Notions of the Doctrine of “Atonement”

وَمَن يَكْسِبْ خَطِيئَةً أَوْ إِثْمًا ثُمَّ يَرْمِ بِهِ بَرِيئًا فَقَدِ احْتَمَلَ بُهْتَانًا وَإِثْمًا مُّبِينًا

“But one who commits a fault or a sin and imputes it to an innocent person, he certainly bears the burden of calumny along with that of a flagrant sin.” (4:112)

In other words, the blood of an innocent cannot wash out your sins. There is a principle in every civilized society, and this is laid down

وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ

“And no soul that bears the burden shall bear the burden of another.” (17:15)

This principle is repeated several times in the Holy Qur’ân (6:164; 35:18; 53:38).  Everyone has to carry its own cross. There is no forgiving or pardoning through the blood of an innocent helpless person. Every soul is responsible for its own actions and stand before his Lord with his own record of deed as He says:  “And (on that day) the record (of their deeds) will be exhibited (before them)” (18:49). This is the Qur’ânic law and Divine justice and this is the fundamental principle of ethics. Deviation from this principle is unethical.

In Christian theology, the atonement refers to forgiving or pardoning of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The story of the crucifixion of Jesus, with all its different versions, is in itself controversial among Christians.  Still, it is the cornerstone of Christian beliefs, and according to Christian dogma, those who deny this story deny Jesus and, in doing so, do not deserve Gods blessings. They cannot enter the kingdom of God and transcend to glory. Instead, they are destined to eternal torture in hell.

In other words, the mere belief in the story of the crucifixion, as presented by the Christian Fathers, is sufficient to transcend to glory, enter the kingdom of God, and avert the eternal hellfire. At the base of this belief are two stories: the story of Adam and the story of Jesus. Serious Christian scholars question the authenticity and truthfulness of each of these stories. Is the story of Adam merely a myth? They ask, and did the person Jesus as presented by Christian fathers actually exist as such in history? There is serious disagreement about the date of Jesus birth, his place of birth, and his actual parenthood. His early life and his youth remain in darkness. And what really happened when he was taken off the cross after a few hours is also clouded in mystery. Where did he hide? Who helped to bring him down from the cross and to escape? How was he “resurrected to heaven”? Did his flesh-and-blood body were resurrected, or was it just his spirit? All these controversies are carefully labeled as “mysteries,” and the Christian believer is supposed to believe in them in order to escape eternal hellfire.  

Here is another mystery: How can the “suicidal death” of one man have any effect on the morality of another person and qualify that person to enter paradise? If sin is innate, as the story of Christian Adam tells us, then how is that innateness changed by atonement? Is it not a fact that you have the capacity to discriminate between good and evil and, besides this, have been equipped with reason, logic, and conscience?  What is more, you have been given free will. If you so desire, you can walk along the path of virtue, and if you so will, you can take the evil way and “become the lowest of the low” (95:45). Assuredly, no atonement can change the fundamental nature of yours. The atonement of Jesus can neither efface the fact of sin nor change the tendencies and capabilities reposed in human nature.  Religion can only teach you the method of acquiring control over your passions and show you the way of salvation. The atonement has not succeeded in terminating sin and evil practices among its adherents; rather, it has given them a free hand, an excuse for evil practices, because there awaits them, in their imagination, a mindless forgiveness. One cannot hang an innocent person for the sin of another. That is not only unethical and against human nature, it is also against human conscience and is clearly unjust. No law in any society supports such injustice. Atonement is the invention of wild and lazy imaginations. Allâh says:  

لَّيْسَ بِأَمَانِيِّكُمْ وَلَا أَمَانِيِّ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ ۗ مَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا يُجْزَ بِهِ وَلَا يَجِدْ لَهُ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَلِيًّا وَلَا نَصِيرًا

“(O people!) It [the salvation] shall not be according to your vain desires, or according to the vain desires of the people of the Scripture (the Jews and the Christians). He who does evil shall be recompensed accordingly and he shall find for himself neither patron nor a helper besides Allâh” (4:123).

Consider: Would not the “Father” of Jesus be a cruel, unjust, and implacable tyrant, Whose anger moved Him to crucify His own innocent and beloved son for its pacification? Can He not forgive sins without wanting some reward for this Mercy?  Why was the blood of the son needed to mollify the anger of the Father and to wash out the sins of the rest of the children? If God, Who is considered All-Mighty both by Christians and Muslims, needed a son for the atonement of humankind, then He would be dependent, insufficient, and imperfect. Such a god could not be called All-Mighty. The Holy Qur’ân teaches you:  “And those who strive hard in Our cause We will certainly guide them to the ways that lead to Us” (29:69). This is opposite to the easy way of atonement. The Holy Qur’ân teaches you:

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

 “He who follows the right way follows it to his own good and he who goes astray, surely, he goes astray to his own loss. And no soul that bears the burden shall bear the burden of another. And We never punish unless We have sent a (warning) Messenger” (17:15).