Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Vicarious Redemption and Immorality

I have talked about Atonement or vicarious redemption previously in other posts so I'll quickly state a digest version here. Throwing your "sins" onto a person and having them killed, thereby somehow removing those "sins" from your record is immoral.

 It is immoral because it is scapegoating. Scapegoating is an immoral practice invented by nomads in the bronze age, a practice that essentially forgives the sins of a tribe by metaphorically strapping them onto the back of a goat and driving it into the desert to die of thirst and hunger. Thereby removing the sins of said tribe, hitting the reset button and making it "as if" their sins never happened. The sins of the tribe are somehow forgiven and the tribe can start afresh, their sins forgotten and forgiven.

But the bad things did happen, and that fact cannot be removed by the simplistic act of killing an innocent to atone for those transgressions. Jesus' death is by far the most well known of any such instance. An innocent killed to atone for people's wicked actions. There is nothing more immoral that humans can do. It is wishful thinking in its crudest form and a brutal idea dreamed up by backward folk of the desert. I am not saying that what Jesus did (the action of sacrificing himself) is immoral, I am saying that if you believe this action hits your reset button in front of god, removing your sins "as if" you didn't do them, then that is immoral. I can forgive you if you step on my toe, even if you kill my daughter; but I can't say you didn't do it.

I can pay your debts if I'm feeling generous. I can even take your place in a jail cell and see out your sentence. I could substitute you in a firing line if I know you well enough. But one thing I cannot do is say you didn't do the wrong thing that got into the predicament in the first place. I can't remove the fact that you committed a horrible deed. No matter what I do for you, I can't say you didn't do it. I can't take away your responsibilities. It would be immoral if I did, besides being utterly false. To believe that I removed your "sins" by performing such altruistic actions is childish and immoral and abolishes the concept of personal responsibility upon which all ethics and all morality must depend. Vicarious redemption is the embodiment of an unethical and wishful thought process.

No I do not mean atonement in the first instance. I am referring to the removal of personal transgressions (sin if you like, but the term has no meaning) by the punishment of another person. This is the definition of what Jesus is supposed to have done and is an immoral preachment. I do not say that "we never needed forgiving" and so we are pretending to be forgiven. We can admit all we like that we need atonement, but it is immoral to say it has arrived by the torture and death of another human being.

Furthermore, the atonement for sins by vicarious redemption is immoral if it proclaims to cleanse us of our "sins". I can't see that it matters if a deity does the cleansing or a human scapegoat. Vicarious redemption is immoral because it claims to remove the burden of guilt by magicking it away on a scapegoat. Like I said, I can pay your debts or take your place on the scaffold, but I can't say you didn't do the crimes that would have put you there. To say so is immoral, yet this is the central doctrine of Jesus' work. According to the Christians, we can go to heaven only if we are washed "as white as snow", meaning, if we are returned to a state in which our sins never happened in the eyes of god. Jesus apparently accomplishes this on the cross.

I don’t emphasize my inability to remove personal sins as being the problem. I emphasize the very idea as being immoral, regardless of who is doing the removing, and regardless of reason. Making your sins "as if" they never happened is precisely the immoral part of the idea.

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