Vicarious atonement

Vicarious atonement, also called substitutionary atonement, is the idea of Jesus' death as an atonement for human sin, the forgiving or pardoning of sin as a consequence of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.


  • Another fear which induces mankind to regard death as a calamity, is one which theological religion has inculcated... the fear of hell, the imposition of penalties, usually out of all proportion to the errors of a life-time, and the terrors imposed by an angry God. To these man is told he will have to submit, and from them there is no escape, except through the vicarious atonement. There is, as you well know, no angry God, no hell, and no vicarious atonement... the only hell is the earth itself, where we learn to work out our own salvation, actuated by the principle of love and light, and incited thereto by the example of the Christ, and the inner urge of our own souls. This teaching anent hell is a remainder of the sadistic turn which was given to the thinking of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages, and to the erroneous teaching to be found in the Old Testament anent Jehovah, the tribal God of the Jews... As these erroneous ideas die out, the concept of hell will fade from man's recollection, and its place will be taken by an understanding of the law which makes each man work out his own salvation upon the physical plane, which leads him to right the wrongs which he may have perpetrated in his lives on Earth, and which enables him eventually to "clean his own slate".
    • Alice Bailey in A Treatise on the Seven Rays: Volume 4: Esoteric Healing. (1953) p 393
  • The doctrine of vicarious atonement – salvation through the blood of Jesus – is today the mainstay of all evangelical Christianity around the world.
  • Peter [i.e. the Apostle Peter] knew nothing of the atonement; and his reverence for the mythical father Adam would never have allowed him to admit that this patriarch had sinned and was accursed. Neither do the Alexandrian theological schools appear to have been cognizant of this doctrine, nor Tertullian; nor was it discussed by any of the earlier Fathers. Philo represents the story of the Fall as symbolical, and Origen regarded it the same way as Paul, as an allegory.
  • How strangely illogical is this doctrine of the Atonement. We propose to discuss it with the Christians from the Buddhistic stand-point, and show at once by what a series of sophistries, directed toward the one object of tightening the ecclesiastical yoke upon the popular neck, its acceptance as a divine command has been finally effected; also, that it has proved one of the most pernicious and demoralizing of doctrines.
  • The Christian church's concept of a vicarious atonement is a misunderstanding of the Christ's function. He came (in Palestine) and has come again now, to show the way, to lead, guide and inspire, but not to go against the Law of Karma. We must save ourselves through response to His teachings.
    • Benjamin Creme Questions & answers on reincarnation, karma, & past lives, Share International (2005)
  • The whole doctrine of original sin, the Fall, the vicarious Atonement, the placation of the Almighty by blood—all this is abhorrent to me. The spirit-guides do not insist upon these aspects of religion.
    • Arthur Conan Doyle, Quoted in The Life of Faith by Dr. A. T. Schofield, which was quoted in Heresies Exposed by William C. Irvine (Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune, New Jersey, 1921, p. 179)
  • The central ideas of Christianity, an angry God and vicarious atonement, are contrary to every fact in nature, as also to the better aspirations of the human heart; they are, in our present stage of enlightenment, absurd, preposterous, and blasphemous propositions... Even the street-sweeper is frequently more profoundly versed in subtle metaphysics and divine wisdom than the missionary sent to convert him.
    • Virchand Gandhi Christian Missions: A Triangular Debate, Before the Nineteenth Century Club of New York (1895)  

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