It was a fleeting but effective life. He was conceived by a virgin, he was
born 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, of course, 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 Matthew
Shepherd’s fence post.
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 many thousands of gods in the world. Most Christians are atheists
when it comes to all but one of them. Atheists merely go one god further. The
morality of an atheist 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, and the ultimate relativism of whatever some alleged
god allegedly says.
The great Robert G. Ingersoll cast his gaze on the religions of the Earth and
beautifully described his vision of man’s past and future:
“When India is supreme, Brahma sits upon the world’s throne. When the
sceptre passes to Egypt, Isis and Osiris receive the homage of mankind. Greece,
with her fierce valor, sweeps to empire, and Zeus puts on the purple of
authority. The earth trembles with the tread of Rome’s intrepid sons, and Jove
grasps with mailed hand the thunderbolts of Heaven. Rome falls, and Christians,
from her territory, with the red sword of war, carve out the ruling nations of
the world, and now Christ sits upon the old throne. Who will be his
“I look again. The popes and priests are gone. The altars and the
thrones have mingled with the dust. The aristocracy of land and cloud have
perished from the earth and air. The gods are dead. A new religion sheds its
glory on mankind. And as I look Life lengthens, Joy deepens, Love intensifies,
Fear dies — Liberty at last is God, and Heaven is here.”
I wish for you the joy of spring. The time of birth and renewal. 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
“He is risen! And so is she (and him…)” is copyright © 2001
by Dan Lewandowski.
The electronic version is copyright © 2001 Internet Infidels.