An Atheist’s Easter Sermon: Why REALITY Matters More Than Ooga-Booga

Christmas is a pagan holiday redirected.  For all its “holiness”, all its fanciful storytelling about Wise Men from the East and stars that shine above spots on a planet light years away from them, Christmas still celebrates something; it’s a happy holiday.  Easter, on the other hand, is about Christianity’s core message: “Jesus died (but then rose from the dead – as YOU can, in essence, IF you agree to accept the story we’re pitching you as ‘gospel’ truth.”

Jesus being born and having a life is all well and good.  He can preach all he likes.  But it’s dying that gives the Jesus character purpose.  If Jesus never dies the way he dies (if, say, the NT celebrated his living a long life, dying in his bed surrounded by loved ones), there’s no Christianity.  It doesn’t happen.  But it wasn’t Jesus who told his own story.  Most of what we call “The New Testament” was written by Paul.  13 of the canonical texts are ascribed to Paul though only 8 can really be ascribed to him.

In 1985, the bible scholar Robert Funk created a group of 150 similar scholars.  The Jesus Seminar wanted to coax a historical Jesus from the NT texts.  They discerned a Jew whose core message (they found a dozen-and-a-half sayings that Jesus could have said — that weren’t clearly PUT IN HIS MOUTH BY OTHERS (like, say, PAUL).  What they also saw clearly — “According to the Seminar, Jesus was a mortal man born of two human parents, who did not perform nature miracles nor die as a substitute for sinners nor rise bodily from the dead.  Sightings of a risen Jesus represented the visionary experiences of some of his disciples rather than physical encounters.”

The historian A N Wilson wrote a biography of Paul that I highly recommend — if only to create the proper context in which to understand Christianity’s creation.  The bottom line is simply this: Jesus did not “invent” Christianity.  Paul did.

Paul took the notion of Jesus as a messiah — threw out Jesus’ core “Do Unto Others” message and focused his proselytizing instead on making Jesus The Messiah the basis for a whole new religion that he sold to non-Jews for whom Jewish tradition was meaningless.  But, to prove, HIS invention’s “truthfulness” (maybe “truthiness” is more warranted), Paul based his mythology on Jewish mythology.  Paul needed Jesus being prophesied as part of his branding.  To make the “prophecy” part of Jesus’ story stand up, Paul had invent a story for Jesus because Jesus’ actual story just didn’t fit.

Paul didn’t worry himself with his story’s lack of authenticity.  He wasn’t selling real.  He was selling magic.

But part of Paul’s mythology involved making Jesus’ death important — more important than his life, really.  Jesus needs to rise from the dead to garner the star power needed to front Paul’s new religion.  To rise from the dead, Jesus needs to die spectacularly — even more spectacularly than mere crucifixion. And, because Paul was now committed to selling his story to non-Jews, it mattered nothing to him if Jews became the villain in the STORY he was inventing.

The early church fathers who bought & then themselves began selling Paul’s story loved having a villain.

As a member of the “villain” tribe — I have issues with this.

Jesus preached a simple message.  Even a humble atheist can easily (and happily) “Do Unto Others”.  Most do, actually because, humans are social creatures.  We recognize that behaving one way versus the other makes your life better.  There’s no reason to muck that message up.  It doesn’t cry out for explanation.

It requires no magic.

It stands — resolutely — without any need for Ooga-Booga to justify it.

So here’s the deal.  Believe whatever you like, Christians — it’s your “god-given right”.  But what you do with that faith — how you manifest its teachings out here beyond the walls of your church — it matters.  When your pervert “Do Unto Others” into “Kill The Jews” — you’re doing it wrong.

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This Is A Moment In Time Where Magical Thinking Could Kill Us…

…that is if we follow Magical Thinkers and their bottomless capacity to believe utter nonsense is real. I draw a very clear distinction between ‘spirituality’ and ‘religious faith’ because there IS one. Even a humble atheist can feel a sense of awe as he or she gazes out at the cosmos — feels its vastness and mystery yet his or her own tiny existence as part of it, too. That’s ‘spiritual’. It’s dogma free. It’s the feelings without the bullshit explanation for them.

Religious faith demands a suspension of disbelief from the ground up. Religious faith is an attempt to explain that awe everyone feels (even the atheists) with a story — pulled, let’s be honest, from some person’s ass. Okay — from their imagination. Same difference really. I say that as someone pulling something from my ‘ass’ right here, right now. What I am doing here is no different in its ‘inspiration’ from whatever those scribes felt thousands of years ago when they first began to scribble their thoughts onto parchment.

I’m not entirely sure why Christianity still co-brands with Jesus. The institutional Christian churches long, long ago dispensed with Jesus’ core message: ‘Do Unto Others’. Instead they’ve all taken up variations on a theme — justifications for their own existence & continuation. Jesus didn’t ‘invent’ Christianity. If such an actual human ever existed, he was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew. What he preached was Judaism and nothing but. A counter-institutional brand of Judaism — but Judaism (it so happens most Judaism welcomes those who question).

Paul invented Christianity. Most of the New Testament is Paul setting up the ‘Church’ — its larger community — and its fundamental concepts. Those concepts did not include ‘Do Unto Others’. They included the mythology to justify Jesus (a character more than a person in their minds) as the messiah character described in the Jewish texts – themselves nothing but mythology, the product of human imagination. In the context of stone cold reality — things that actually happened vs things that actually didn’t and never could — Paul was building a sand castle atop a sand castle.

We stand at a moment in History where our ability — as a society and a culture — to discern what is from what isn’t — will determine whether we pull ourselves out of this death spiral or simply fly into the ground — and lose our Democracy and every last bit of ones freedoms. That’s not hyperbole.

As of last night, we became ‘aware’ that the FBI was hip to Donald Trump’s treason when he fired James Comey. They’d had inklings but refused to listen to those inklings. A failure of imagination. And a failure because of Magical Thinking — that it just couldn’t ‘be’. That the FACTS ON THE GROUND couldn’t be ‘facts’. That what WASN’T was ‘truer’ than what WAS.

When Comey was fired — and Trump repeatedly acted in ways that screamed how guilty he was — that, finally, was enough for reality to overcome the ‘walls’ that had been put up around The Truth by Magical Thinking. I hope we all agree that this cannot be our process going forward. We need to see Magical Thinking for what it is: prettified BULLSHIT.

If America is going to pull itself out of this — correct it’s course — and restore itself to its core — enlightened — ideals, we need to do it with our eyes wide open. We need to take the spiritual messages from religion — ‘Do Unto Others’ — and remind ourselves that all the other stuff was written by clever, imaginative men (it was probably all men) who didn’t know anything about the world they lived in beyond what they could see with their naked eyes.

If the men who wrote the foundational texts of any religion had the knowledge (that’s knowledge as opposed to bullshit) available via the internet today, they would have written their foundational texts WITH that knowledge. The core message would have still gotten through, one hopes, but wrapped up in a better-informed knowledge-base of how The World actually operates — and why.