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It's Easter, Who Cares?

Entry 1515, on 2013-04-02 at 17:42:05 (Rating 5, Religion)

Yes, it's Easter and who does care? Actually, despite the title, by the time I post this it won't be Easter any longer, but give me a little bit of poetic license here, OK?

My point is that the primary meaning or Easter is supposed to be a religious one, marking the alleged crucifixion and alleged resurrection of Christ, and before that a pagan celebration of Spring (which explains many of the symbols of Easter, such as eggs and bunnies) but all that now seems lost and it has reverted to what all holidays have become: some time off work with some sort of commercial angle overlaid.

I agree that if you look you can find a few of the religious elements still there, for example some members of certain churches re-enact Christ dragging his cross to the place of the crucifixion. Naturally, I don't take this seriously (see later) but it is an interesting ritual which I think adds a certain amount of cultural colour to what is otherwise just another long weekend.

Apart from some photos of that event in the local newspaper, a couple of days with most shops closed, and a slight change in programming on the radio station I usually listen to, you would barely know Easter had any significance, in a similar way to Christmas as I have mentioned in previous blog entries.

But I will ignore the modern interpretation of the Eater season and move on to critique the original Christian story associated with it. Did the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ even happen, does the story even make any sense, and should we care?

Well for a start I have to say that I remain skeptical even about the existence of Jesus. I think the most likely truth is that the stories we know about him originated from a real person, or several people, but they have been grossly exaggerated and enhanced in the re-telling. I also think there is a fair chance the stories are essentially entirely fictitious but I have moved more towards the "fiction based on fact" hypothesis recently.

Why am I skeptical of the whole thing? The only extensive stories about Jesus come from the gospels and various other religious writing, such as the letters of Paul. Oddly many Christians don't realise that the four canonical gospels of the Bible were chosen essentially randomly from a much greater number, some of which are barely recognisable as the same story. There is even extensive variation amongst the four which survived. For example the "guiding star" story only appears in 1 (Matthew) out of 4 of them. Either 3 didn't think it was important enough (really?) or Matthew just made the whole thing up!

Actually, that's another point I need to make. No one knows who wrote the gospels, so Matthew didn't actually write Matthew. No one seems to know who did or when. But we do know that they were all written many years after the events they allegedly describe and were unlikely to have been written by witnesses (if the events happened at all).

There are mentions of Jesus outside the Biblical writings (Josephus, Tacitus, etc) but they are all very weak and the passage which might be seen as most convincing (from Josephus) is generally regarded as a fake added by later Christians. If the story was so great and made such an impact then why did they feel the need to do this?

So the descriptions we do have are of a religious nature so are hardly going to be accurate. They were often written by unknown authors at unknown times. They copied off each other and (in theory) off currently unknown other documents. They were written by people who never met Jesus (believe it or not, Paul never met him). The evidence outside of the Christian writers (Josephus, etc) is second and third hand, written years after the alleged events, and very weak in every case. And finally important events which could be used to confirm the stories (the star, the eclipse, the dead rising from their graves) are never mentioned anywhere else.

When you think about it the whole story really sucks. You would have to be crazy to believe it! And yes, I know that many historical figures have very little good evidence supporting their existence, but when there are obvious exaggerations in stories about other figures we are at least very skeptical about them which is all I am suggesting should be the case here as well.

But let's forget all of those points and accept the story at face value. The essential message of Christianity is that Jesus was sent to save us and died to achieve that purpose. Not only that, but many people believe Jesus was God - maybe a sort of avatar (they are common in other religions). Does this make sense?

The story is essentially this: God created humans as sinners and knew they would sin (he is supposed to be omniscient) then sent a version of himself so that he could die to save humans from sin (didn't he try that previously with the Flood?) which he himself created (he created us in his image). And things are exactly the same before and after this event (there was crime, violence, disease, and early death both before and after Jesus). Huh? This is supposed to make sense how exactly?

Christianity is very good at using fear and guilt as tools of oppression. People are supposed to accept Jesus or they will go to Hell. And just in case that threat doesn't work they should accept him through guilt because he died for our sins. The whole thing is totally absurd and anyone who really believes this crap is bonkers!

Maybe a person roughly recognisable as Jesus really existed, and maybe he was crucified. But we don't owe him anything. Many people were crucified at that time and we have forgotten all of them. Most likely the whole story is entirely fictitious of a greatly embellished version of a real story. Either way, who really cares?


Comment 18 (3493) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 20:36:42: (view earlier comments)

I think it's important to source information from many sources and preferably also from unbiased ones. I was just a bit surprised that you wanted to convince me (an atheist) and referred me to a religious web site which had a clear bias.


Comment 19 (3494) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 20:37:16:

Whether Catholics are 'included' in the numbers or not is also a lame distraction from the simple and fair claim I offered, namely that 'alot of folk' have found, and continue to find, the evidence satisfying. I even agreed that many do without doing the research they should have done, which btw is the same for athiesm.


Comment 20 (3495) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 20:38:18:

The fact is that using your logic no one is a Christian because ask anyone and they will always claim people with slightly different ideas aren't "true" Christians. Any reasonable person would look at those quotes and conclude Hitler was a Christian and was influenced by religious ideas. And you find the evidence satisfying because you have to. You're a Christian and have to believe even if the facts contradict you. Atheists start out with the assumption that nothing is true until the evidence becomes good enough. It isn't.


Comment 21 (3496) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 20:38:35:

Anyway - to finish, we should stick to the topic, which isn't even the truth or non-truth of Christianity. I pointed out right at the start that this is a 2000 year old debate, that has smarter people than both of us - on both sides, and that includes the discipline of textual criticism as applied to any and all historical documents including the gospels. My discussion and claim was specifically in response to the question you posted - Who Cares? - and your particular claim that the world would be better off without Christianity (in particular). I personally think the article I provided suggests that in fact, the world could be a rather different place - without education, universities, most world aid organisations (Sally Army, World Vision, Red Cross, and numerous other initiatives that were (at least) born out of theistic motivations. Whether you agree with those motivations or not, doesn't change that. Cheers mate - it's been fun.


Comment 22 (3497) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 20:39:15:

It seems (as my original post said) that fewer people do care as time goes by. Despite the fact that it is still quite prominent in some places, religion is gradually dying. I'm not denying that religion (Christianity in particular) has had an important place in the past, and I'm also not denying that it has some good aspects, but I don't think the good outweighs the bad. Hard thing to judge, I know. Thanks for the discussion.


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