The idea that someone else can carry our sins is arguably wrong, but more importantly, it’s unethical


With the New Testament, comes the story of Christ—the son of God, who was sent down roughly two thousand years ago, to suffer torture, and eventually crucifixion at the hands of the Roman rulers of the Middle East, to redeem the human race. This is the creation of God for our ungodly sins, or vicarious redemption.

Now, I pose the following question to you, reader: is it moral to believe that your sins can be forgiven by the punishment of another person? Is it ethical to believe that?

This is the subject of a heavily contested debate within the realm of atheist versus Christian disputation. Personally, I would submit that the doctrine of vicarious redemption, by means of human sacrifice, is utterly immoral.

So this is my offering to you. Suppose you happen to be my friend, and you find yourself in debt for whatever reason, and I have just made a lot of money; I tell you that I will pay your debts for you, maybe you will pay me back someday, but for now I can get you out of trouble. Or, if I really loved you, and you had committed a heinous crime and subsequently have been sentenced to serve a term in prison, if I could find a way to serve your sentence for you, I would do it. But, regardless of these offerings, I cannot take away your responsibilities, I cannot forgive what you did, I cannot say that you did not do it, I cannot wash you clean of your wrongdoings … .

The name for that in ancient Middle Eastern society was, ‘scapegoating’—a term that is occasionally, though rarely, used today. Archaically, the act of scapegoating was as follows: a leader, or a spiritual leader would pile the sins of their tribe on a goat, and then they would send the goat into the desert, where it was certain to die of dehydration. With the death of the sin-carrying goat, the sins of the tribe were forgiven by the various deities for each respective tribe. This is arguably a positively immoral doctrine because it abolishes the concept of personal responsibility—something on which all ethics and all morality rests on.

This ideal also has a further implication. I am told that I have to share in this human sacrifice, regardless of the fact that it took place two thousand years before I was born. I had no say in it happening, I was not consulted about it, and had I been present, I would have been bound—by my own morality—to prevent the act of public torture and execution of an eccentric preacher taking place, regardless of my own beliefs which are quite contrary to his own. In fact, I still object to such acts in the Middle East nowadays, exemplified by the crucifixions and beheadings of the Christians in Syria by Muslim extremists in 2014, to mention one instance.

However, regardless of my aforementioned strict disagreement of the suffering that Jesus supposedly was exposed to, it remains that within Christianity I am implicated in it. I am treated as if I, myself, drove in the nails, and as if I were present at Calvary to witness his mistreatment and suffering, which confirms the original filthy sin in which I was conceived and born, the sin of Adam in Genesis. This may sound like a mad belief, but, it is in fact simply the Christian belief.

This is where we find something very sinister about monotheism and religious practice in general; it is covertly and, at times, explicitly totalitarian. I have no say in this, I was born under a celestial dictatorship which I had no hand in choosing and I do not willingly put myself under its government. And yet, I am told that it can watch me while I sleep, I am told that it can convict me of—here is the definition of totalitarianism—thought crime; for what I think I may be convicted, and condemned.

I am then told that, if I happen to commit a right action, then it is only to evade punishment, and if I commit a wrong action I am going to be caught up with punishment, no just in life, but also in death. In the Old Testament, as gruesome as it may be, by its recommendation of genocide, racism, tribalism, slavery, genital mutilation, and the displacement and destruction of others; terrible as the gods of the Old Testament are, they do not promise to punish the dead—there is no talk of torturing you.

Ironically, the notion of Hell only came when gentle Jesus, meek and mild, makes his appearance; at which point, those who are unwilling to accept the message of religion are told that they will suffer for an eternity in everlasting fire. Is this morality? Is this ethics? I say that, not only is this neither moral or ethical, not only does this come with the false promise of vicarious redemption, but it is also the origin of the totalitarian principle which has been such a burden and shame to our species for so long. I further think that it undermines us in our most essential integrity; it dissolves our obligation to live and witness truth.

Which of us would say that we believe something because it may cheer us up, or tell children that something is true because it might dry their eyes? Which of us indulges in wishful thinking? Who really cares about the pursuit of truth, at all costs and at all hazards? Can it not be said, or in fact, do you not hear it said repeatedly about religion, and by the religious themselves, that ‘well, it may not really be true, the stories may be fairy tales, the history may be dubious, but it provides consolation’. Can anyone reading this hear themselves saying the same thing, or hear it having said to them, without feeling some kind of embarrassment, unless the concession that this thinking is directly wishful follows? That, yes, it would be nice if you could throw your sins and your responsibilities on another, and have them resolved, but that it is simply not possible, true, or morally sound.