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Sunday, Bloody Easter April 7, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Religion, Skepticism and atheism.
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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.

It’s too bad we don’t have anything this time of year which is like that without all the blood, death, and anti-humanistic rhetoric built-in.

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.

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Quotes from Bizarro World (2) September 11, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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This is a continuation of a series of quotations from, and commentary of, my reading of John Frame’s book, Salvation Belongs to the Lord, which I am reading for a class about faith in Christian life.  I will be under-cover, so shhhhh…..

See Part1

“as believers in Christ we don’t get what we deserve.  We deserve death, but God has placed that punishment of death on his Son.  In Jesus’ death he gets what we deserve….”

(page 23)

Now, this quotation brings up nothing new to me, but I think it is more valid to quote what an actual Christian says than to try and summarize based upon generalities.  This way, no straw-men are hurt in the writing of this post.

This common theme, that we are all sinners worthy of death, is disturbing to me.  It is not disturbing in the way that Frame, and other Christians, may expect it to be disturbing; I am not worried about the death that I deserve.  I’m disturbed because this view seeks to distract us from this world, a world of this magical and mythological thing called ‘sin’ which supposedly pervades our very being.

Christian theology seeks, fundamentally, to make us feel broken.  It is a great marketing technique to make the customer feel like they lack something, then to present them with a product to fill that gap.  The fact that religion tends to use this method quite frequently explains that it’s success has to do with how our brains work and are manipulated much more than religious messages being true.

But what are they selling?  Belief in Jesus, right?  Well, yes, but it is done through this substitutional atonement; Jesus suffered for your sins.  This makes no sense at all, but it seems sweet of him to try.  This substitutional framework is mirrored on the idea that Adam, who represents us in his fall from the “covenant of works” (by which humanity was tested to see if they could obey God’s laws and failed in the eating of the fruit of the tree…you know the story).  Adam failed, Adam represents us.  Jesus succeeded, and Jesus seeks to represent us if we would only believe….

There is something in the mind that catches at this.  It is a subtle psychological method going on here.  There is a subtle manipulation, one that I have never succumbed to, but I feel it.  I don’t feel it in a desirous way, I feel it in a way similar to that feeling I get when I hear a good sales pitch.  I subtly think yeah, that makes a kind of sense…I should buy that! but am then returned to reality where I don’t need a George Foreman grill.

(I’m waiting for some Christians to tell me that this feeling is God trying to reach out, but my hardened heart refuses to accept the free gift…you now the drill.)

And so God gave his only begotten Son and all that, right? We should feel thankful, shouldn’t we?  Well, I have addressed Jesus’ ‘sacrifice‘ before, and I don’t think much of it.  I know the whole “fully God, fully man” thing is supposed to make it possible for Jesus to suffer and make the crucifixion meaningful, but I don’t buy that either.  I guess that makes me a heretic for not accepting the Chalcedonian Declaration.  Whether Nestorian, Monophysite, or mythicist, I am certainly a heretic of some sort.

People, we are not sinners.  There is no reason to believe a literal and historical Fall occurred.  There is no reason to accept that a mythological Fall occurred, or that we are inherently sinful or broken in any spiritual way.   In fact, there is no reason to accept the existence of a non-metaphorical ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ in the first place.

Any imperfections in our being are due to the blind forces that formed us over millions of years of evolution–not some moral failing due to lack of obedience to some megalomaniacal  bully of a god.  We have the ability to educate ourselves, improve ourselves, and we don’t need a savior from any fairy-tale sins.

There is nothing to save us from.

Was the crucifixion of Jesus a sacrifice? June 17, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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crucifixion_BRBIf Jesus was god, then the crucifixion was not a sacrifice.

If Jesus was not god, then it was a sacrifice, but it has no ultimate significance beyond being one of thousands of possibly inspiring stories of others who have died for various reasons, both noble and otherwise.

If Jesus never existed, then it’s just a story. If you can be inspired by that, then I can be inspired by Superman (and you can stop making fun of me for dressing like him!)

Now, the position of many Christians is that Jesus was wholly God, wholly human. This is nonsensical, and you know it. I am aware that this is one of the central tenants of the vast majority of Christian theologies, but it is absurd. Trying to justify this in your mind, reveling in the mystery of it, is indicative of something awry. It is to rationalize something absurd, mysterious, and impossible and call it a miracle.

But even if it were to be somehow true, then there are still some questions I have. Did Jesus know he was God (as well as human)?

If he did know he was god, then did he have all of the knowledge of god? If he did, then he knew that he would die on the cross–incarnated knowing so, in fact–and did nothing to stop it. He knew he couldn’t actually die, and that the crucifixion would be only symbolic, so how was it a sacrifice? This seems no different than me playing some online game and sacrificing my character in order to allow the rest of the team win the mission (not that I know anything about such thing…).

And if he didn’t have all the knowledge of god (or his divine powers for that matter!), then how could he be wholly god? Sure, he might have been human in body but having the spirit of god mixed in there, but without all the knowledge then there is something of god missing, right? Perhaps God is holographic, and even a part contains the whole? I’m confused….

Now, if Jesus was just a guy, granted one that was possibly sanctioned and chosen by the real god as a messenger, then it was a sacrifice. But how is it a sacrifice for us? How does a person dying two thousand years ago effect me in any other way than symbolically? And even as a symbol, how does it provide salvation? Further, salvation from what? (i’ll deal with that tomorrow).

And if Jesus was just god, and not human at all (as some early Gnostic sects thought), then his death was not a death at all. Then it was not a sacrifice at all. There is no passion to the narrative, just symbolism. Symbolism that god chose. But why choose that symbol? It seems to be a result of people who were used to the concept of sacrifice as a means to atone, like in the Old Testament laws about animal sacrifice and the smell of burnt offerings that are so pleasing to the lord. Man, Yahweh must love barbecues. But this neolithic idea should sound absurd to you.

I honestly do not see the significance of this supposedly historical event. I do not understand how God sacrificing either an innocent person or himself (to himself, to make up for a rule he made due to a Fall that he orchestrated, mind you) is significant to me at all, even if it were true. If I can see past this BS, I’m sure any real god could too. This sounds like iron age mythology to me, no different than the other myths and fairy tales of human history.

I'll leave you with this…Christianity