Sunday Sacrilege: The silliest story ever told
By PZ MYERS - PHARYNGULA
Added: Sat, 03 Apr 2010 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Robin Henry for the link.
It's Easter. Once again, the masses will gawp in awe at a bizarre and unbelievable story…because it is such a good example of how religion will piggy-back on our cognitive biases.
You all know the Easter story: a god turns into a man, gets tortured and killed, rises from the dead, and somehow this act makes us all better. It's a tale best left unexamined, because it makes no sense. We are supposed to wallow in an emotional thrill that taps deep into our social consciousness, not think about what the story actually says.
The part of the story that works for us is the idea of self-sacrifice. That's potent; we are social animals, and an individual sacrificing him or her self for the greater good has a lot of impact, materially and symbolically, and also stirs up powerful and conflicting emotions. Think about a real example, a soldier throwing himself on a hand grenade to protect his compatriots; it's a noble sacrifice, it means that one dies so that others may live, it makes us wonder whether we would be brave enough (or crazy enough, or despairing enough) to do the same. We look at someone who does that as a genuine hero, someone who cared so much for his fellow human beings that he would make the supreme sacrifice to spare them.
So that's the aspect of the Easter story that the Christian faith milks for everything it's worth. The suffering of Jesus is amplified: look at the weird obsession Catholics show for graphic portrayals of the bloody, twisted, tormented Christ on a stick; look at Gibson's horrible torture porn movie, The Passion, that lingers sickly over every lash of the whip, every beating, the long slow bleeding death. This isn't just a quick self-sacrifice, Jesus suffered a long lingering death, just for you. He must have cared about you so much!
Uh, except for one thing. Where's the grenade? What is he saving us from?
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