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March 23, 2008

And you buy that?

One year J asked me what Easter was about. So I told him. I told him the Easter story as best as I could remember, leaving out the more gruesome parts that are meant to make people feel guilt over mythology. He pondered this for a minute, looked right at me and asked, "And people really buy that story?"

I suppressed a giggle, and a bit of pride, and said that yes, people do believe it and it's important to them so please be respectful when you see them.

If J would have said that it was a touching story, or that he wanted to learn more, I would have encouraged his curiosity. But I was relieved that he could see it for what it was...a story. A myth.

Part of me is glad that people that I know find some sort of comfort in the story. But part of me is also saddened that it seems that it is accepted blindly as a means of explaining things that cannot be explained, as a guilt ridden guide or painful moral compass. Is it that there is no moral compass without an archaic mythology meant to assuage the fears of those who didn't understand the world around them?

When children recite this unthinkingly and without question, I am saddened. I hope that there will come a day when they think for themselves instead of being lured into a handed down set of beliefs for the sake of a feeling of belonging. In any other circumstance, we would tell them not to do something, to believe something, just to fit in with a crowd. But here, it seems, that advice goes unheeded. And if, after independent and critical thought came into play, they choose to go forward and continue the myth, that's their preference. But far too often there is little thought involved. It is passed down without question and fed with social groups and peer pressure. Yes, peer pressure of the "positive" kind exists.

Traditions are comforting. And some should be passed down. But there is a difference between passing down family tradition and putting on blinders so as only to see what conveniently fits. It's a bit self-centered to think that yours is a personal god, that your god, while busy creating and maintaining all things is going to take time out to hear you because you are so very worthy and deserving. It makes little sense to believe both that god creates all and that this same personified deity takes a little time out just for you, just to hear you, reward you or even punish you.

And when Easter rolls around, I can do nothing but quietly shake my head when I think that people I know, that I deem reasonably intelligent believe this story as more than a fable, as historically accurate. As J says "Do they really buy that??"

So me? I will enjoy Spring with it's promises of new life without the invention of a story that too conveniently echoes it's non-Christian predecessors. In the immortal words of Eddie Izzard, "Bunny rabbits are for shagging, eggs are for fertility. It's the Spring festival."

A few quotes for tonight:

Buddha - Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Stephen Roberts - I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

Thomas Jefferson - The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter (in a letter to John Adams, 1823)

Thomas Jefferson - Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are serviley crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith.

Katharine Hepburn - I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other. (Ladies Home Journal, 1991)

Posted by michelle at 12:21 AM | Comments (0)