So it’s Easter weekend, and lots of people are doing their traditional things with baskets full of jellybeans, chocolate and what have you, and we unbelievers are doing our thing pointing out the various aspects of Easter which are Pagan in origin or which have their roots in other religions such as the cult of Attis or the Cybeline vestils. And all I can do in light of all this is reflect on the contrast of what I thought about Easter back when I was a Christian, and what Easter means to me now. Back then, I thought Easter was an even bigger deal than Christmas, because, you know, this wasn’t the birth of Jesus, that was just the opening act. This was Jesus coming back after kicking death in the ‘nads! This was IT! This was the whole point of the whole hullabaloo.
And now? The whole thing means less than nothing to me. I have no church service to attend, no kids to take on Easter egg hunts, the whole thing comes and goes and I scarcely notice. And part of what has led to that shift in mentality is simply the realization of what Easter is supposed to mean, namely the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. The whole point of his death is blood atonement, which goes back to the sacrificial scapegoat ritual under the Jewish rite of Moses, where a goat takes on the sins of the people and is then sacrificed. So something innocent dies to pay for the wrongdoings of something guilty, essentially two wrongs making a right. And nobody seems to figure this part out.
How amazing is that?
Not so amazing as this: I’ve been sick this week, which is very odd for me. I almost never get sick. But this week I came down with some killer thing which has given me the worst sore throat I’ve had since I came down with strep throat when I was a kid. The pain I’ve had to endure at the most inconvenient of times has been maddening. And for me, it just underscores the absurdity of the intelligent design argument, that this fine machine called the human body can be so easily fucked up by one little microorganism that just destroys even the ability to swallow, it’s just nuts.
And yet, my little bout with pain is nothing compared to what some people go through for their religion. In Iraq, Shi’ite pilgrims flagellate themselves with huge whips made of iron chains with hooks on the ends of them. In India, 200 men chopped off their balls because a guru said it would bring them closer to God. A recent HBO documentary showed the insane things some people were willing to do for scientology and the abuses they endured in that particular cult. In India again, certain people are having themselves be nailed to crosses to reenact what Jesus allegedly went through on the first Easter weekend. Now, let me just focus in on that last one. People crucifying themselves. Sure, they get taken down after a time, but not until they’ve hung there for a while with nails in their hands and feet! And there’s nothing, absolutely nothing in Christianity which requires anybody to do this! It’s not expected, it’s not requested, it’s just done because some people want to better relate to what Jesus went through. Now, my little bout with pain reinforced how absurd all that was. But just imagine how unreachable these guys are, who actually crucify themselves to relate to Jesus – just imagine how impossible it is to touch people like that with logic and reason. And how truly similar is that mindset to the ones which are held by suicide bombing terrorists, or followers of Jim Jones, or any number of other people who do the utterly absurd.
All the fun stuff about Easter is Pagan. The bunnies, the painted eggs, the baskets, the treats for kids. All the nasty stuff is Christian, the blood and guts show followed by four gospel accounts of an empty tomb which disagree with each other. What does Easter mean to me now? In a way, it still means that it’s the central focus. But to me, at least this year, what it means is…
Some people are just plain gone!
I’d be willing to be crucified to defend the truth. Others are actually willing to let themselves be crucified for the sake of mere faith. They are so unconcerned with challenging their assumptions that they will drive nails into their body rather than face one fairly asked critical question.
I can simply no longer relate to that line of thinking. That’s what Easter means to me. I celebrate the ability to question critically and commit myself fully to the truth. And I mourn the loss of those who willfully handicap themselves against doing this. I get to fly, and they choose not to. So my symbol for Easter is not a bunny, or a baby chick.
My symbol for Easter is a bird that has clipped its own wings.