It’s Easter Sunday today so, with a chunk of Easter Egg in my mouth and the freezing rain pouring down outside, it seems logical to write about that. Easter is, as I suppose you all know, the central Christian festival, celebrating its most essential philosophy, that God loves us and is prepared to die for us, and if he doesn’t bring us all back to life we should trust that he could but doesn’t for good reason, which no doubt will be revealed to us once we are dead. That is a bit potted, I know, but I’m not here to have a theological argument. I think it is close enough for this blog, if no cigar.
It is generally if not universally agreed that the festival and its timing in the calendar year evolved from the Old Germanic Festival of the Spring Goddess Ostara, or Eostre. Clearly (despite the weather today), it is meant to celebrate the coming of Spring, and the concept (myth if you like) of the Resurrection of Jesus, symbolises just such a sense of renewal. I would say the story of the resurrection is also related to the killing of the King in some ancient European and African cultures, as a way of appeasing the gods and with his blood fertilising the earth for the coming summer crops. The old King is replaced with the new King and all is well with the world.
Eggs, bunnies and hares also come into it, for fairly obvious reasons, but I can’t be bothered to go into those beyond offering these images (but I do like the hare flying along with Eostre)…
The bloody nature of the ancient myths and the Christian story of Jesus is an interesting point. Not all world religions have this idea of sacrifice at their core but lots do. I suppose it is how we deal with the imminence of death in all our lives, and our fear of violent death in particular, to propose a scenario in which we somehow escape its worst implications because we will be resurrected, reborn or gone to Heaven or whatever is the belief system you happen to cling to (if any). Plenty of people are turning away from any such nonsense (as they see it). We live in a time when we are questioning the need for religion or even belief in the inexplicable nature of the universe being somehow explainable if you could only have a word with God, or Allah, Jehova, Buddha, Vishnu or any of the many manifestations attributed with being omnipotent and external to the knowable universe. Atheists or whatever they wish to call themselves (just like religious zealots, they seem to spend a lot of time arguing semantics – see the blogsite on the right: Why Evolution Is True. And just like religious zealots they cannot brook anyone disagreeing with them. Ho-hum), atheists don’t subscribe to any of that but they still seek answers, albeit scientific ones, and are just as likely to cling to them even when they are on ground as shaky as any religion. Whatever way we choose, it does seem human beings need to believe this can all be explained.
As you can probably tell, I gave up trying to outguess this whole business of what is God or if there is a God etc. etc. long ago. I have a personal philosophical idea that we are God finding out what it is like to be an animal, but that is just a clever way of saying there may be a God but it doesn’t impact on or judge our behaviour. The obvious problem with it as a way of living is that it can be interpreted to mean anything goes since this curious entity doesn’t make judgments, it just wants to see what we do when confronted with the knowledge of our future death and the deeply embedded instinct to survive. Among other things. I try to live a moral life, a good life, but I probably don’t succeed at that any more than anyone else.
The one thing I do feel strongly about is the impertinence of all those clerical types of every religion who claim to know what God wants, and indeed, are prepared to kill anyone who disagrees with them. Only Hindus are more or less free of this trait, and that is mainly because the heart of their belief is Neti Neti, meaning (more or less), Not This, Not That i.e. what I just said, we do not and cannot know. It expresses the idea of a Creator or whatever, that by definition is beyond our capacity to comprehend.
Supposing we believe there is a God, even then we only know that He is all-encompassing and that we depend on Him for the gift of life. We are, in other words, a part of Him, but not all of Him and cannot know Him. My stomach, if it should take the time to think about this, knows what its life is about and it knows it depends on the regular supply of food to give it purpose, and it may suppose that it is the servant of a God (me) that provides the food, but it has no idea what I look like or what I actually want. It does its thing and hopes I like it, even when it throws up (which I definitely don’t like). And this all supposes a God who gives a monkey’s about any of us.
Jesus, interestingly, never referred to himself as the Son of God. The only time I know of when he used the phrase was to say “Ye are all sons of God,” so who knows what he himself believed. I don’t know how or why the Christian Church got led into this argument at all. The Hindus call these ambassadors of the gods Avatars and don’t try to define them in terms of the God who sent them. They all seem to have lived pretty ordinary human lives while they were here, wives, children, the whole nine yards. Mohammed is another altogether more complex character, religious and also political, and maybe I’ll go on with this some other time, but for now, he made no claim to be a son of God and in fact, thought no human could could make such a claim. Eminently sensible if you ask me.
I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and a Christian and though I no longer follow any religion as such, I admit I still believe there is something going on here, I just don’t know what it is.
And every year, if I can, I do drop into a Christian church on Good Friday for a moment of contemplation. Whether Jesus was a true avatar, or just a deluded young man, I am in awe of the sacrifice he made, what he was prepared to go through for the sake, as he saw it, of all mankind. If Easter means nothing else, it is about that young man’s willingness to put everyone through all time before himself. In an age of individualism, materialism, selfishness and greed, that is a sobering thought today.