I think it’s appropriate that Easter and the American Atheists Conference happen to line up this year. On Easter Sunday, I’ll most likely be recovering from a gin induced hangover and killing time in Newark waiting for a delayed flight, but that will be much more enjoyable to me than any Easter celebration. Even an egg hunt.
By the way, did you ever wonder where the easter egg thing came from? I mean… did Jesus die on the cross so we could paint eggs and find them in the yard? Thanks to the magic of Wikipedia, it’s pretty easy to figure out that the easter egg is a tradition that predates Christian Easter by a long time. The Zoroastrians, the Saxons, and pre-Christian Jews all had egg traditions. So three cheers to the Christians for taking over yet another holiday and calling it their own. But I digress before I’ve even begun.
I think it will be fun to relate the Easter story with a little more detail and depth than is normally given from the pulpit. After all, Easter was the culmination of a plan that had been working itself out for billions and billions of years, set in motion by the wisest creature in all of existence. A little more than lip service seems appropriate. The story is pretty long, so it’ll take more than one day. Here’s Part 1.
In the Beginning v1.0
Approximately six thousand years ago, a magical being called “God” set a plan into motion. He’d been waiting and doing very little for several googols of googols of years, so this was a very important time. All that brain power had just been sitting around, formulating the most perfect and holy way to do the most beautiful and loving thing ever done in the history of the universe. (Of course, since nothing had ever been done in the universe, the bar wasn’t set very high, but I digress.)
God began by creating everything that we see in the universe. The universe is extraordinarily large. Immense. If it were much smaller than it is, it would still be immense. It’s so huge that it’s really hard for us to imagine just how huge it is.
In one tiny corner of the universe, God made a planet and called it “Earth.” It’s a small planet, as planets go, but it’s perfect for humans. You see, God had made the whole universe for humans. Oh, he could have made the universe quite small, since the physical laws he created would prevent humans from ever seeing virtually any of the universe beyond earth’s solar system firsthand. He could have just made it big enough for earth, but that wouldn’t do. He wanted the humans to know just how incredibly powerful he was, so he made a universe so large that when people discovered its true size, they’d stop and say, “Wow. God is really friggin’ powerful. You know? Like… he made all of this for us.”
God, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, had decided trillions and trillions of years ago that he wasn’t going to just parade himself in front of humans like some pompous dictator. (Of course, he knew what a dictator was, even though there had never been a human before, or a country, or a government. He’s very smart.) No. God would reveal himself to people through mysteries, puzzles, and downright trickery. To begin with, he didn’t give humans any kind of a user’s manual. He just left them on earth without any knowledge of… well… anything. He wanted them to figure out things for themselves.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. To begin with, there weren’t a lot of humans. There were only two — Adam and Eve. God knew that Adam and Eve were cheeky little bastards, and prone to gullibility, but even so, he put them in a magical garden with a talking snake and a magic tree. He only told them one thing — “Don’t eat the fruit from that tree. Even though it’s really pretty, and looks like it would be awesome… and even though I put it right there in the center where you have to look at it all the time and think… wow… that would be awesome…”
The talking snake was evil. God knew that, but he put the snake in the garden anyway, because it was all part of the most perfect loving plan ever conceived in the whole universe. In due time, the snake played his part and told the woman (evil creature that she was) that she ought to eat the fruit. Being gullible and having no knowledge of good and evil, she said, “What the hell.” (Ironic, don’t you think?)
So God got his panties in a bunch about that act of civil disobedience and kicked Adam and Eve out of the magic garden. He was particularly mad at Eve, so he cursed every human being that would ever live — billions and billions of them — with aging and death. Because women are nasty and evil, he put an especially bad curse on them. He made it so that their vaginas would get torn up really bad when they had children, and some of the unluckiest ones would die because their birth canals and other internal plumbing simply weren’t designed well enough to let babies pass through without incident.
And this was all part of the most loving and wonderful thing that had ever been done in the universe. Just wait. It’ll all make sense later. (God’s very smart that way.)
The Plan, Part 1
After cursing the man and the woman for being the way they were made, God set the next part of the plan in motion. He continued to ignore 95% of the earth’s population of humans because he didn’t care about them yet. All he really cared about was this one group of people who were all descendants of a goat herder with a fetish for handmaidens. He showed them how much he cared by taking them out into the desert and starving them for 40 years, and giving them Ten Commandments, most of which involved telling God how awesome he is and not looking at pictures of other gods.
During this time, God gave that tiny part of the earth’s population a way to avoid his wrath, which had proved to be considerable. (He turned one man and his whole family into salt just for pausing to look at his hometown, which God had just turned into a pile of nuclear rubble.) Here’s what they needed to do. Whenever they did something bad like touching a woman while she was menstruating, they needed to take some of what they owned and either burn it, kill it, or otherwise destroy it. When they did this, God felt self-actualized, and could manage to stave off his desire to fry them like so much wheat toast in a brick oven.
But God had a better plan, and was only using this one for a while. Maybe it occurred to him that his loving kindness would be better served if all the people in the world knew about it. Maybe he felt sorry for the bulls and goats. Who can understand the mind of God?
Anyway, he sent some men called prophets to go to the big cities and shout poems. These poems were very vague, but it was important for them to be said because thousands of years later, they would be proof that God knew what he was doing before he did it. Some of the poems said things about a savior. That was all part of the plan. But it was also very important that these “prophecies” not be clear enough for everyone to agree on what they meant. So some people expected a ruler and conquering hero as a savior. After all, God, in his loving infinite mercy, had subjected his favorite people to a few centuries of slavery and captivity to reward them for following him around the desert for so long. So they kind of needed a conquering hero. But that’s not what God was going to give them. Because he loved them, and knew that there were going to be plenty of gas chambers and persecution to come. (Seriously… hang with me. This is all going to make sense later.)
For several centuries, God made his favorite people wait while they built pyramids for the evil Egyptians, and toiled away for those nasty Babylonians. Very soon, his super-awesome plan for the most loving thing ever done in the entire universe would come to fruition…
To Be Continued.