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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?

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Comment 1 (3476) by DM on 2013-04-03 at 11:36:06: (view recent only)

Hmmm, you obviously cared enough to comment.

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Comment 2 (3477) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 11:36:24:

Of course I care! I'm a very caring person! Did you read the blog entry?

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Comment 3 (3478) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 11:37:33:

Maybe the real qn is - if it is fiction rather than fact - why do you 'care' so much? Without pointing out the logical fallacies in the article, which would take far too long - suffice it to say that the debate has obviously been going on for a looong time and yet still today there are literally billions of bonkers folk in the world, most of which have carefully examined all the evidence for and against and then are satisfied (but I agree - many believe without having done that)!

Ok - so what exactly is the 'problem' that you are caring about? Let's pretend I'm a casual observer here - It's either truth or fiction. If fiction, then you care that people are believing a lie. But by the same token if it's fiction, then as you say there is literally not a single 'real obligation' you or I have to any other human being that isn't just some social construct that can be ignored. This includes the obligation to care about people believing a lie.

Hitler, and Stalin and many other athiests figured this out - which is why the atrocities perpertrated under 'Atheism' make those (wrongly claimed) to be done in the name of 'christianity' pale into insignificance. So, even ignoring the question of whether people should choose to believe it or not, perhaps we should care because the real chances are that the world without christianity, could turn out to be alot worse?

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Comment 4 (3479) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 11:39:08:

I care because it's interesting and of course I care if a large portion of the world's population believe in a fantasy. All these people vote after all - they affect us all!

In fact very few believers have carefully examined anything as becomes very obvious when you debate with them. Also several surveys in the US have shown that atheists know far more about religion than the majority of believers. So in fact there may be billions of bonkers believers (nice alliteration) but that just means there are billions who are wrong! And it is important because those people vote based on their bigoted, ignorant views.

There have been no atrocities perpetrated under the name of atheism. That is a common lie believers use. Hitler was a Roman Catholic and Stalin was an atheist, but those two facts are irrelevant. Their atrocities were committed for political, not religious reasons. On the other hand, the crusades, witch burnings, persecution of Jews, inquisitions, and various massacres *were* largely driven by religion. The world has only got better since Christianity lost most of it's power. I really think that the world would be a far better place without religion and I think the facts support this.

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Comment 5 (3480) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 11:39:37:

Here's an example of the sort of thing I mean... in 1099, Jerusalem was conquered at the cost of more than 60,000 men, women, and children. In the words of one witness: "there was such a carnage that our people were wading ankle-deep in the blood of our foes", and after that "happily and crying for joy our people marched to our Saviour's tomb, to honour it and to pay off our debt of gratitude."

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Comment 6 (3481) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 13:39:14:

Wow - what a reaction - he really does care folks. LOL. You are quite right - it is 'interesting'. My particular point though - was that there is no real reason to 'care' simply if people are believing a fantasy as you put it, and their vote is not a valid concern at all. Voting is a democratic system - the majority vote is just that - 'truth' has little to do with it, as clearly both sides think they have it. Believers have exactly the same rights to their vote, and exactly the same 'issues' with the athiests voting patterns! So what's your complaint exactly?

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Comment 7 (3482) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 13:39:34:

I think you're missing the point. I care because a lot of people live in a fantasy world and those people vote based on those false beliefs (as you said, everyone has a vote, even the ignorant and misguided). Therefore it is my duty to try to make them realise they are wrong. That's why I fight against superstition wherever possible.

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Comment 8 (3483) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 13:39:50:

Couple of subsequernt corrections though too: 1 - Obviously no atrocities have been committed 'under the name' of athiesm - nice use of words there. That would clearly be illogical since atheism is a statement of non belief. But it is intellectually naive at best , and dishonest at worst to claim that their athiestic world view was irrelevant to their actions. Again (as I carefully stated) forgetting an argument for truth or fiction here - since you or I won't ever solve that) - one truth is that ALL ideas have consequences. The logical consequence of their athiestic world view is the denial of any 'grounding' for what we intuitively recognise as 'right or wrong'. As an amateur philosopher you will know that Owen. Thus, the actions of Hitler (who btw was an athiest merely born into a Roman Catholic family) and Stalin and many others were of course 'right in their eyes', and 'serving humanity' - so what exactly is WRONG with that, from an athiestic pov?

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Comment 9 (3484) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 13:40:04:

Thanks you for that correction regarding atheism, many people don't see the distinction. The atheistic world view doesn't deny a grounding of right and wrong, it just denies the false one which religion promotes. Don't you think a false morality from a false religion (the only type) is worse than no objective morality at all? At least atheists admit there is no objective basis for morality and build one based on principles of logic and fairness. And sorry, but you're wrong: Hitler was a Catholic and the church collaborated with many of his activities.

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Comment 10 (3485) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 13:40:42:

2 - Your post is mocking Christianity (which I am not in the least bit offended by, though many might be - so is that something we should 'care' about)? So lets stick to that rather than religion in general. For a comparison of the historical record of 'good or bad' held against Christianity vs 'anything else' I think this is a fair and balanced article. It was written just after 9/11.

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Comment 11 (3486) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 13:41:03:

Interesting propaganda. Do you ever source material from neutral sources or is everything you believe from people who believe in the same religion as you?

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Comment 12 (3487) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 13:46:44:

Here's a few quotes from Hitler...

The anti-Semitism of the new movement (Christian Social movement) was based on religious ideas instead of racial knowledge. - Mein Kampf, Vol. 1, Chapter 3

I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lordís work. - Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936

I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.

I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so - to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941

Any violence which does not spring from a spiritual base, will be wavering and uncertain. It lacks the stability which can only rest in a fanatical outlook.

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Comment 13 (3488) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 19:14:33:

You are making a basic 'genetic fallacy' when you have a problem with a 'source that believes the same religion'. That is irrelevant, (as is my religion, which is not a factor in this discussion at all). The same 'facts' apply either way - that was what my remark about being a casual observer was referring to) Which is also why your rejection of the four gospels as 'historical documents' also fails. ANY source is not the relevant information - only the claims are - by all means you are free to disagree with claims, but not on the basis of who wrote them.

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Comment 14 (3489) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 19:15:31:

I didn't say I had a problem with your source, I just asked if you ever used neutral sources. The four gospels are clearly not historical, how do you explain the inconsistencies and unsupported events? And I do disagree based on who wrote them and when. Whether the writers were present at the alleged events or not is surely relevant.

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Comment 15 (3490) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 19:15:51:

My point about Hitler was not referring to what he CLAIMED about being a Catholic and CLAIMED about believing who he was acting for - it was whether he was actually a 'Christian' - definition - follower of Christ. That he acted in a way that is expressly against christian teaching is an obvious fact, so as the article I posted pointed out (and to quote you - did you actually read it) - you can't lay the claim against Christianity based on his actions, and whatever he 'says' can he really claim the label? btw I am not a catholic, so it is Ok to consider this point - LOL.

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Comment 16 (3491) by OJB on 2013-04-03 at 19:16:14:

So Hitler wasn't a Christian eh? I knew you would say this. You include Catholics like him when it suits you to get the "billions" of believers, but when it comes to bad behaviour all of a sudden they don't count any more. This is known as the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. A very common one in this situation.

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Comment 17 (3492) by RC on 2013-04-03 at 20:35:56:

1: No, actually, I usually find that the best arguments for any claim are written by those who are most opposed to it. Lol. By that reckoning we must assume anything you write about PCs is obviously unreliable nonsense. Of course not. So whats the point of that qn other than distraction from the content? 2: I was certainly not presuming to compare Hitler to Catholics as you seem to be doing. So are you seriously trying to claim the the actions of Hitler are in alignment with Christian ethics, which is the only point being made. I think most reasonable readers would agree thats rather a long shot.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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