Today, billions of people are celebrating a holiday centered around a miracle.
Passover for Jewish people is from April 3rd to April 11th this year.
For Christians, today is Easter, the commemoration of the day of Yeshua ben Joseph’s resurrection.
Recently, I have begun embracing my theistic views. I started realizing that the idea of an absolute entity pervading the universe was one that kept resounding with my experience.
Many have suggested that I take that last little leap and become Christian.
I will admit, this idea has been tempting. There are times when I do seem to feel the Word, the Power and the Glory. There’s much to see in Christianity.
But then I begin thinking as a rationalist thinker, and I find that there’s something that makes me recoil each time.
Easter is a perfect example of what that separation is for me.
I asked myself yesterday, “Do I believe that Jesus resurrected?”
I did so in the context of a man who believes that Yeshua ben Joseph was a prophet and a bodhisattva, a man who saw beyond the veil of samsara to something real. That reality gave him anger which was misinterpreted as vengeance, love which was misinterpreted as something far more limited, and strength.
But, barring actual evidence, I cannot believe Yeshua ben Joseph was more than a man.
So why do people celebrate his death and resurrection?
We want to believe in miracles so much that we will accept the idea of a man resurrecting his body then leaving the mortal plane.
But I think if Yeshua ben Joseph were still alive today, he’d remind us that we don’t need to imagine a person with superpowers to believe in miracles.
Every time we see people truly forgive and move forward, we see a miracle.
Every time we see an organism evolve and adapt to some new situation based only on the interplay of molecules, we see a miracle.
Every time we see clans or nations conquer decades of hatred and move towards peace, we see a miracle.
We keep looking for something greater than those moments, but those moments where we fall in love, conquer depression and fear, and commit to doing something greater are the most important in life.
And then I started to become incredibly angry as I started to think about how the mythology of Easter actually diminishes Yeshua ben Joseph’s courage and commitment.
Comedian David Cross once pointed out that Jesus’ sacrifice meant that he would more rapidly move from a world of limitation and poverty into a Heaven where he ruled at the side of the Father.
I personally know people who have endured tortures of longer duration and an at-least equivalent magnitude to Jesus’. It’s not hard to look in history and find examples of state brutality and human cruelty that turns the stomach far more than the crucifixion, as horrible as the crucifixion undoubtedly was.
If Yeshua ben Joseph was of the same substance as the divine, it makes the entire idea of the resurrection and sacrifice fairly meaningless. Even a human being can forgive that kind of torture without the delights of heaven.
I’ve always found something grotesquely arbitrary about the idea of an entity of pure love sending a son to die in order to forgive humanity. Why bother? The idea of the Lamb presupposes a deity that still requires sacrifice. But that is the deity of people afraid of thunder and lightning, not a deity of omnipotence and omniscience. If God wanted to forgive, It would have done so. If It wanted to be angry, It would not have sent a human agent to forgive in Its stead. The whole exercise makes no sense even from the perspective of people, and a God should be far beyond us in terms of compassion, forgiveness and love.
Maybe two millennia ago, there was a man who somehow managed to survive torture and execution. Perhaps he even did so through a divine gift. I don’t know, and no one else does. They can have faith, but that’s not knowledge.
But I know that divine love is real. I know that people can be better and stronger. I know there’s a better world waiting for us, and not in the afterlife but on planet Earth. And it won’t be worship or idle hope that gets it but action based in love, “good works”.
And what I also know is that millions of people like Yeshua ben Joseph have died for their beliefs.
Yeshua ben Joseph, near as we can reconstruct, was executed for daring to tell people in power that their power had no legitimacy, that love was all that mattered, that humanity was equal, and that their world could end and they had no power to stop it. He told people that sharing, generosity and compassion was the measure of the human spirit, not judgment and strength.
Isn’t it much more impressive and much more worthy of praise that he then died for those beliefs, with no magic and with all the fear anyone else might have facing the prospect of oblivion?