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Christianity

Sacrifice

Pretty gruesome stuff, isn’t it?  Strapped to a log, nailed down for good measure.  Left to die in your own sweet time.  A few days ago I watched an episode of Louis on Hulu.  If you don’t know the show, you should check it out.

This particular episode was interesting to me because I lived it.  When I was in a Christian grade school, a doctor came into our class and spent the better part of an hour describing all the horrific, excruciating varieties of pain a person goes through while being crucified.  No details were left out to spare young minds.  It was awful.  Truly awful.

At the end of the session, the teacher began listing off sins every one of us had surely committed.  Things every normal adolescent does.  After each one, she listed off one of the torments the god Jesus allegedly endured and said, “Every time you do it, you’re doing THIS to Jesus!  You’re killing him!  Every time!”

The terror fest had the desired effect.  Many kids left the classroom crying.  We all felt horribly guilty.  We were all overwhelmed by the sacrifice that the god Jesus had made on our behalf.  We vowed not to kill him anymore.

Now that I’m a little older, and have learned that it’s not always a good idea to be swayed by strong emotion, I’ve had some time to think about the sacrifice.  I’m not nearly as impressed as I was when I was young.  Let me explain.

What is a sacrifice?  Well, it has several meanings, but I think only a couple apply to this story.  One is the old school religious definition.  In many ancient religions, including early Judaism, the gods were thought to be angry and vengeful, and the only way to  appease them was to give up things you owned.  You brought a goat or a bull or several chickens, put them on an altar and killed them.  This act of sacrifice would stay the wrath of the god(s) for some amount of time.  It was also possible to make sacrifices when things were going very poorly.  If the rains hadn’t come around for a while, a sacrifice might induce the god(s) to throw a little moisture your way.

I wonder if that’s what Jesus Worshipers mean when they say that their god sacrificed himself.  It certainly has some similarities.  Was the cross meant to be a substitute for an altar?  That certainly seems reasonable.  But it gets tricky if that’s what it’s supposed to be.  The whole reason for the sacrifice to ancient gods was to appease their wrath and anger.  That means that Jesus is angry at us… since he’s supposed to be the same as the god Father and the god Holy Spirit.

Why would he be angry?  He made us exactly the way he wanted us, right?  And he knows everything and always has, so he knew when he made us that our ancestor Adam would disobey him.  (Only we know from science that there is no such thing as Adam.  Perhaps there’s a mitochondrial Eve, but not an Adam…)  So he was getting exactly what he wanted.  How could it be any different?  If he cannot do anything less than exactly what he wants, then this is precisely what he wanted.  So… how could he possibly be angry?

But I guess we have to take it as read that for some reason, the god Jesus got incredibly angry when things happened exactly the way he wanted them to happen.  So, to assuage his anger, he turned himself into a man and then arranged things so that he would be crucified.  The thing is, since he says he and Father and Holy Spirit are the only god around, and sacrifices are made to gods, that means that he was making himself a sacrifice to himself.  That seems very odd.  Actually, it sounds downright psychopathic.

Here’s something else I’ve been thinking about.  The other useful definition of sacrifice is to give up something valuable for someone else’s benefit.  Not necessarily a god.  So… a bull takes quite a few years to grow to maturity.  The whole time, you have to feed it lots and lots of food.  For a poor farmer, sacrificing a bull might mean giving up the majority of his work for the last few years.  If he had three bulls, it would be a third.  If he had ten, a tenth.  And so on.  Relatively speaking, that’s a lot of effort being given away for someone else’s wrath.

I am told that Jesus is immortal.  Since there is no number I can represent that with, I decided to take a very large number instead.  I picked a trillion trillion.  (A trillion is one with twelve zeros after it.)  Supposing that Jesus felt excruciating pain for twenty four hours, we can say that he “sacrificed” for 1/365 of a year.  In decimals, that’s 0.0027, or 0.03% of a year.  For a trillion, that’s 0.000000000003%.  For another trillion, that’s 0.000000000000000000000003%.  So, cutting the god Jesus’s life by a trillion trillion percent, he only sacrificed this infinitesimally small percentage of his time.  And since he is a god, and can do anything he likes, he really wasn’t giving up anything else.  And since he is immortal, he couldn’t have been really dead.  Just… pretend dead.

For the sake of argument, maybe there is a way for a god to be really dead and then come back to life.  (Were the god Father and the god Holy Spirit also dead for three days?  If not, then Jesus couldn’t have been because he is the same as them, right?  But anyway…)  That means that for three days he didn’t experience anything at all.  That doesn’t sound very bad to me.

I’ve been told by some Jesus Worshipers that Jesus spent his three days of death in hell.  That would certainly be worse than just being dead and not experiencing anything.  I am led to believe that hell is the worst torture imaginable multiplied by a billion billion.  But I’m still not very impressed.  Because those three days are still a fantastically tiny period of Jesus’ life.  And I have it on reliable sources that my punishment for not believing this whole story is an eternity — the length of god’s life minus the time before I was born — of that same torture.

Sooo… In a nutshell, the god Jesus spent the merest speck of his existence experiencing pain sacrificing himself to himself.  If I fail to respect that minuscule gesture, I will be tortured in the worst imaginable way for all of eternity.  It’s akin to me saying to you, “Last night, I pinched myself on the thigh for one tenth of a second.  I have sacrificed so much for you, you should give me a million dollars.  If you don’t, I’ll kill you.”

No… I don’t think it’s much of a sacrifice, and I don’t think it reflects good moral character.

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Discussion

10 thoughts on “Sacrifice

  1. Just to wedge my beak in on what’s ultimately a matter incidental to this topic, there was a y-chromosomal Adam to go along with mitochondrial Eve, though it’s no surprise that she lived about a hundred thousand years before he was born. All we’re really talking about here is a most recent common matrilineal or patrilineal ancestor for our species. It’s a pain in the ass to deal with this in mussels, as they inherit mitochondria from parents of both sexes. Just thought I’d throw that in.

    Posted by Clint | October 8, 2010, 5:37 pm
  2. When I was in grade school, I had to go to confession I think once a month and hence was constantly reminded that Jebus killed himself so that I can feel guilty for being human.

    This may come as a suprise, but all your fears of hell when you were Christian, all those guilt trips? Yeah, I’ve been there. I didn’t even start swearing until much later in my life, and I stayed up restless nights wondering if I displeased or hurt Jebus.

    Posted by cptpineapple | October 8, 2010, 11:50 pm
  3. I used to think along exactly the same lines, back in church. The pastor would go on about what a tremendous sacrifice god had made for us, and ask, “Could you imagine doing something like that?”

    And I’d think, “Um, yeah.” Endure a mere three days of pain, however excruciating, to save your children from unending torment in hell? Who on earth would be selfish and un-empathetic enough not to?

    Posted by Ian | October 9, 2010, 5:03 am
  4. Also, according to the Christers, god got his mother pregnant with himself.

    They have some weird beliefs. Why anyone would want to teach their kids a story about incest, zombies, and other garbage is beyond me.

    Posted by Chris | October 9, 2010, 6:47 am
  5. “Religion does more to desecrate the image of God then Atheism.” – PG

    Posted by PG | October 9, 2010, 11:07 am
  6. I can only assume that this made more sense to people who hadn’t really thought much about numbers like “trillion.” Especially since Einstein, the notion of “living forever” seems absurd, what with the non-linear nature of space/time and all that.

    But even so, I am having a hard time getting what’s so special about a god — who can’t die — going through the motions of pretending to die after getting mad at me (though I was thousands of years from being born… or millions, or whatever) for being descended from the couple he made, knowing full well that they would disobey him. It sounds petulant and damn um… hmmm… what’s the worst word for the most immoral thing ever? That.

    Posted by hambydammit | October 9, 2010, 3:32 pm
  7. I had a Fundie explain it to me once like this – it wasn’t that Jesus’ suffering paid for our sin in; it was more that his suffering was a symbol of sacrifice that the “primitive” cultures of the time could understand. That (he said) was why the Jesus story resembled myths of Dionysus, Osiris, Odin, and others – so that humankind could understand the sacrifice in the context of the brutal mythological framework they had built for themselves.
    The symbolism of the Jesus story was intrinsic to humans’ understanding their path to salvation. Their god died in the way he did so that we would believe and follow him to salvation, not to “pay” in the strictest sense.

    Of course, there are other issues with this, not the least of which is why we should believe Jesus was ever any more real than Odin or the others. Still, I thought it was an excellent bit of self-deluding justification.

    Posted by Peter | October 9, 2010, 11:01 pm
  8. Still, I thought it was an excellent bit of self-deluding justification.

    I suppose. It would make a lot more sense if the god Jesus was less powerful than… well… all powerful. We’re still left with an odd narrative:
    The god “Father” in his infinite wisdom allowed hundreds, even thousands of false gods to dominate the religious landscape of earth before showing himself in only one of his three forms to a small, insignificant band of nomads. For some significant length of time, he acted just like every false god — petulant, angry, whimsical — and demanded sacrifices in the same way as other gods — even gods on other continents that wouldn’t be discovered for millenia!

    Don’t you think that’s weird? God, who knew everything, and set things in motion exactly the way he wanted, didn’t think it was a good idea to step in and show a little godly wisdom to these barbarous folks (who were behaving exactly the way he created them). Rather, he pretended to be the kind of god they wanted until they developed enough to need the kind of god he really is.

    Sounds a lot more like man creating god in his image than the reverse.

    Posted by hambydammit | October 10, 2010, 1:32 pm
  9. “Last night, I pinched myself on the thigh for one tenth of a second. I have sacrificed so much for you, you should give me a million dollars. If you don’t, I’ll kill you.”

    This is funny.

    Posted by Jon Wilson | October 11, 2010, 4:10 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Sacrifice 2.0 « Life Without a Net - October 20, 2010

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