Sunday, Bloody Easter April 7, 2012Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Religion, Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: crucifixion, Easter, Jesus, religion, resurrection
Jesus had a bad weekend for your sins.
Listen, I don’t accept the crucifixion and then the story of how Jesus rose on the third day for a second. There is simply no corroborating evidence for it, it parallels too many pre-Christian stories, and the oldest Gospel, Mark, didn’t originally contain the story of the resurrection. There is a lot out there to read about the issue of the resurrection, and I am certainly no expert (although I know one person who has expertise in related academic fields), so I will leave it to them to address that particular issue in more detail.
But if I did accept the story, that is, the bare facts that some guy (let’s call him Jesus, Yeshua, or Frank for all I care) almost 2000 years ago was wandering around with 12 dudes while preaching about some messianic Jewish story or how the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, or possibly within you, was arrested, detained, questions, tortured, crucified, and then buried only to appear, alive, a couple of days later…. Well, so what?
Let’s say that I was willing to grant that this happened. It does not have to mean I have to accept the interpretation of those who claimed to have been witnesses. I don’t have to accept the dominant narrative that evolved into the Gospel stories nor the earlier Pauline accounts, via his letters to other people who started worshiping this guy around the Mediterranean Sea, do I?. In fact, this historical fact, if assumed true, does not address the existence of any gods at all, necessarily (nor does it address whether that person was a god, let alone THE god…or at least one of three hypostases of god…whatever). It would be a mysterious situation that would pique my curiosity (and skepticism), but if it happened then we would have to deal with it as a real event and figure out how it might have heppened.
The problem is that we are so far removed from the historical events, blind to essential details, that the type of necessary investigation would be impossible. There is nothing to do with the facts other than wonder about them. So, what does this type of story have to do with god, religion, hundreds of years of violence, repression of scientific and intellectual freedom to advance, and hierarchical infrastructures of people whom are generally automatically revered because they apparently know this guy who rose from the “dead”?
In a word; nothing. At least it shouldn’t, if we were being rational about things.
Many Christian apologists have claimed that what makes Christianity unique is the fact that it is based upon not mere mythology, but historical fact. Paul, in the first letter to the Corinthians famously said that
15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
and for many Christians this is the crux (lol) of the matter. For them, the “miracle” of the resurrection is the fact that defines their faith. And despite the fact that I (as well as many other people) do not think that it happened, this is irrelevant because even if it did actually happen it does not lead to the salvation story that many Christians want it to tell.
What happened to Jesus, if it happened at all like it is portrayed in Christian orthodox theological terms, was not a sacrifice. If Jesus was god, or at least one with god, and if Jesus knew this, then it is not a sacrifice because he suffered no actual harm and no real loss,. It is a bad couple of days, a stubbed toe, an inconvenient breeze in the face of eternity as a freaking all-powerful god! It would be less of a sacrifice than the sacrifice of effort and time it would take to flip a switch within arm’s length in order to save people from certain death by some killing machine, created by some super-villain.
Except in the case of Christianity, God is not only the switch-flipper, but God is also the mad super-villain who created the killing machine as well as the switch itself. I simply cannot find meaning in this Easter story beyond metaphors for all sorts of themes surrounding rebirth, which are used by most religious traditions and which don’t imply that we are all evil sinners worthy of eternal torture for being what God made us to be so that he would have to send himself to have a bad couple of days to make up for lack of good planning concerning the fate of billions of people throughout all of history.
Yeah, that’s the story of Christianity, people.
Ok, so what if Jesus was a man, albeit a unique and important one? What if Jesus was a man inspired by a true god, or at least the chosen messenger of god, whose efforts in delivering said message would be rewarded with eternal paradise on the right hand, or even down the street from, the real God of the universe(s)? Then it is merely a form of substitutional atonement; an awful event, morally, if ever there was one. I’ve heard the apologetic responses, but the story of the atonement, or the replacing of the sacrificial sheep with Jesus (the most unblemished of sacrificial lambs) is absurd. How does another person dying do anything for my imperfections? The level of theological rationalization around this issue is frankly staggering, and we need to see it for what it is. The idea simply makes no sense, whatsoever, and it robs us of our personal responsibility for our own misdeeds.
Jesus dying for our sins, whether as god or man (or as some weird genetic cross-breed of god-man), is quite simply absurd and silly. It appeals to us emotionally and can be rationalized into some meaningful pulp, but it has no nutritional value whatsoever. It is irrational, un-skeptical, and even immoral in nature.
If anything, it’s just another old religious metaphor for the rebirth of the world, in Spring, from the death that is winter, with the addition of theological concepts which absorb us in self-deprecation and is ultimately anti-life. You know, like symbols reminiscent of life, birth, and youth but bathed in blood and depressing self-hate.
Oh, right, yes we do! Symbols of fertility, birth/rebirth, and youth surround our more secularized version of Easter. Pagan will try to take credit, and they do deserve some of it, but this is simply human behavior; we want a way to symbolize and celebrate the return of life to the world. Our history and literature is replete with such symbols and celebrations, and Christianity has (once again) seized them and used them as their own.
But in this case, the thieving Christians, specifically the Catholic Church, didn’t even have the common decency to re-name the holiday! Easter? really? EASTER?
I mean, come on, people? It’s bad enough that Christians stole Christmas, but at least in that case they chose an original name, right?
So, here is Ostara (she goes by many names, but essentially she is Ēostre/Easter. Check the link if you want to know more about the pagan mythology and history of celebrations and rituals surrounding her and this time of year. But if you don’t, at least take home with you the idea that this holiday is not merely Christian, and insofar as it is Christian it is not the story that the Pope or your pastor tells on Easter morning.
Please, learn your history. If you are a Christian, please learn where your ideas came from. Try to understand the context, the subtleties, and even the blatant cultural influences which shape how you see the world. View the Jesus story as a metaphor, a metaphorical narrative, and possibly not a very good one, which tells you something about our psychology and needs, but not about historical or metaphysical truth.
Jesus, if such a person existed and died via crucifixion, is not the solution to your sense of ultimate personal lacking. Your imperfections, misdeeds, and falling short of some ideal morality cannot be solved by a person dying, nor subsequent rising from said death, nor from some contrived ‘God sacrifices himself to himself to make up for a law he made about a piece of fruit that nobody ever actually ate’ theology. You must take responsibility for yourself, toss aside this metaphysical concept of sin, and stop sacrificing this life for some promised other life.
This life is all we have, and we must do what we can to make it all that we want it to be. So stop bowing to a pseudo-sacrifice and start living in a world which is currently blooming with things wonderful, terrible, and worth working for now
Happy Easter, everyone.