Today is Easter Sunday. It is the Christian high holy day that has been set aside to celebrate the resurrection of their god-born savior, a tenet which is central to their faith. If there were no resurrection, the human sacrifice known as the crucifixion would be the end of a failed mission. The cycle of the death and rebirth of a messianic figure has been an extremely important cog in the machinery of many religions for eons. Death is a great unknown and there exists no ‘explorer’s guide’ on an afterlife, complete with maps, charts and landmarks on how to return safely to the land of the living. It is the final frontier. And it had become one of the most feared aspects of human existence because, as they say, nobody gets out alive.
Death in ancient times was rarely a peaceful event. Rampant disease and brutal tribal wars were the most common venues to the end of one’s life. It was, more or less, extremely unpleasant. The lack of knowledge about the physiology of death was the primary reason why ancient peoples did not understand that whatever pain, no matter how intense and unbearable, ceased to exist once the brain’s ability to function stopped. There was simply no way to prove this to them, as the technology did not exist. Death had become an enemy that could not be defeated, and its spoils were the pain and suffering of its victims. There was, as it was perceived, no hope.
Enter Superman. A strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Because no human being had ever been able to conquer death, a Super-hero (god) who would be able to reach into the afterlife and somehow rescue us seemed the only hope for us mere mortals, thus, the super-hero could not have been born of mortal beginning. Various superstitions arose as to how this being could have come into existence. Of these superstitions, one had developed into the many ‘virgin birth’ religions, complete with detailed mythologies regarding how these miraculous saviors came into existence.
The venues have been different over time, some remarkably close to the Christian resurrection myth, and some vastly different. The common thread, however, is always the same. Superman would put himself in harms way, taking the punishment while protecting the victim, defeating the enemy and bringing the victim home safely. There is a reason why our culture loves Superheroes. It is easy to understand why ancient people had the psychological need for a savior. What boggles my mind is that so many people still have this need to believe in Superman.
The branch of mythology that played heavily into the development of Christianity began thousands of years before it’s advent. Throughout early human history there exist stories of gods born of virgins. Over the millennia there have been many virgin mothers, and the figure of Mary with her child is a relatively recent version of a very old and universal myth. Variations of this myth are extant in China, India, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The common thread being that a selection is made amongst the daughters of men for a vessel through which the divine make entry into the mortal world of humanity, enabling the divine to take on the representative human form, but also to retain their divinity. The concept almost always included a divine or somehow supernatural father and an earthly mother. Jupiter approached Leda in the form of a swan, Fohi is touched by a lotus, a sunbeam caresses Codom, a heavenly Buddha ascends on Maya, Jehovah approached Mary in the form of a dove, etc. There exists many legends in many lands whereas virgins gave birth and became divine mothers. In fact, eighteen-hundred years before the advent of the Christ myth, in Egypt there was the story of the annunciation, conception and birth of King Amunothph III. This is an almost exact copy of the annunciation, conception and birth of the Christ.
That the early Christians borrowed the legend of Jesus from earthly sources is too evident to be even questioned. Nearly every one of the dogmas and ceremonies in the Christian cult were borrowed from other and older religions. The resurrection myth is no exception. Buddha was resurrected after three days in hell after being crucified in a sin-atonement. Horus was crucified, buried in a tomb and resurrected. Mithra was buried in a tomb and after three days he rose again. Krishna rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Osiris also died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, was killed and then on the third day returned to life. There are more. Many more, and most with virgin-born mothers and divine fathers.
They all served the same purpose, and that is to defeat the greatly feared death. The perception or belief that our default existence after death will be one of eternal pain and suffering is the basis on which ‘Savior-centric’ religions rest. Christianity, with it’s personified evil known as the devil, supports the default eternal punishment myth because it has the same roots as the above mentioned myths. Christianity has added the self-perpetuating and centrifugal doctrine known as original sin, meaning the Christian believes humanity is born evil and can do nothing on their own to redeem themselves, no matter how altruistic and selfless they are. This belief in hereditary evil makes redemption through adherence almost compulsory because salvation is impossible without the human sacrifice of their virgin-born, god-man Superhero, their central figure, the savior whom in English Speaking countries is known as Jesus Christ. According to the Christian myth, the banishment of humanity to the realm of hell, where there is unending pain, relentless torture, burning and eternal punishment can only be circumvented by placing faith in Christ, who’s victory over death is completed by the resurrection.
While the venue has changed over thousands of years, through hundreds of virgin-born saviors, there is one constant. Fear. It is the driving force in all revealed religions, including Christianity. While there still exist some fairly horrific ways of dying, there is no need to fear death. Religion will no longer be necessary when we realize that death is a normal part of life and places like hell are not real. When all of us realize that human beings are not born ‘as filthy rags’, but are disposed by evolution to be altruistic, then will there no longer be a need for divine Superheroes.
No matter how much we may not want to die, it is inevitable. Everything and everyone dies. What humanity needs to do is make the best use of the time we have while we are alive. There are better and more productive ways of going through our lives other than spending time believing in childish, comic book super heroes. If those who believe in fairy-tales cannot bring themselves to put away the childish thing known as religion, then it would do all of us well if they just kept it to themselves so the myth dies with them. There is no point in ruining the lives of future generations by making them live in irrational fear of death or choosing an illogical world view that retards them of learning from the vast storehouse of combined human intelligence.
Al Stefanelli is the author of “A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World – The Rise Of Atheism On Planet earth.” He also writes for the National Atheism Examiner and Yahoo! He is also the President and Founder of the United Atheist Front, wich can be found on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, Podbean and YouTube.