Here is part of how, in my book “Penguins Pain, and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do,” by God (as told to John Shore), I have (as a literary device only, of course) God himself answering the question, “What does the whole ‘Atonement’ thing actually mean?”:
The At One-ment (Hey! I’m hooked on phonics! Wait—no I’m not) refers to that act in which I allowed myself to get brutally murdered so that all humans could be forever cleansed of the guilt associated with the things they do or think that do not, shall we say, represent their finest moments.
I let myself be tortured to death so that you could live free of pain.
But, hey, no pressure or anything. I don’t want you worrying about it. I was glad to do it. Seriously. No problem. It was a Friday. I really didn’t have all that much to do but hang around anyway.
For three days.
I was just killing time.
Oh, don’t I just slay you?
Cuz I sure do me.
Speaking of which, why don’t we revisit the final moment of my human life as recorded in the Bible? Here’s the last of that experience, as remembered by that prophet to end all prophets, the inimitable John:
Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
So. There’s that.
You know, when you’re dying from a prolonged beating while nailed to a giant wooden cross by steel spikes hammered through your hands and feet, nothing says “refreshing” like a filthy sponge full of wine vinegar being smeared all over your face.
And it leaves you feeling so dignified, too.
Ahh. Not good times.
Still, there was a job to do, and I was the man to do it. And so I did: The “it” in “It is finished” refers to the establishment of the means by which all people, forever, could have access to real and lasting salvation. I know I just said this, but if anything in the universe bears repeating, it’s that what my dying on the cross secured was the means by which, from that point on, any human being could have rinsed from their hearts and minds their guilt (however “naturally” they acquired it), which, without my divine intervention, must otherwise fester inside of them, where at best it severely undermines the quality of their lives and at worst compels them to contribute to that wretched, twisted cause which seeks to drag all of humankind down into the pits of degradation.
Do you see? I won the battle between good and evil by paying, in full, with my body, any and all karmic debt that might ever be incurred by anyone doing evil.
You might owe the phone company, the electric company, the credit card company, and your landlord. But you don’t owe me, or the world, anything. I’ve already totaled you out.
I’ve already atoned for your sins.
Which means that you and I, forever, are copasetic.
As long as you believe in me, that is. As long as you believe that as the Christ I took human form and stepped into human history for the specific purpose of removing from all people—by which I most definitely and forever mean from you personally—the debt incurred by any and all sin.
Believe that, and it’s all about you and I, friend.
Don’t, and you’re on your own.
But you believe it. You have to. Cuz you know who’s on your side, don’t you? You know who’s got you covered, don’t you? You’re feeling the love. You know you are. C’mon. Admit it. Who loves you? Who? Who cares about you? Who gave his all so you could delight in life instead of being bogged down by true existential angst?
Who’s your daddy?
That’s right: Me. The Father. Jesus. The Holy Ghost.
And what do really good fathers do? That’s right: They fork over the big bucks to cover the cost of every single thing their kids could ever think of doing.
Do you really wonder why such infinite numbers of people have always signed on for Team Jesus? Do you really think they’re all just lazy, shallow simpletons?
Well, they’re not. What they are is debt-free. Which is to say that, spiritually-speaking, they’re forgiven.
By God Almighty!
Man, I just don’t know what else you could possibly want from me.