The Importance of Atonement

The idea of ‘atonement’ sounds very old-fashioned and is deeply rooted in religious tradition. To atone means, in essence, to acknowledge one’s capacity for wrongness and one’s readiness for apology and desire for change. It’s a concept that every society needs at its center. For gifts and more from The School of Life, visit our online shop:
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“‘Atonement’ is a slightly unfamiliar, old-fashioned and alien word. It means, according to the dictionary, the action of making amends for a wrong or injury and, especially in religious contexts, reparation or expiation for sin.
The modern world chiefly believes that the rightful way to amend for a wrong is either to pay a fine or go to prison. These are, in certain circumstances, surely the best moves – but they fail to deal with what is, in the end, the far largest category of wrongs that humans commit: instances of everyday nastiness, error, foolishness, lack of empathy and shortsightedness. Fining or imprisoning on a mass scale is not realistic here and yet, leaving the wrongs unaddressed seems not quite right either. We need a procedure for atonement that is both real and functions outside of the judicial system…”

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Produced in collaboration with:

Mike Booth


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