The Christian Easter Story: Hear it Again for the First Time

An Easter Cross
An Easter Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent post from Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant (update: blog no longer active) has me thinking. For those of you who were indoctrinated in the Christian religion as I was, how many times do you think you've heard the Easter story? I'll bet I've heard the tale about the trial, the crucifixion, and resurrection of Jee-zuhs at least 40 times during the years I spent at church, Sunday school, with religious family members, etc. Now think about how it would sound to you if you were hearing it for the first time now.

Part of what makes religious indoctrination so powerful, explaining why the vast majority of Americans continue to believe in all sorts of crazy things, is that it starts early in life before children have the capacity for certain kinds of critical thinking. I'm not saying that vulnerable adolescents and adults never embrace religion; that they do is obvious. However, the real power of the religious belief system is that it has managed to convince parents that they are doing their children a favor by indoctrinating them in this web of superstition.

Since the difference between education and indoctrination has been poorly understood by some of my readers in the past, it bears repeating here. Education is about expanding the mind of the student through the acquisition of critical thinking skills. The idea is that the learner is taught how to think. That is, questions and deep understanding are encouraged. In contrast, indoctrination is about memorization of standard components of doctrine and of standard responses to questions. This shuts down the mind, quells exploration and discovery, and fosters obedience.

When we survivors of indoctrination hear the Easter story, it sounds familiar, almost comfortable. If we deliberately activate our critical thinking and encounter the story as if we are hearing it for the first time, it is laughably absurd.