In his debate with John Lennox, Christopher Hitchens said that for the first 98,000 years of human suffering, God watches this with perfect insouciance. Finally, God says we have to intervene now. We have to do something about this. What would be the best way to intervene to redeem this rather bleak picture? What about having someone tortured to death in an obscure part of the Middle East? That ought to cure it.
Likewise, in his debate with John Lennox, Richard Dawkins said it's "petty and small-minded" to think the creator of the cosmos (if he existed) would come to this speck of dust to rid the world of sin. That fails to do justice to the grandeur of the universe.
i) I wonder what Christian theologians, if any, Hitchens and Dawkins ever read. What's their source of information regarding the purpose of the atonement? Or is this just an applause line?
ii) The purpose of the atonement is not to rid the world of sin or suffering. If you're going to cast the issue in terms of ridding the world of something, the purpose of the atonement is to rid the world of guilt, not sin or suffering. The point is not to eradicate sin or suffering. That's the purpose of Judgment Day. Rather, the point of the atonement is to satisfy divine justice so that God can justly forgive sinners. So, yes, you have sin and suffering both before and after the atonement. That's not a failure of the atonement. The atonement accomplished precisely what it was aiming at. In particular, to make atonement for the sins of the elect.
God will indeed eradicate the world of sin and suffering. More precisely, God will glorify believers and separate them from the wicked. But that's a different action than the atonement.
iii) I'd add that 1C Jerusalem was hardly an "obscure part of the Middle East". Again, maybe that's just another applause line, but it's rhetorical rather than factual.
iv) Finally, Dawkins stresses how supposed incongruous it would be for God to come to our little planet to rid the universe of sin. But that's like saying it's "petty and small-minded" for physicians to go where there's an outbreak. Of all the awesome and scenic parts of the world to choose from, why would they go to some Third World hellhole? The answer, as Jesus said, is that physicians tend to the sick, not the heathy. You go where there's a need.
Suppose we're the only intelligent creatures in the universe. Or suppose we're the only fallen creatures in the universe. Naturally, God would zero in on our planet. If sinners are earthlings, wouldn't we expect God to intervene on planet earth?
For that matter, even if there were other fallen creatures in the universe whom God redeemed, why assume we'd know about it? Indeed, that would be distracting information.