Consider Easter

Apr 08, 2012 1 Comment by

Critics of Christianity are often well-aware some of its festivals are stolen. The most famous example is that the Northern Hemisphere’s celebrations of the December Solstice, in which days finally get longer again, began as an agricultural festival. The Ancient Egyptians, recognizing the role of the Sun in this occasion, quickly co-opted it for their supreme deity, Ra. Christianity was not even original in its theft; it is simply the latest religion to misuse the Solstice. Easter is also an example; the Spring’s fertility boost to many species is the basis of a celebration the Pagans centred on a fertility goddess, Oestre, whose name has since been corrupted to “Easter”. (The name “Christmas” is just as lazy; it refers to Midnight Mass being the only Christian addition to the activity line-up.) You can tell Easter’s original meaning was seasonal because, to this day, the first Full Moon after the Solstice determines Easter’s date.

Christianity’s fascination with the meaning it accords to Easter illustrates how Christianity’s doctrine makes no sense. On Good Friday, Christians can’t shut up about the supreme sacrifice Jesus made for us, a sacrifice Jehovah shouldn’t have needed to be made for us to be forgiven anyway; he could have forgiven us without requiring a scapegoat. However, I digress from my main point. Two days later, what is the new point on which Christians cannot be silenced? It is that it is so wonderful Jesus has risen, as it illustrates our own chances at an afterlife. (To be fair to Christianity, Judaism lacked such an offer, except when the end of the world comes.) But the fact Jesus bodily rose (which, incidentally, is not the same as an afterlife) means his “death on the cross” was not sacrificial at all. He had a bad Friday afternoon, rested for 24 hours, then got to be the ruler of the universe without even genuinely dying. Even if a Christian has a decent argument for why this analysis is missing something, the question s/he must answer is, did His story have a happy ending or not? If it did, shut up about Friday; if it didn’t, shut up about Sunday. You cannot have it both ways.

I’ll end my objections to Easter with one more example of what’s silly about it. Have you ever had a holiday in Spain? If you had, you’ll wonder why, despite all the British tourists they get, there are few or no English channels on the rooms’ TVs. At any rate, what channels they have in my room are largely Spanish, which naturally means contemporaneous Catholic practices get a lot of air time. I had no idea how ridiculous was their Good Friday clothing. I saw quite a few people wearing KKK style hats, albeit black instead of white. You would think such dress, no matter how much the Vatican values “tradition”, would be reconsidered these days. Pretty much everyone was dressed in black, including women with head dresses reminiscent of female cast members in The Addams Family. It got to the point where it almost seemed like they were trying to give me reasons to think lowly of them. It may seem bad form of mine to critique Christians for having a uniform associated with a celebration. But consider the following simple question: how do these people know God would like to see them do this? For we know such an expectation is on their minds; if a religious act is not considered theologically necessary, it loses its uniform support within a church. Let’s remind ourselves of one crucial fact about religion: its activities, of which the Easter festival is just one of many examples, are “justified” in terms of doctrines that imply their importance, and so the epistemic validity of such doctrines is crucial for any aspect of the enterprise to be reasonable. But authority, tradition, revelation and faith are all they have, and none of these things constitute logic or evidence. That’s a more arresting objection to what I saw on TV than the actual details of what I saw. Those details are just what made it funny.

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About the author

For most of my time as an undergraduate there was an atheist society in my university, which was founded late in my first year there. I was a committee member from then until my degree ended, by which time the society was atheist, secularist and humanist (you needn't be all three!). This gives me many experiences to relate. I have long critiqued pro-religious arguments, including in hundreds of posts - many of them thorough rebuttals to articles - on under my name. My degree was in physics, and I know a lot of the science - physics and otherwise - relevant to the debate on religion.

One Response to “Consider Easter”

  1. Ben says:


    I’m an atheist, but your site doesn’t seem to do much for the cause of the atheism generally. Nearly every post seems to attack Christianity or Christian beliefs with varying degrees of snarkiness. Atheists have no duty to disprove Christianity or point out its flaws.

    As I like to say, the universe simply is. Anything belief beyond that depends on the proof advanced by the believer. People who do not subscribe to those beliefs are under no obligation to discredit or disprove those believes. It makes us look motivated by spite when we attempt to.