Thought – Easter
If you know me at all, or maybe if you’ve read enough of my posts, you know that I am not a religious person. I’d go so far as to say that I am anti-religion. I believe all religions are fictional and that they create more harm than good. I understand the reasons why people seek out religion; the desire to feel connected, to be a part of something greater than yourself, to attempt to understand the world around you, to fill a void inside you that is difficult to satisfy. I get it, I really do, and I find it interesting from a sociological perspective that so many humans believe so many different versions of “how the world came to be”.
And, while I am anti-religion, I would say that I know more than the average person about various world religions. I look at them all as equal mythologies, which has a negative connotation among the people who are practicing them, because they see mythology as fiction and their religion as the truth. However, mythos is Greek for story, so a mythology is just a collection of stories that explains the world. Every culture has a mythology, and of course different religions sprang from different culture’s myths. My #2 mythological specialty is Greco/Roman, where I am especially interested in how those myths effect our own culture and language. My #1 mythological specialty is Christianity, having spent all of my childhood in various churches across the country. I hold Western Mythology on an equal level with Greek Mythology; both are a culture’s attempt to explain the world in a way that can be understood, both have very entertaining stories, and both are entirely fictitious. The major difference, however, is that the majority of Greeks understood that Zeus wasn’t actually living on a mountain and watching their every move. The Greeks knew that their mythology was just that; stories. These stories served as a moral compass, and in that way were greatly important.
I view Christianity and the Bible in the same way; as a collection of parables, stories, and lessons that serve as an example for the way our culture should behave. But being raised in church taught me very quickly that most Christians are not like most Greeks; they believe that their myths are literally true and that all other myths are literally false. And this isn’t true of only American Christians but of almost all modern religious participants. Believers all over the world are turning to their culture’s myths as the true word of their God or gods, excluding all other beliefs as evil, false, or blasphemous. I use our country as my prime example because that’s what I know best, but it’s not just the Western World that is so egocentric. And this sort of religious obsession really limits followers’ knowledge of other cultures, world history, and even the origins of their own religious practices.
Easter is a wonderful example of this, and of how Christians specifically have convinced themselves so thoroughly that their religion is the one true myth that they have forgotten that other religions impacted theirs and that their messiah might not be the reason for every season. I wrote about this phenomenon as it relates to Christmas as well, which you can read about here
, but, since today is Easter, let’s look at a few misconceptions Christians have about this holiday.
- This day, Easter Sunday, has zero historical significance. Had Jesus of Nazareth been a real person and had he actually risen from the dead, that fact would have nothing to do with this date. At the First Council of Nicaea, it was decided that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. The date moves every year and is completely arbitrary. So, if Jesus did indeed come back to life, he did not do so exactly 1,983 years ago on this date. As a Christian, you could celebrate the resurrection of Christ next week, last week, basically any time you want to.
- This date was chosen by the Council because it was already an established pagan holiday. The Germans had for centuries been celebrating springtime, the equinox, new life, and new growth at this time. As with Christmas, Christians choose this time to be the date of their holiday not because it was actually when an event from the Bible occurred, but because so many people were already celebrating something. The two ideas, Resurrection and spring, were successfully melded together, and so now many Christians believe that Jesus is, once again, the reason for the season, but he just isn’t; he was added in to a preexisting holiday in order for the Church to get more publicity.
- Even the term “Easter” is pagan. It comes from the Germanic goddess Eostre, who was celebrated during the spring equinox. Basically, the pagans chose the date, created the celebration, and named it after their deity.
It’s one thing to believe that one religion is true and the rest are not, and it’s another to shut your eyes to the history of the world. No, Christians did not invent Easter. No, Jesus is not the reason for the season. Just like Christmas, other cultures were already celebrating at this time and a new religion decided to claim the holiday as its own. It actually worked very well and was a smart move on the part of the Christians, even if they couldn’t eradicate the pagan traditions totally. That’s why, in America, our traditional Easter celebration is a combination of religious and cultural practices; church, eggs, rabbits, Jesus, grass, chicks, feasts, etc. This is what America is; a tossed salad of traditions that combine in interesting ways. I don’t see anything wrong with this, but don’t tell me that Easter is all about Jesus while stuffing your mouth with Peeps. Attempt to understand that your religion is not the only one that exists in the world. It was created and impacted by so many different cultures that it can never be truly independent. We can argue whether or not it’s true another time.