I've looked up each and every possible meanings of sound. I've reduced the options to two or so. But I still find it hard to ascertain the meaning of sound and the way its is used in this context.

Here it is:

We cannot, like fear-ridden peasants of antiquity, hope to load all our crimes onto a goat and then drive the hapless animal into the desert. Our everyday idiom is quite sound in regarding “scapegoating” with contempt.

Naturally, I can't come up with an intelligible meaning or paraphrasing of the relevant sentence.

My trials:

  1. The idiom we use everyday is highly reliable to despise "scapegoating".

  2. The idiom we use everyday has very valid reasons for looking down on "scapegoating". (The idiom has reasons??? I don't know.)

  3. The idiom we use everyday gives us very valid reasons to disdain "scapegoating".

Obviously, I'm confused and need help.

Thank you.

  • 1
    A.K., look at definition #3 in this MW-O definition for "sound". It means "valid" or "free from error, fallacy or misapprehension". merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sound (Please include the sources of your research so our users don't have to repeat the research you've already done.) Jun 24, 2015 at 15:57
  • 1
    I would take a look here. I don't have the time to make an answer but this is a step in the right direction. english.stackexchange.com/questions/137795/…
    – Terry
    Jun 24, 2015 at 18:19

2 Answers 2


I would liken the use of the word Sound in this context to follow Oxford's definition 1.1 under the adj form.

Based on reason, sense, or judgment

Ex: the scientific content is sound

So considering that the idiom 'scapegoating' is generally used with a negative connotation the sentence is saying.

because "We cannot, like fear-ridden peasants of antiquity, hope to load all our crimes onto a goat and then drive the hapless animal into the desert." the use of idiom 'scapegoating' to show contempt for this type of behavior is reasonable/sensible or based on good judgement.


This is a passage from Christopher Hitchens' book God Is Not Great in which he disparages the idea that Christ died for our sins. He notes that "our everyday idiom is sound" to contemn the term "scapegoat." I think "parlance" is a better term than "idiom," in that we consider someone who has been scapegoated to be someone wrongly blamed for the trespass of another and who presumably will be unjustly punished. But according to Christian doxology that's exactly what Jesus has done by taking on the sins of all who believe in him and enduring the punishment of crucifixion in their stead.

The term scapegoat comes from a passage in Leviticus describing how the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, draws lots for two goats. The loser will be sacrificed in the temple, and the other will be driven into the wilderness carrying the sins of the nation of Israel. You might think from modern usage that the scapegoat is the one killed on the altar, but no, it's the other one, the escapegoat, the one who gets away. Albeit to the wilderness, but that's probably a good place for a goat, certainly preferable to his buddy's fate.

Hitchens also labors under the misapprehension that "fear-ridden" peasants hoped that the scapegoat would absolve them of crimes, but the Talmud makes it clear that this is a symbolic act only, the comfort of which is available only to those who have repented for their transgressions, which requires making amends to the those who have been harmed.

  • Thank you for your comprehensive answer. Although it misses a bit my actual question, which is "what does 'to be sound' in this context mean?", it explains lots of useful things to me. It is beautifully written and informative. By the way, I'm not exactly sure but I think all my questions are from Hitchen's "god is not Great". I'm working on it and Hitchens is sometimes really hard to understand for a non-native.
    – A.K.
    Jun 25, 2015 at 6:11

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