It has been a few years, since I left Christianity, so when I look at it now, I can see it more through the eyes of an outsider, rather than through the god-glasses given to me through childhood indoctrination. One thing about human nature is that we can be in situations in which things which are quite strange can appear normal, simply because they are part of our everyday experience, and because we are surrounded by people who treat these things as normal. Such was the case with the core beliefs of Christianity. Now, when I think about the Christian teachings about and commemoration of the death of Jesus, I can’t believe that I didn’t see how weird it all was at the time.
Since today is Good Friday, and churches everywhere are gearing up for their Easter celebrations this weekend, I thought I’d take a look at some of the things which are strange and don’t add up, with this particular set of beliefs.
Ask just about any person on the street if human sacrifice to appease the gods is a good thing, they would look at you as if you were crazy. You would have a hard time finding someone who thought the sacrificial rituals of the Aztecs or Mayans were a good thing. And yet, most Christians fail to think about the fact that their religion is founded on the celebration and fetishization of a human sacrifice – that of Jesus:
For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. Romans 3:25 (NLT)
…Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. 1 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT)That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. Hebrews 10:5 (NLT)In addition to celebrating the human sacrifice of Jesus to appease God, the Bible also applauds the willingness of a Abraham to kill his son as a human sacrifice:
It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, Hebrews 11:17 (NLT)
(a sampling of images found the Facebook page of Jesus Daily)
Stranger still, is how Christians commemorate the death of Jesus by ritually enacting the cannibalism of the body and blood of Jesus. While Protestants believe this is symbolic, Catholics believe in transubstantiation – that the wine and wafer are transformed into the actual substance of the blood and flesh of Jesus. They believe they are literally eating the flesh of Jesus when they eat the wafer; cannibalization as an act of worship.
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as sacrifice for many. Mark 14:22-24 (NLT)So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. John 6:53 (NLT)
Human sacrifice and cannibalism are good, as long as it is the right person being killed. Why do the vast majority of Christians not find this sort of thing strange and repulsive? Only because it has been normalized in their experience. They have been desensitized to the implications of their own beliefs. Christian, the reason you aren’t freaked out by all of this is because your church is filled with lots of other people pretending this sort of thing is completely normal. I sometimes volunteer at a soup kitchen for the homeless, affiliated with the Catholic church. Hanging on the wall, over the food serving line, is a good-sized crucifix of a tortured Jesus nailed to a cross. The ludicrous nature of people getting plates of food, below a statue of a half-naked, tortured man makes me wonder, where else but in religion could such a bizarre display be viewed as normal?
Punishing an innocent party for the misdeeds of others.
Another strange thing about Good Friday is the whole Christian idea of atonement – that an innocent person can be punished on behalf of a guilty party, thus wiping away their guilt, as long as they accept this act.
The Bible is filled with examples of its god punishing people for the sins of others. Yahweh even is reported to have killed King David’s baby because he seduced Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah:
Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord. Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the Lord by doing this, your child will die.” After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife. David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. The elders of his household pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused. Then on the seventh day the child died… 2 Samuel 12:13-18 (NLT)This a nasty little story about an unjust god who kills a baby slowly, over the course of a week, because of something the baby’s parents did. It is utterly abhorrent. Any judge in our time who issued such a sentence would be disbarred and probably imprisoned. And yet, because these actions are attributed to God, they somehow become just.
In the New Testament, we are told that God punished Jesus for the sins of the world, and that if we accept this, then all our misdeeds will be forgiven. Now, I won’t even take time to go into the bizarre Christian belief that God impregnated a virgin with himself, so that she could give birth to Jesus (who was somehow God, while also being another person). Let us instead focus on the fact that the Bible tells us that God was very angry with the human race and we deserve death, but he decided to pour out his wrath on, and kill his son Jesus (who was also himself) so that he could stop being angry with humans, as long as they accept his son’s sacrifice.
How does it make any sense to punish and innocent person in order to forgive a guilty one?
Would you imprison an innocent person so that a murderer or rapist could go free? If Hitler had ‘accepted Jesus’ as he was dying, Christian belief says that he would now be in heaven, while his non-Christian Jewish Holocaust victims are in Hell. This is not justice. It is perversity. The core belief underlying all of this is not that humans have even harmed other humans, but that they have offended God in various ways (in the Bible, ‘sin’ can be things such as eating the wrong foods, having the wrong kind of sex, thinking the wrong thoughts, worshipping the wrong god & etc). ‘Sin’ is making God mad, and the sorts of things which make him mad have changed over the centuries. Many of the things which made him mad in the Old Testament fall by the wayside in the New Testament.
This very short video illustrates the utter foolishness of the Christian idea of substitutionary atonement – punishing one person on another’s behalf.
“How amazing is God’s forgiveness? Not very.”
And this video, “Christian Justice”.
Isn’t it evident that these beliefs of human sacrifice are relics of unenlightened thinking, from more barbaric times?
Christian, if you have read this far, you may be feeling offended, or fearful at my questioning of the very foundation your religion is built on. All I am doing is holding your beliefs up to the light and examining whether they make sense or not, and I hope that you will do the same. I cannot tell you what to believe; you must decide for yourself whether the teachings of Christianity stand up to close scrutiny. You must decide if you are comfortable with a religion which is built on human sacrifice and the ritual portrayal of eating flesh and drinking blood. I am not, and that is one reason I am no longer a Christian.
Written by J. M. Green