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Atonement (also atoning, to atone) is the concept of a person taking action to correct previous wrongdoing on their part, either through direct action to undo the consequences of that act, equivalent action to do good for others, or some other expression of feelings of remorse. From the Middle English attone or atoon (“agreed”, literally “at one”), now meaning to be "at one", in harmony, with someone.[1] Atonement "is closely associated to forgiveness, reconciliation, sorrow, remorse, repentance, reparation, and guilt".[2] It can be seen as a necessary step on a path to redemption.[3]


In law and societyEdit

In the legal systems, the concept of atonement plays an important role with respect to criminal justice, where it is considered one of the primary goals of criminal rehabilitation.[4] Philosopher Linda Radzik has proposed that there should be an "ethics of atonement", and that atonement is an underrepresented area of study in philosophy and a topic given absurd treatment in the arts.[3]

In religionEdit

In religion, atonement is "a spiritual concept which has been studied since time immemorial in Biblical and Kabbalistic texts",[2] while "[s]tories of atonement are ubiquitous in religious discourse and the language of atonement fundamentally reveals a redemptive turn".[5]

Concepts in religion include:

Concepts of atonement also exist in other religious views. For example, in Native American and Mestizo cultures of the Americas, "[s]ince sin and guilt are among the principal causes of illness and maladjustment... confession, atonement, and absolution are frequent rituals used in treatment. In some cases, atonement is accomplished through prayer or penance; in others, it may involve cleansing the body, accomplished by brushing the body with branches of rosemary or by sprinkling it with holy water".[13]

Concepts of universal atonement can transcend all religions, as in unlimited atonement, the doctrine that the atonement is unlimited in extent, and universal reconciliation, the doctrine that all will eventually come to salvation. Yet this does not make it so.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Niels-erik A. Andreasen, 'Atonement/Expiation in the Old Testament' in W. E. Mills (ed.), Mercer dictionary of the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1990)
  2. ^ a b Ruth Williams, "Atonement", in David A. Leeming, Kathryn Madden, Stanton Marlan, Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion: L-Z (2009), p. 83.
  3. ^ a b Linda Radzik, Making Amends: Atonement in Morality, Law, and Politics (2009).
  4. ^ Theodore Millon, Melvin J. Lerner, Irving B. Weiner, Handbook of Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology (2003), p. 552.
  5. ^ Paul Wink, Jonathan M. Adler, and Michelle Dillon, "Developmental and narrative perspectives on religious and spiritual identity for clinicians", in Jamie Aten, Kari O'Grady, Everett Worthington, Jr., eds., The Psychology of Religion and Spirituality for Clinicians (2013), Ch. 3, p. 51.
  6. ^ "Atonement." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  7. ^ atonement. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved October 03, 2012: '2. (often capital) Christian theol a. the reconciliation of man with God through the life, sufferings, and sacrificial death of Christ b. the sufferings and death of Christ'.
  8. ^ Matthew George Easton, 'Atonement' in Illustrated Bible Dictionary (T. Nelson & Sons, 1897).
  9. ^ Ward, K. (2007) Christianity – a guide for the perplexed. SPCK, London, p. 48- 51
  10. ^ Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, Gustaf Aulen, 1931
  11. ^ Vincent Taylor, The Cross of Christ (London: Macmillan & Co, 1956), p. 71-2
  12. ^ In which the atonement is spoken of as shared by all. To wit, God sustains the Universe. Therefore if Jesus was God in human form, when he died, we all died with him, and when he rose from the dead, we all rose with him. See Jeremiah, David. 2009. Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World, pp. 96 & 124. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; Massengale, Jamey. 2013.Renegade Gospel, The Jesus Manifold. Amazon, Kindle.
  13. ^ Manuel Ramirez III, Multicultural/Multiracial Psychology: Mestizo Perspectives in Personality and Mental Health (1998), p. 174.

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