This idea can have logic and great value even for an atheist.
Not that long ago I offered for some angry people to kick my head in, to prove a point about how men should treat women (i.e. don't bully them). (I guess they didn't have the heart to do it.)
Among the many interpretations which can be placed on the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, we can say this:
Jesus went to his death willingly - in that he knew it was going to happen, and didn't run away, when he could have done - in order to prove and illustrate a point. That point was his life's work (well, the last 3 years'). One of his main lessons was that we can all be given the chance for our sins to be forgiven, provided we earn it and do the necessary real work involved. Provided we go to our Crucifixion willingly. If he can get himself crucified, we should be up to saying sorry and putting things right when we have to. We should be humble enough to suffer for what we have done. We should be humble enough to let something go instead of escalating to some kind of blood feud.
He also forgave the people who were crucifying him.
By dramatically illustrating the idea that God can forgive our sins, will always give us a second chance to make good: life became possible, life became good, life became fruitful. Instead of nasty, brutish and short. Hence the Resurrection.
@Archaeopteryx - this is what I said, specifically, within the last 3 hours, and which you replied to:
if I was to name the person whose private e-mail you quoted in public out of context in order to support your spat with me - that would be breaking confidence, as you well know.
You're always on my case, everywhere I turn.
If you're saying I quoted someone's private email, I'm not clear if this alleged email was addressed to me or to you. If to you, how would I have accessed it? If to me, were it private, how would you know what it said? Sadly, you make no sense, but then I've never known you to do so.
If it was a "private email," then depending on to whom it was sent, one of us should have no knowledge of it - which of us would that be?
@Archaeopteryx - I also said, specifically:
if someone was accusing me of something I hadn't done, I'd be on it in seconds with an explicit rebuttal.
You remind me of a chihuahua, nipping at the heels of a grizzly, a mild annoyance, but nothing to be alarmed about. If you were that someone, what you say wouldn't matter enough to me to even lift a finger, one just considers the source --
It seems significantly not about sensibility. I was of the impression that Christ was about perfecting the human 'soul', sadly the outcome was about finding a proxy, Christ, to get us off the hook.
@James - in a sense, that's what he did - got us off the hook, by really showing us what forgiveness is all about. So his message is very real and logical to me. Every time I think about forgiveness, it's Jesus' example I think of and no other. And I'm a lifelong confirmed atheist.
I guess I am of the 'personal responsibility' camp mostly. A word without 'forgiveness', could be a world that gets over nothing and is condemned to a war of all against all. Choosing what we remember or 'learn' might go a long ways to the building of a humane civilized culture. Else we condemn ourselves to a planetary armed camp....
So forgiveness is all about sacrificing oneself to forgive people for committing an imaginary crime that the person being sacrificed created in the first place?
Actual forgiveness could have been just 'I forgive you'. No need for a human sacrifice to sate the need for blood to be shed. Not to mention all the inherent problems with substitutionary punishment.
To take it a step further, Dave, Dostoevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov, had one of his characters say, "Without god, all is permitted." I would say that with the Yesua Forgiveness Policy, all is permitted WITH god - personal responsibility goes out the window when you can screw up and just do a Rick Perry, "Oops! I screwed up, forgive me - I'll try not to do it again, but if I do, I know you'll forgive me then too, so I really have no reason to change my behavior."
@James - I agree.
@Dave - but forgiveness was Jesus' "big thing", it was one of his main contributions to the culture. Can you name a single other person in history who emphasised it in anything like the same way?
RE: "Can you name a single other person in history who emphasised it in anything like the same way?" - don't you mean, "name another character in fictional literature?"
"Sydney Carton," from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, was a far more sympathetic character.