April 3, 2015

Good Friday and the Other Paths to Salvation

English: Altar of St George's church Compare t...
Altar of St George's church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is Zombie Jesus Weekend. It begins with Good Friday, the occasion where many Christians celebrate the brutal death of a man they claim to love and revere, and ends with Easter, the day when many Christians think their god brought this man back to life to "save" them. It is a bizarre story that is rarely recognized as such because of the manner in which we are indoctrinated to accept it and how familiar it has become to many of us.

Why would Christians celebrate the suffering, torture, and death of someone they claim to worship? We don't even see international celebrations of the death of those we claim to despise (e.g., Hitler). Why are some eager to celebrate the death of one they claim to admire so much?

When asked about this, most Christians refer to salvation. They see the death of Jesus as a sacrifice on their behalf. What they are celebrating, they say, isn't so much that Jesus died but that he did so in such a selfless act for their benefit. He died in this way for them. But if the death of Jesus was such a sacrifice, it seems to have been an unnecessary one.

Assuming that the god in which many Christians claim to believe is sufficiently powerful, this god could have accomplished the salvation of humanity in all sorts of ways. At least some of these ways would not have required the suffering and brutal death of anyone. What are we to make of a god that selected this path out of all the various options available? It seems that such a god is more than a little sadistic, and this is far from the only reason we might have to suspect this.

Some atheists are fond of pointing out that dying only to be resurrected might not be that much of a sacrifice either. I agree, but I think this is somewhat less relevant than the point that this particular manner of accomplishing salvation was not necessary. The god in which Christians claim to believe could have brought about salvation through something like striking examples of human kindness and compassion. It did not, opting for a bloody and torturous death instead. And this is what Christians are told to revere.

I have heard from a number of Christians over the years that the resurrection is what they really want to celebrate but that this was not possible without a prior death. I get this. There has to be a dead body in order for it to be revived. And yet, their god could have got our attention in all sorts of other ways, could have accomplished salvation in all sorts of other ways, and certainly could have provided a much better example for us than it selected.

While some Christians will spend this weekend celebrating torture and death, I prefer to celebrate life by having some fun and marveling in the absurdities which some insist on believing.
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