“For God so hated the world that He savagely butchered His only begotten Son (only for the elect, of course) that whosoever comes crawling on his knees and grovels pathetically at God's feet will not burn for eternity in Hell (although he should), but maybe, just maybe, find himself in Heaven when he dies.”
Really gets you in the worshipping mood, doesn’t it?
Now I'm just an amateur theologian at best, so don't think that I have this doctrine perfectly mapped out. But from what I've read in the Bible, here's what I think atonement is about:
God is the author and giver of life, right? He created everything in nature, and He breathed life into Adam's nostrils. It's only in Him and through Him that we live. He's like oxygen; without it you die. So when mankind decided to do things their way, they removed themselves from that life-supplying force, resulting in both physical and spiritual death. This is why the Bible says sin leads to death.
Fortunately God had a backup plan. He provided a way for His people to avoid death. It started with the animal sacrifices where the Jews would "pass their sins" onto animals, and then the animals would be slaughtered. The animals would face death, but not the Jews. Of course you could only kill animals for so long, so that's where Jesus comes in to establish His Kingdom. And unlike other kingdoms, which are usually established after some bloody battle, Jesus establishes His Kingdom by voluntarily (that's the keyword) being a sacrificial lamb. On the cross He experienced that physical and spiritual death in the place of us. And when He rose again from the dead, He defeated that dreadful curse once and for all.
Of course, there are many different theories of atonement, which you can read about in this Wikipedia article. But for the most part, I don't think it's cosmic child abuse.