Sunday, April 20, 2014


Bunnies and eggs are probably the least silly things about Easter. They're symbols of spring, after all, and celebrations of spring have always been common in temperate societies worldwide.

Resurrection myths are a natural fit with that, and there have likewise been many of those in cultures worldwide, too. Even the name, "Easter," seems to have come from an Anglo-Saxon goddess.

Most likely, this is similar to Christmas, with the Catholic Church just adopting existing festivals and rebranding them as Christian. After all, a pagan would generally care a lot more about losing an excuse to party than what precise god he was forced to worship. (He'd almost certainly have little choice about that, anyway.)

Now, if you believe in a literal Garden of Eden - Adam and Eve, the talking snake, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - that's pretty silly, true. But if you're too sophisticated for such primitive stories, that destroys the whole point of Jesus being sacrificed 'for our sins.'

Jesus was supposed to be a scapegoat, because primitive people at the time believed in scapegoats. Jews would literally use a goat to take away the sins of the tribe.

Jesus was also a blood sacrifice, of course. God demanded blood for all sorts of sins - animal blood, by that time, though there are plenty of clues that early Jews practiced human sacrifice, too. In fact, Jewish scapegoats came in pairs, with one sacrificed on a bloody altar and the other magically invested with the sins of the tribe and driven off to die in the wilderness (taking their sins along with it).

But animal blood - even human blood - didn't have enough mojo to overcome original sin. To do that kind of magic required divine blood. So Jesus was both a blood sacrifice and a scapegoat. That was the whole point of the crucifixion, for early Christians.

True, neither Jesus nor Yahweh seem to have actually sacrificed much. Crucifixion was a slow, painful death, but countless criminals were executed in that way over the centuries. And those people stayed dead. Jesus came back to life after three days, so how much of a sacrifice was it really?

Also, you'd think an omnipotent, omniscient god could just change his mind and forgive people, without all that pain and bloodshed, wouldn't you? After all, he does change his mind in the Bible on other occasions. Why in the world would he have to sacrifice himself to himself to convince himself to forgive people for something none of them had done, anyway? If he didn't want to break any 'rules,' why not? They were rules that he, himself, had invented.

Silly, huh? But actually, it gets even sillier if you don't believe that the Garden of Eden literally existed - that whole bit about the talking snake and all. Because in that case, there was no original sin and therefore no reason for Jesus to be sacrificed on the cross in the first place.

In fact, it's beyond silly to believe this stuff, anyway - especially the resurrection stories. If someone today told you that a guy had been dead and buried three days, then came back to life, would you believe that? Would you believe it just on his say-so, even if he did claim to witness it first-hand?

Well, that's far better evidence than you have for Jesus. None of the people who wrote the Gospels, long after-the-fact, even claim to be eyewitnesses. They're all anonymous, but they wrote in highly-educated Greek, not the Aramaic Jesus' poor, illiterate disciples would have spoken.

Even the earliest, Mark, wasn't written until decades later, and the original ending (the women leave the tomb and never tell anyone) seems to indicate that the whole thing was meant to be fiction. Later Christians changed that, and later authors adopted much of Mark's story, but all four Gospels disagree significantly on the details of the crucifixion and the resurrection. (Note that there were a lot more stories which varied a lot more than this, but a thousand years of burning heresies - and heretics - meant that few survived.)

Of course, as I say, they were all just writing stories about what they'd heard - most likely nowhere near Palestine, either. But if they weren't just writing for entertainment, they were also missionaries. They were trying to convince other people that their own religious beliefs were true. Thus, they all tried to embellish the story (which had almost certainly been embellished long before they'd ever heard it, themselves).

The fact that many 21st Century Americans still believe this stuff just blows my mind. I don't fault the primitive, ignorant people of two thousand years ago for believing in magic. These kinds of stories were widespread - about all sorts of gods, demi-gods, and heroes. (Do you really think the virgin birth story was unique?)

But today, we know so very much more than the people back then. How can we cling so desperately to such primitive superstition? I just don't get it.

1 comment:

Gregg Garthright said...

The whole Jesus story never made sense to me, even as a child. As an adult, it's laughable. I can't understand how anyone can buy into that.

One the other hand, the Easter Bunny is totally real, right?......