People all around the world are celebrating Easter today. I am not. Easter is a vile little holiday wrapped up in a façade of pretty dresses and chocolate eggs and happy children playing games on the lawn, but at its putrescent core lies 20 centuries of exploitation and dishonesty. Here is a hard-core atheist’s perspective on this awful holy day.
I. The fact.
This is the season when our culture commemorates torture. A particularly callous sort of torture, too: a lazy and evil form of punishment that could be carried out en masse. Nail people up in intolerable postures and they inevitably and slowly die, no active, trained labor required—nail ’em and leave ’em, confident that they’ll suffer horribly and eventually expire.
We focus all our attention on one man who suffered this torment, and regard him as somehow special. The Roman Empire did this to tens of thousands at once, in mass spectacles of hideous punishment. Throughout human history, people have died ghastly, lingering deaths, often at the hands of other people, and it was not ennobling, and it is usually forgotten.
Look at that bloody figure wracked up on a cross, and we should all be reminded not of one man long ago who suffered, but that our nation tortures to the death other brown-skinned Middle Eastern people right now. How can we look at the Passion spectacles now and not feel a deep shame?
II. The lie.
At the heart of Christian belief is a lie: that this man was tortured to death long ago, and that afterwards he came back to life. Oh, and also that he wasn’t a man at all, but a god. There is no evidence for these claims that defy all reason and experience, but we’re asked merely to believe. To have faith. To trust the words of priests.
If a sacrifice is the centerpiece of our salvation, it makes no sense to call the brief troubling of an omnipotent being with a few nails a “sacrifice.” It was a man who died horribly, like many others. He didn’t come back.
Grieve. For he is not risen.
III. The false promise.
Christianity has taken the lie and amplified it millions-fold. If one man came back from the dead, why not everyone? It’s the wet dream of every snake-oil salesman, the ultimate con: an irresistible promise, made with no evidence whatsoever, with a payoff deferred to another world, another time…and the suckers line up in droves to pay up.
“You don’t have to die,” the priests wheedle, “you can live forever.”
How many millions have fallen for that tempting lie? How many have died? All of them. How many have seen the promise fulfilled? None of them.
The death cult flourishes in its denial of reality. The fleecing continues.
IV. The threat.
The promise of eternal life is not enough. We must also be browbeaten with threats of unearthly, unending torment if we don’t believe the lie.
It’s a culture that rewards the most extravagant of extortionists.
V. The hierarchy.
Millions of good, decent people will accept the promise and fear the threat; wishful thinking is no crime. They will make weekly, sometimes daily visits to their local cult office, they will freely donate money in trust to their local priest. Those who can’t visit, will write checks, even if their income is limited, and will send them off to the smiling pompadours on their television sets.
It’s a perfect system in which nice people make themselves exploitable, and those who are most deluded, most venal, most vehement in their pronunciation of the Big Lie are rewarded the most. The rot rises rapidly to the top.
Dobson, Falwell, Robertson, Haggard, Bakker, Roberts…how many can you name? This is a system where the worst represent all, the takers and liars and vermin reap the rewards, and the best labor and give, give, give, give.
VI. The theft.
I know how the believers will reply. They will say “Bach!” They will point to the Sistine Chapel. They will talk about human hope and beauty and art, and the patronage of the church.
And I will say that no gods had a hand in any of that. Those are human accomplishments, the work of the skilled and clever and good, with no divinity necessary. On top of the false promise and the threat, the religious add the crime of theft: they falsely appropriate our best works and shackle them in service to the lie.
And so it goes.
What to do.
Abandon the church. Take the money you were going to throw in the collection plate and donate it to a secular charity. Tell your priest to take a hike. Stay home; have a quiet day with your family. Think. Enjoy this world while you live in it.
This holiday has a longer tradition than the Christian church, and is associated with the return of Spring. So celebrate life. Go for a walk. Plant a tree. Read a good book. Have a conversation with someone. Write a poem, paint a picture.
The lesson you should learn is that torture doesn’t dissipate with a deity’s whim. Write your representative. March for peace. Write an angry blog entry. Yell at a Republican.
Whatever you do, wake up. Deny the lie.