Root meaning: To reconcile or set at one (it thus refers to the recovering of at-one-ment, not the state of at-one-ment). Specifically, the reconciliation of God and His children, which is achieved by the wiping away of what caused the rift: the children’s sins.
Conventional: The sins are wiped away by payment for them; in Christianity, by Jesus paying for them on the cross.
ACIM: The sins are wiped away by the realization that they were not real in the first place, and hence that the rift with God never happened. Therefore, Atonement in the Course is said to undo errors (rather than sins), correct perception (rather than the corruption of one’s soul), and cancel out past errors (rather than pay for them). “Atonement…enables you to realize that your errors never really occurred” (T-2.I.4:4). Put simply, it wipes away what stands between us and God with the knowledge that nothing stands between us and God. Jesus made this principle accessible to us through his resurrection, not his crucifixion (indeed, the resurrection is sometimes called the Atonement—see T-3.I.7:8—in contrast to Christianity calling the crucifixion the Atonement). This placed him in charge of the Atonement. Atonement is one of the major terms in the Course and has many aspects:
- It is a principle: that the separation (or fall) never really occurred (see T-6.II.10:7). In this sense, it is the final lesson.
- It is a power which, when we accept it, comes into our minds and heals our thinking (see T-1.I.37, T-14.IX.3:2). The miracle is thus the expression of the Atonement.
- It is a plan for the return of all God’s sons (see plan for salvation), a plan based on the Atonement principle.
- It is a process, in which the Sonship progressively approaches the final reunion with God (see T-1.III.1:1).
- And it is a purpose—the goal to which the plan and process aspire (see T-2.II.6:9).