Here is another piece, this time on the atonement and sin, from a friend who supplies adverts and what have you to the Free Inquiry magazine amongst others. He has a special interest in the fascinating life of Robert Ingersoll.
THE IMMORALITY OF ATONEMENT
THE IDEA THAT GOD WANTS BLOOD
ROBERT G. INGERSOLL — 1861
According to the prevailing Christian belief, the Christian religion rests upon the doctrine of the atonement. If this doctrine is without foundation, if it is repugnant to justice and mercy, the fabric falls. [As St. Paul said of the Resurrection, so with Atonement, if it did not happen “your faith is in vain.”]
We are told that the first man committed a crime for which all his posterity are responsible—in other words, that we are accountable, and can be justly punished for a sin we never in fact committed. This absurdity was the father of another, namely, that a man can be rewarded for a good action done by another.
God, according to the modern theologians, made a law, with the penalty of eternal death for its infraction. All men, they say, have broken that law. In the economy of heaven, this law had to be vindicated. This could be done by damning the whole human race. [Bear in mind, God means the Trinity: Father-Jesus-Holy Spirit.]
Through what is known as the atonement, the salvation of a few was made possible. [The theologians] insist that the law—whatever that is—demanded the extreme penalty, that justice called for its victims, and that even mercy ceased to plead. Under these circumstances, God, by allowing [Jesus] to suffer, satisfactorily settled with the law, and allowed a few of the guilty to escape. The law was satisfied with this arrangement.
To carry out this scheme, God was born as a babe into this world. “He grew in stature and increased in knowledge.” At the age of thirty-three, after having lived a life filled with kindness, charity and nobility, after having practiced every virtue, he was sacrificed as an atonement for man. It is claimed that he actually took our place, and bore our sins and our guilt; that in this way the justice of God was satisfied, and that the blood of Christ was an atonement, an expiation, for the sins of all who might believe on him.
Under the Mosaic dispensation, there was no remission of sin except through the shedding of blood. If a man committed certain sins, he must bring to the priest a lamb, a bullock, a goat, or a pair of turtle-doves. The priest would lay his hands upon the animal, and the sin of the man would be transferred. Then the animal would be killed in the place of the real sinner, and the blood thus shed and sprinkled upon the altar would be an atonement. In this way Jehovah was satisfied.
The greater the crime, the greater the sacrifice—the more blood, the greater the atonement. There was always a certain ratio between the value of the animal and the enormity of the sin. The most minute directions were given about the killing of these animals, and about the sprinkling of their blood. Every priest became a butcher, and every sanctuary a slaughter-house.
Nothing could be more utterly shocking to a refined and loving soul. Nothing could have been better calculated to harden the heart than this continual shedding of innocent blood. This terrible system is supposed to have culminated in the sacrifice of Christ. His blood took the place of all other. It is necessary to shed no more. The law at last is satisfied, satiated, surfeited. The idea that God wants blood is at the bottom of the atonement, and rests upon the most fearful savagery. How can sin be transferred from men to animals, and how can the shedding of the blood of animals atone for the sins of men?
The church says that the sinner is in debt to God, and that the obligation is discharged by the Savior. The best that can possibly be said of such a transaction is, that the debt is transferred, not paid. The truth is, that a sinner is in debt to the person he has injured. If a man injures his neighbor, it is not enough for him to get the forgiveness of God, but he must have the forgiveness of his neighbor. If a man puts his hand in the fire and God forgives him, his hand will smart exactly the same. You must, after all, reap what you sow. No god can give you wheat when you sow tares, and no devil can give you tares when you sow wheat.
There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments—there are consequences. The life of Christ is worth its example, its moral force, its heroism of benevolence. To make innocence suffer is the greatest sin; how then is it possible to make the suffering of the innocent a justification for the criminal?
Why should a man be willing to let the innocent suffer for him? Does not the willingness show that he is utterly unworthy of the sacrifice?
Certainly, no man would be fit for heaven who would consent that an innocent person should suffer for his sin. What would we think of a man who would allow another to die for a crime that he himself had committed?
What would we think of a law that allowed the innocent to take the place of the guilty? Is it possible to vindicate a just law by inflicting punishment on the innocent? Would not that be a second violation instead of a vindication?
This space was paid for by an Ingersoll admirer; Treat yourself to the brilliant language and common sense that mesmerized 19th C audiences all over the country by visiting www.theingersolltimes.com
You will find all of his work, short and long biographies and much more in a highly readable newspaper format. Please look. If you like it, tell your friends; if you don’t, please tell me how to improve it: email@example.com
And my comments:
There is the issue of Adam and Eve and the two horned problem of using Adam as representative of humanity and testing him in the Garden of Eden context.
1) If he is just like humanity and fails as a result, then God has badly designed humanity to fail.
2) If he is not representative of humanity ie most humans wouldn’t have chosen like him / her / them), then God is unfair in condemning humanity on the choice of one human who doesn’t fairly represent them.
ie God can’t win. (Because he doesn’t exist…). It is this test and preceding sin which God pays for with the atonement.
Context being that if you believe (even if you do not believe in the literal Adam/Eve) that we are born predisposed to sin, then is the creator not in some way culpable for our sin? And to take it further:
If God designed the universe, the laws, humanity and everything, and then created the universe; and given that God could have chosen any other possible world out of infinite choices; and given that God could step in at any moment and change things; and given that God has complete foreknowledge of future events; how is god not in some way ultimately culpable for our sin?
For example, if I created a sentient lifeform in the lab – designed from scratch and created entirely myself – and I knew 100% that they would break out of the lab and rampage through town causing harm (rape, murder, mugging) and knew this in advance, and then still decided to create these lifeforms and they went out and did their evil thing, would I not be in some way culpable? Would I not end up in prison?
It goes one step further back than just saying “free will denies God responsibility” because there is a supposition that he knows all counterfactuals before creation. Obviously, this itself can negate free will (and as you know I deny free will anyway on philosophical AND empirical grounds). But, given free will, he designed and actualised this world of free will individuals over and above all other possible worlds of any sort of individuals, and could have had in any other way, presumably. So, if you take that on my analogy of creating evil individuals with free will and sentience in the lab: If I create them knowing full well they will cause evil, freely or otherwise, I am surely morally culpable. I would like to know why I would be morally culpable in that scenario, but God isn’t.
My point is that God has ultimate culpability in the same way that if I designed a car which I KNEW to be faulty, but designed and created in anyway and it caused pain and suffering by being an imperfect entity, then I would be (or my company by extension) held morally accountable by law. How is God different to this (and even more so to my more accurate analogy of a sentient being creator in a lab)?