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.
I can't get beyond the utter audacity of the creators of this tale and the enormity of the impact it's had on our world since it became mainstream and widely accepted as "truth" long enough to see any morality in the story. Maybe we can become better and more altruistic beings without having to deny who and what we are in the process and prostrate ourselves before an imaginary, condemning, commanding "diety".
I think the writers, or shall we say the developers of the Jesus story or any religious fiction were storytellers first, able to make a living by passing the hat after a particularly inspiring/horrifying story. They lived in an era of widespread illiteracy, so they could change the story according to the audience reaction.
I don't think they intended their words to be the basis for all of the evils that have come as a result of being co-opted by those in power trying to subjugate the masses.
Gospel of John: What Everyone Should Know About The Fourth Gospel by John Shelby Spong, Retired American Bishop of the Episcopal Church
"Almost any poll of regular church goers will reveal that their favorite book in the New Testament is the Gospel of John. It is the book that is most often used at Christian funerals. It includes such well known and oft-quoted texts as: "God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." It boasts the shortest verse in the Bible: "Jesus wept," which serves the needs of many cross word puzzle creators. Its prologue was used for centuries in Catholic liturgies as "the last gospel" at the mass. It includes characters like Doubting Thomas, whose very name has entered our public discourse.
Yet, I suspect that if these devotees of John's Gospel were introduced to the world of Johannine scholarship, they would be both shocked and angered by contemporary insights into this treasured book. It is to place much of this scholarship into the public arena that I have written the book, "The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic."
Among the conclusions that I have reached in my intensive five-year-long study of John's Gospel are these:
1) There is no way that the Fourth Gospel was written by John Zebedee or by any of the disciples of Jesus. The author of this book is not a single individual, but is at least three different writers/editors, who did their layered work over a period of 25 to 30 years.
2) There is probably not a single word attributed to Jesus in this book that the Jesus of history actually spoke. This includes all the "I Am" sayings and all of the "Farewell Discourses."
3) Not one of the signs (the Fourth Gospel's word for miracles) recorded in this book was, in all probability, something that actually happened. This means that Jesus never changed water into wine, fed a multitude with five loaves and two fish or raised Lazarus from the dead.
4) Many of the characters who appear in the pages of the Fourth Gospel are literary creations of its author and were never intended to be understood as real people, who actually lived in history. This includes Nathaniel, who is introduced with great fanfare in chapter one and is treated in John's Gospel as one of "the Twelve," as well as the enigmatic character called by the Fourth Gospel "the disciple whom Jesus loved," who is introduced in Chapter 13 and who stars in this narrative from then on up to and including the resurrection event. Between those two "bookend" characters, we run into such well-known figures as Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman by the well, the man crippled for 38 years and the man born blind, none of whom has ever been mentioned before in any written Christian source and each of whom in all probability is nothing more than the literary creation of the author.
5) John's Gospel seems to ridicule anyone who might read this book as a work of literal history. For example, Jesus says to Nicodemus: "You must be born again." Nicodemus, the literalist, says: "Born again? I am a grown man! How can I crawl back into my mother's womb and be born again?" Jesus says to the Samaritan woman: "If you know the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would give you living water." The Samaritan woman, a literalist, responds: "Man, you don't even have a bucket!"
6) The Gospel also exaggerates its details, once more I believe, to counter any attempt to read it literally. For example, Jesus does not just turn water into wine, he turns it into 150 gallons of wine! Jesus does not just give sight to a blind man, he gives sight to a man born blind! Jesus does not just raise a person from the dead, he raises one who has been dead and even buried for four days, one who is still bound in grave clothes and one who, according to the King James translation "already stinketh" with the odor of decaying flesh!
Finally this book will challenge the way the Fourth Gospel has been used in Christian history as the guarantor of what came to be called Christian orthodoxy or creedal Christianity. The Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. leaned on the Fourth Gospel as literal history in order to formulate the creeds and ultimately to undergird such doctrines as the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity. The texts used to support that creedal development, my studies have led me to affirm, have nothing to do with an external God entering humanity in the person of Jesus, but are rather attempts to describe the experience of the human breaking the boundaries of consciousness and entering into the transformation available inside a sense of a mystical oneness with God.
And he calls himself a Bishop...
This to me is one of the most disgusting tenets of christinsanity...the idea of human sacrifice for the forgiveness of humans being born into sin...no thank you
That part of it was more-or-less an ad campaign to encourage conversion of those tired of the animal sacrifices required in Judaism. Those animals were expensive and times were tough, wouldn't you want an option that didn't require sacrifice of your property? Hence "the blood of the new and everlasting covenant," God sacrificing Jesus to make a covenant with us. Aren't we special?
RE: "God sacrificing Jesus to make a covenant with us" - but the part about that, that makes it incomprehensible gobbledygook, is that sacrifices were made to appease a god, so in essence, this is the case of a god, sacrificing his son, to himself! One would expect an omniscient god to know a little about logic.
If it weren't for all of the drama and priestly promotion, a story like this would wind up in a short, single column near the bottom of page forty-seven in a two thousand year-old Jerusalem newspaper! "Two thieves and the son of god were crucified today - in other news, transportation costs rose sharply, as the camel-driver's Union continues their strike, film at eleven!"
But this was a culture used to making sacrifices to recognize a covenant/agreement. ("Bypasses, bypasses have got to be built!") A covenant wouldn't be valid without the blood of something being sacrificed. The idea of Jesus' sacrifice gained traction because it was no longer humans sacrificing their hard earned livestock, etc. It doesn't make sense to us because we seal our contracts with 30 page legal documents, not blood. It made perfect sense to them. In 2000 years our descendants may well be discussing how absurd it was to pay people called lawyers a lot of money to write long documents only other lawyers could understand.
The omniscient god (and the son) referred to in this story does not exist. But the people who believe in them do and this change is one reason why people preferred to believe in the the new testament as opposed to the old. That's why this aspect of the story makes perfect sense to me.
As for your newspaper analogy, this is more along the lines of "New Testament Party Wins Election on Promise to Abolish Income Tax." Front page baby. :)
Sorry, but that requires far more mental gymnastics to be useful. There are far better stories that illustrate what you're trying to say and we don't need this particular story to do that. Particularly since...
1. This line of thinking can easily justify suicide bombing, particularly if the participant believes they are sacrificing themselves for God's will and will be rewarded for it.
2. The whole point of the 'resurrection' of Jesus was to open the gates of heaven such that we can have eternal life. This is in stark contrast to previous ways of thinking in a more natural sense that life was cyclical and that we would return to the earth. Earlier resurrected deities (like the green man) were in a constant cycle of death and rebirth matching the natural seasons and growing cycles in a particular land as an homage to those natural processes. Jesus broke that cycle continuing the separation between humans and the environment which began in the Abrahamic religion with Genesis 1 and then the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve. The message is that if we can live forever in magic land, we don't need to worry about what happens to the environment after our death so therefore we can use and abuse it as we will, hence agriculture. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about the story of Jesus. (Your last paragraph clearly shows you are under the spell that I'm talking about here. Supernaturalizing the human experience makes it impossible to understand and value humanity's place in the natural environment.)
And of course, it is just that.. a story.
Well put, Kyle. I'm sure that Aesop or Mother Goose had fables at least as instructive.
I have been dating a rather charming gal that is a Lutheran. Yesterday, as a way to show my glassnost sensibilities, I went to church with her and, after a few hours of intellectual preparation previous, took communian. It was ok, they used a rather nice sour dough bread with a rather sweet and stout wine.
After the reception, we were offered the remains of the bread! Now as an ex-and recovering catholic, this felt a little odd. I did ask the minister if it would be ok to finish it up with peanut butter, or bean dip, she said 'fine'. Latter at the local park, my date and I finished off the bread with a nice slice of ham! Again I just had to ask if my date could think of any reason to be seqmish, 'nah, if you are expecting to drown in blood, it would seem by now that the oceans would have been replaced which such a mess'. The rest of the day was spent happy and full. Sadly, the church did not offer the remains of the wine.....;p(
Sounds to me like you still harbor an embedded belief of transubstantiation considering your awkwardness regarding the bread used in the sacraments. It also sounds that what was alien to you was the fact that these particular Lutherans lean towards a more Baptist view of the sacraments, which is merely a materialization of the bread and wine rather than any change or significance in substance.