For the ego, atonement means that you really did something wrong, and now you have to pay for it. This is the idea that you must make up for the losses you caused, because of your guilt. It calls for you to make a sacrifice, to have some portion of yourself or what you value taken from you, to make up for what you stole when you sinned. It suggests that if you "do your time" and suffer enough, MAYBE... just maybe, there might be a forgiveness or a pardon.
MAYBE those with authority and justification and righteousness to judge you guilty might decide to pardon you and let you off the hook. Except that, these judgemental accusers are never really satisfied, and there is no amount of atoning you can do to make up for your sin. Once a criminal, always a criminal. And all crimes are considered punishable by death. Even little ones.
If you believe that this is the truth of what atonement means, you will not want to accept the atonement, or understand it.
Similarly, it is believed by many that when Jesus allegedly died on the cross, he was suffering and in pain. And that this tremendous suffering, having to undergo death, somehow "carried the weight" or "paid for" or "took on the sacrifice for" or "suffered for" everyone else's sins, so that everyone else could be considered forgiven thereafter. It's even said that God, in all his loving ways, condemned His beloved son to death, in order for this atoning to occur, so that everyone else could be let off the hook.
Nevertheless, it's quite obvious that in spite of this alleged atoning and suffering, pretty much everyone is still riddled with sin and guilt and fear and murder and death. So it didn't exact "work", according to the evidence. And the fact that this explanation is evidently false is covered up with further theological justifications which are all unfounded band-aids trying to patch up a broken fundamental misunderstanding of what atonement is.
Jesus's atonement was misunderstood. He did not suffer on the cross. He was a profound miracle worker, had no guilt in his mind (the guiltless mind cannot suffer), did not believe in death at all, had already raised the dead, had power and authority over all illusions, and was an embodiment of the power of Christ. Nothing could happen to him against his will. He was not a body at all, and anything seeming to happen to his body did not happen to him. He was truly beyond it, beyond all suffering and death and sin.
He was not a victim in any way at all. It is claimed that Jesus was "sacrificed" for us. How can sacrifice be in any way associated with Jesus, who does not believe in the sacrificial thought system of the ego, and its belief in egoic atonement through loss? Jesus was not asked to sacrifice and he was NOT a sacrifice. He was a demonstration that sacrifice was an illusion and was not POSSIBLE, because sin was not real, and He had not done anything wrong. And he knew that we hadn't either, so sacrifice was never even called for.
His act of being on the cross showed that in spite of the fact that he was supposed to die, he could not die, and could not feel pain, to DEMONSTRATE the miraculous truth that you are not a body and you are invulnerable. And upon returning in a brand new manifested body later, He further demonstrated and proved that bodies are not who you are, that you cannot die, and that you are immortal spirit.
Jesus knew this because He knew what the atonement really was. He knew that it meant that, in truth, nothing real can be threatened because the entire world, bodies, and death, are all illusions. He did not believe in them. AND he did not believe in SIN. Not one bit. He had no sin in him because He did not believe in it. In that view, HE knew that everyone else's "alleged" sinfulness was forgiven, because nobody had really sinned at all. And all of the ways that people believed they were sinful, HE knew that those were not "real sins" in the eyes of God, and that all sin WAS undone because it had not really occurred. That's the true meaning of the atonement and most people did not get the memo.
That also demonstrates why, in spite of the fact that Jesus knew and perceived and experienced the atonement principle, that nobody was sinful or guilty at all, claiming it for himself and thus for everyone, this didn't prevent everyone else from STILL BELIEVING IN SIN. In fact, most onlookers believed in sin so much that they thought that his death was real and did not "get" the teaching of his demonstration that the body is not real at all. And it was precisely the people who DID believe in sin and death and bodies, who MADE UP the interpretation of Jesus being "really sacrificed" and "really suffering for us", which has been an ongoing ego myth for 2000+ years. The ego rejoices that so many people believe that Christ could suffer and be sacrificed. It's satanic!
And so people have carried on believing in real sin and in BEING in sin, because they still believe that sin is real. That's why Jesus's atonement did not instantaneously lift the belief in sin from everyone's mind, which it should have done if what is claimed about the crucifixion were true, ie that Jesus took the hit for us. If he did that, why are we still believing in sin and death? Jesus's awakening should've removed all sin from everyone. In HIS eyes, this was done, but in OUR eyes, it was not done, because WE still freely chose to continue believing in real sin and real death. And plenty of people have demonstrated this by DYING ever since.
Jesus IS the atonement in that Jesus has united with the Holy Spirit in a mind of pure innocence, in which God recognizes the truth that we HAVE NOT SINNED, and that sin is not reality. Jesus knows this is true of us, but WE have not woke up to this reality yet. And so we DO continue to still do "real sins" because we still believe in real sin. That keeps us bound to sin and death. We CAN be liberated from this if WE will accept the atonement, but WE do have to willingly do that ourselves. Jesus can't force it on us. He knows we have not sinned but we don't believe him. Not really.
So all these false definitions of atonement have to be thrown out. The atonement means that literally nothing "real" has actually happened, and that all the things that you thought were "real" were just imagined, just a dream, a vast illusion, masquerading as a real world with real bodies doing real bad stuff. Its UNREALITY is the proof of innocence. You cannot have become less than innocent if you did not achieve a REAL sin. Make-believe sins do not count! You cannot REALLY sin and you have not really sinned. But while you believe that you HAVE, that's a problem. That's keeping you from the truth and keeping you from ACCEPTING Jesus's demonstration of the atonement.
The world is not reality. It is an illusion. And you have not really done anything wrong here, because everything you've ever supposedly "done" has ONLY ever been a portion of a made-up dream that isn't really real. It sure as heck can seem real, but ONLY because you believe that dreams are reality. Look around you at all the people who have set up camp in this dream, believing it's the real world, believing it is real life, prepared to hang out here and just die and not wake up to the truth. There is more than this.
Undo all of your beliefs that the physical world is reality. It is not. Jesus proved it, IF you will believe it from His vantage point. He knew that there was no real sin, and saw that everyone's sins ALREADY were forgiven before He even came to that awareness. God does not condemn. God does not judge. God knows your innocence is still pure and holy. And God knows that you cannot POSSIBLY "actually" separate from Him other than in a dream-like illusion of separation. Your innocence is guaranteed. It is ALREADY the truth, even while you believe that you have really sinned.
The truth of the atonement ALREADY WAS TRUE before Jesus became the first to claim it for Himself and for all. It was ALREADY TRUE that God had not condemned us and had not believed that we really sinned. It was ALREADY TRUE that God's unconditional love had not wavered for a second, and that He KNEW that it was IMPOSSIBLE to actually separate from him. Real Sin is impossible. Jesus came to ACCEPT that the atonement is true, He did not CREATE the atonement. The truth of the atonement is God's truth, and has always been true and always will be.
It's a done deal. Nothing happened. Wake up.