I’m not particularly religious. But a lot of people who aren’t particularly religious still trot themselves into church on Christmas and Easter…which happens to be today. People who only go to church on Christmas and Easter are dubbed “C-E Christians.”
I remember when I was a kid that I loved Easter. I loved my Easter basket. I REALLY loved rabbits like the Easter Bunny and the Cadbury Bunny…to the point where I eventually had a couple as pets. I never understood what all of that had to do with the stuff they taught me at church regarding Easter, but hey it was fun and there was candy.
Back then I never gave a lot of thought to it all. As I got older I found out that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real…it was kind of like finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. A rabbit could never deliver baskets to all the Christian children in the world in one night. Besides, how would he even get into the house?
And yet, even as I got older, I had no trouble believing an equally implausible story about how a man could be executed by the most cruel and torturous method ever invented on Friday and then walk out of his tomb (rolling a stone away) on Sunday morning. After all, all of the adults I knew claimed to believe it. It was not just a miracle but it was THE miracle that saved us from the eternal torment we deserved.
When I got to college, I learned some disturbing facts about the Jesus story. I had always heard that the Christians had placed the holiday of Easter at a particular time in order to supplant pagan fertility rituals usually celebrated around the same time..
But what I did not realize was that so many details of Jesus’s life — the virgin birth and the resurrection in particular — were unoriginal. The story of Jesus mirrors many stories that came hundreds of years before him…and it would make complete sense for someone interested in gaining a new convert in the pagan world to merely tack on these stories to the real life story of Jesus in order to make it more palatable for pagans.
During the period of the Roman Empire, history was simply not written the way we think of it today. There were no pure biographies…only legends and folklore that were intertwined with facts. It was even more true with religious texts. We can learn a lot about ancient history from these documents, but to suggest that they represent history in the same way that a biographer or historian would write history today ignores their context.
Imagine someone from the future picking up a copy of Major League and thinking of it as a documentary about baseball. It was a comedic farce and never intended to be an historical film…even though there really was a baseball team called the Cleveland Indians.
Resurrection in the ancient world was a symbol for the new fertility that came with each spring. It turns out the rabbit and the eggs are more closely aligned with the original meaning of Easter than the stories about Jesus are.
Indeed, these two stories of virgin birth and resurrection that comprise Christmas and Easter are the two most ridiculous stories in all of Christianity.
The last time I attended church, it was on Christmas Eve of 2005. I thought it was a nice tradition. It was my idea. However, once I got there, all I could feel was anger at the myths that these leaders were spreading and reinforcing as if they were historical facts. The same thing happens at Easter, and that is precisely why I cannot attend anymore.