including some alternative views of the meaning of Christ’s death. In this post I simply wanted to lay out the issue. As always, your comments are welcome.
PS Please forgive my angry tone. I normally try to be more gracious in my presentation, but I have my limits.