|Sent on:||Wednesday, March 6, 2013 7:56 AM|
A Familiar Storyline
© 2001 by Mike Sullivan - All Rights Reserved
During this coming Easter season (and by Easter, I of course mean the first Sunday following the first full moon following the Spring Equinox), we will be obliged by our god-believing friends to hear their tales of risen saviors. No doubt all of them will consider their account of this purported miracle unique among all religions, but that only betrays their ignorance of man’s limitless ability to create superstition.
It was a fleeting but effective life. He was conceived by a virgin, he was born in a barn in a far away town, he inherited a royal lineage, he escaped a mortal danger in infancy, he was tempted in the wilderness, he received a commission to rule the world, he performed supernatural feats, he suffered a cruel death, he vanished from the burial vault, he descended into hell, he appeared to the women of the entourage, he ascended to heaven in a cloud, and the disciples waited for his triumphant return.
His name, as we all know, was Heracles, the peasant demigod of Tarsus, from whence emerged a loquacious evangelist who was intimately familiar with the story. For centuries the people of the Mediterranean annually observed the death and resurrection of their gods. Osiris, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Adonis, Eurydice, Tammuz, Attis and Mithra were all celebrated in the popular spring festivals. Christos came late to the party.
The formula of the last supper, passion, betrayal, trial, crucifixion and resurrection was a transcript of a mystery drama long familiar in the ancient world. The aspects of the faiths were remarkably similar.
• The followers of Mithra believed that baptism with holy water would
inculcate the spirit of god.
• The followers of Adonis believed that the sign of the cross, a sign that had
nothing to do with Christianity for centuries after the beginnings of the
Jesus cults, was protection against disease and injury.
• The followers of Attis believed that their god had painfully died by being
fastened to a tree.
• The followers of Dionysus believed that divinity could be shared in a meal
of bread and wine.
• The followers of Osiris believed that the sins of humanity were expiated
by the god's sacrifice.
Each of the gods died a violent death, each of them was resurrected from the grave, and each of the gods promised to reappear in order to establish a heaven on Earth. Christos promised to be back sooner rather than later, in "this generation." So the believers started waiting.
Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official state religion by force in 325C.E. The bloodshed of dissenters and the burning of their stories began. You would think a real god could have built his church by influencing the minds of people without the help of state force. Still, the believers waited. In the same year, the spring festival of Christos was formally recognized as the only legal celebration. Party for any other reason, and you're dead.
During the Middle Ages, the name "Easter" was derived from "Ostara", the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the spring. Still, the waiting continued.
For millennia, the butterflies arrived in spring, unaccompanied by a savior. The flowers blossomed, but no judgment was handed down. The lambs appeared, but no kingdom of heaven. Meanwhile, the violence inflicted by those spreading their exclusionary story of Christos put the spiritual cost accounting since Constantine irretrievably into the red, where it continues to bleed this very day in places like Northern Ireland, Christian Serbia, Indonesia and wherever religious hatred causes blood to spill.
If there was a real person behind all the mythology, I think when all was said and done, he was probably sorry he didn't spend more time in the spring enjoying chocolate eggs.
There are roughly 2,500 or so gods in the world. Most Christians are non-theists when it comes to 2,499 of them. Non-theists merely go one step further and disbelieve in one more god than Christians do. The morality of a non-theist is therefore free to rise above the arbitrary dictates of religious zealots who lived without the benefit of thousands of years of accumulated human wisdom.
I wish for you, my friends, the joy of spring. The time of birth and renewal. A return to longer days, shorter nights, and of light and warmth for those of us in this Hemisphere. A time to stop waiting on outdated mythologies that have lost their virtue, and start creating a world in which waiting for heroes to return will no longer be needed or desirable. A world where all can understand that those who offer love increase the love in themselves, and differences are to be celebrated, not feared or discouraged. A world in which we understand reality well enough to know that we are capable of solving our own problems.
Life is short. Awaken to your full potential. Enjoy the resurrection of springtime.
Good Read: Encyclopedia of Gods - Over 2500 Deities of the World, by Michael Jordan (broadcaster & writer in England)