Atheist: "Jesus forgiving your sins means nothing if the person you sinned against doesn't forgive you."
I witnessed this exchange between religionist and atheist recently. I imagine that to many of us it reads like reasonable discourse and debate between two people with opposing perceptions of reality. But that’s because we have been raised in a culture where the dominant religion’s words of the absurd have become accepted and common place. In fact the atheist has already surrendered the debate high ground by accepting the challenge on the religionist’s terms.
In his effort to inject reason to counter a basic proselytizing platitude, the freethinker inadvertently validated the legitimacy of the Xtian’s proposal. He did so four times.
First, by granting the Xtian’s premise of the existence of an imaginary Man-god; second, by imbuing that imaginary being with the ability to grant forgiveness; third, by allowing the reference to gaining entry into a fictional place of afterlife to be established as a valid concern; and fourth by accepting the concept of “sin” as a meaningful term in secular parlance where any forgiveness is needed.
Jesus forgiving your sins means every bit as much to the thinking as Jean Val jean, Sherlock Holmes, or Baal forgiving one’s sins. Thus, seeking such forgiveness is absurd at face. So why propose that the fictional god figure’s forgiveness “... means nothing IF...” ? It means nothing, period!
That we may use the word sin in normal discourse to mean an ethical lapse is indicative of our evolving language. But religionists see the word very differently. "Sin" is a man made convention predicated on committing transgressions that violate a supernatural being's prohibitions or edicts causing him/her/it displeasure. Thus, since the very concept of sin is fallacious it negates any need for forgiveness from anything or anyone.
Unless this atheist has concerns about entry to paradise after death; or is worried about offending an imaginary supernatural being’s sensibilities; or he accepts that not keeping the Sabbath holy is a “sin” necessitating a spirit’s forgiveness (any of which by the definition of atheist make no sense) ... his tack is ill conceived. The proper strategy would be to reject the theist’s premise; explain that by virtue of one’s reasoned thinking the proposal is as meaningless; and point them to greener pastures like Scientologists or Muslims.
When evangelicals propose salvation to an atheist they are doing so out of the belief that atheists are simply being stubborn. They have already rejected the fact of our non-belief, considering it simply a defect that proselytizing and testimony can repair. That’s hardly the time to take their bait.