Can anybody explain the difference in meaning between 'expiation' and 'atonement'? Thanks.
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"Atonement" is to attain forgiveness for some sin or transgression, e.g. "I atoned for betraying my friend". It is something that you do.
"Expiation" means to clear away the record, to make it as if it never existed. It is not something you can do - you cannot expiate your own sins.
It is very similar to the difference between pardon and absolve - atonement is like being pardoned, expiation is like being absolved.
When a crime has been expiated, everyone pretends it didn't happen. When it has been atoned for, everyone says "yes he did that, but he made up for it so we forgive him".