This idea can have logic and great value even for an atheist.
Not that long ago I offered for some angry people to kick my head in, to prove a point about how men should treat women (i.e. don't bully them). (I guess they didn't have the heart to do it.)
Among the many interpretations which can be placed on the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, we can say this:
Jesus went to his death willingly - in that he knew it was going to happen, and didn't run away, when he could have done - in order to prove and illustrate a point. That point was his life's work (well, the last 3 years'). One of his main lessons was that we can all be given the chance for our sins to be forgiven, provided we earn it and do the necessary real work involved. Provided we go to our Crucifixion willingly. If he can get himself crucified, we should be up to saying sorry and putting things right when we have to. We should be humble enough to suffer for what we have done. We should be humble enough to let something go instead of escalating to some kind of blood feud.
He also forgave the people who were crucifying him.
By dramatically illustrating the idea that God can forgive our sins, will always give us a second chance to make good: life became possible, life became good, life became fruitful. Instead of nasty, brutish and short. Hence the Resurrection.
But can 'beer' cause you to see 'God'? Good, I was slitely worried...;p)
According to a tourguide in Jamaica it's the belief that really strong rum will make you see Jesus.
The Jesus character had to "die" because he was conceived of as the mortal offspring of a god. And well, because it's easier to say, "Jesus will come again, have faith," than to have one of your deities m.i.a.: "Jesus is immortal...he never died...we're just not sure where he's hanging out at the moment, but please, please, please believe me, this is all totally true!"
@Paynton, RE: "It must be by far the best-known story in the Western world. - I wonder if it was the quality of the literature, or the fact that people in the Western world were told for 1700 years to believe it or die --
Paynton, I didn't see anywhere in your post where the Jesus story has any value, lets not about great value, for an atheist.
You made a mistake. You posted this on the wrong site. This is Think Atheist, the Think Jesus site is down the hall to the right, make all Jesus deposits in the third stall. Please flush twice.
Don't do that, the toxins will kill the bacteria the septic system needs to function.
Bear with me here...
You know Sherlock Holmes's nemesis, Dr. Moriarty? He was supposed to be this master criminal. The most evil person on earth. Why? He sold drugs and ran prostitutes.
The thing is, in today's world that would make him not much more than an average bad guy. There are criminals in any major city today who sell drugs or run prostitutes or both. Big deal.
So it is with Jesus's suffering on the cross. By today's standards of cruelty, it looks pretty tame. I mean, what happened to accused witches was worse: being burned alive at the stake.
"So it is with Jesus's suffering on the cross. By today's standards of cruelty, it looks pretty tame. I mean, what happened to accused witches was worse: being burned alive at the stake."
I think this is a relevant point, Unseen. You are right of course, but the Jesus package included all the things he did while he was alive, too. The Crucifixion / alleged Resurrection can be seen as the final illustration of his message - in multiple ways, as Milos points out.
It's not necessary for us to determine whether he really existed or not. All we have are the stories in the New Testament and other gospels, and those are what we must examine. Because many of those and the teachings attributed to him ring so clear and true, I am inclined to take many of them at face value. Whoever was the originator of that information really knew what they were talking about, spiritually - they were a very rare genius.
And we should all be equally impressed with the adventures of Paul Bunyon, Pecos Bill and John Henry! Talk about your rare genius, Bill roped and rode a tornado!! How rare is that?
If it doesn't matter whether Jesus existed or whether the whole story of his life and death (take your pick of which one) was true or woo, then where do you stand on what counts as information?
A lot of well-written fiction "ring so clear and true" and in fact is kind of a standard for well-written fiction. However, we don't thereby decide that fictional characters are real.
But I guess you do.