My wife read the Life of Pi (by Yann Martel) on holiday. She thought this bit might appeal to me:
[The priest] served me tea and biscuits in a tea set that tinkled and rattled with every touch; he treated me like a grown-up; and he told me a story. Or rather, since Christians are so fond of capital letters, a Story.
And what a story. The first thing that drew me in was disbelief. What? Humanity sins but it’s God’s Son who pays the price? I tried to imagine father saying to me, “… a lion slipped into the llama pen today and killed two llamas. Yesterday another one killed a black buck. Last week two of them ate the camel. The week before it was painted storks and grey herons. And who’s to say for sure who snacked on our golden agouti? The situation has become intolerable. Something must be done. I have decided that the only way the lions can atone for their sins is if I feed you to them.”
“Yes, father, that would be the right and logical thing to do. Give me a moment to wash up.”
“Hallelujah, my son.”
She was right.
Atonement never has been very appealing to me. Particularly Penal Atonement – though the other accounts are scarcely any better. Here’s a cynically black and white interpretation that nonetheless does make a reasonable point.