I was talking with my wife (also an atheist) the other day about Jesus. It suddenly dawned on me that his "sacrifice" wasn't really all that great. In fact, Jesus was kind of a jerk about it.
If you were told by god that you could save all of humanity that ever existed, exists, and will exist in the future from everlasting torture, wouldn't you be willing to do that? Then you hear the terms...by simply being tortured and humiliated for one day, and dying, you win everyone's salvation. You still do it, right? You would really have to hate people not to take god up on that offer. I'm talking about a true misanthrope.
Now add to that the story that Jesus is god and therefore knows he gets to live again in 3 short days. Then just 40 days after that he gets to be lifted to everlasting awesome in heaven, sit right next to his dad, and be worshiped forever. Now his "sacrifice" is even less impressive. I'd definitely take god up on that offer. Wouldn't you?
Now add to that the story about Jesus in the Garden of Gathsemane praying and asking god if he could possibly maybe please not require him to die but you know if it is what god ultimately wants then fine. WTH? Plus he's whining at his exhausted friends that they have to stay awake and pray for him too. I understand being afraid, but he gets to save all of humanity and then go to heaven. This should be awesome! They should have stayed at the Last Supper party and had a few more glasses of wine to celebrate.
So in the end it seems like Jesus did what any decent human being would have done. It wasn't that great, and certainly doesn't earn him everlasting praise. There are plenty of people who have sacrificed themselves for way less than ALL of humanity. Firemen, police, military, parents, perfect strangers etc. etc. etc. do it every day.
I could also get into what a jerk god is for requiring Jesus' death instead of just, you know, forgiving humanity and not punishing the masses for the sins of Adam and Eve. Practice what you preach and all that. But that's another post...