The True Mystery of Easter

If your kids have ever asked, “What is Easter?” you’ve probably struggled—like me—with how to tactfully explain this odd holiday. To nonbelievers, it’s a day of renewal and rebirth. Maybe you indulge in chocolate bunnies or color eggs. But to many—too many people–it’s a crazy tale unlike any other. God sends his son to pay for the sins of his prototype humans, Adam and Eve. Because Eve(l) was such a naughty girl, lured by a talking snake to violate God’s rules, all of mankind was sentenced to the death penalty. Not exactly a fair God. But, wait, in the ultimate sacrifice, God sent his own son (read: we’re not his children, no matter what the song says) to suffer, die, and rise from the dead so that we may….suffer, die, and rise from the dead, too? Not sure how Jesus was *literally* supposed to save mankind, but the story claims Jesus died so we can live.

Easter makes no sense.

It’s a constant battle of logic between believers and nonbelievers. In an op-ed today in the NY Times today, the author, William Irwin, writes: “It is impossible to be certain about God.”

This is a conversation atheists often have with believers: We cannot claim with certainty that God does not exist. And it’s true. We cannot answer definitively any of the big, important questions such as what was here before the big bang, what drives the force of evolution, and what exists in the rest of the universe. Yet atheists can claim with near-certainty that God does not exist. The story of the big guy in the sky, listening to our prayers, tinkering with our world (or not), is just as possible as dragons, leprechauns, and monkeys flying out of ….. our bottoms.

So, what is Easter? Around the third century, a group of old men determined it would be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It was the perfect day for planting the food ancient societies needed to sustain them.

Thankfully, we are far removed from those laborious days of growing crops for our families, but why so many of us still believe in crazy myths is truly a mystery.

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16 responses to “The True Mystery of Easter

  1. It was the resurrection story turned me off. People don’t rise from the dead. When you’re dead, you’re dead. Even as I kid, I understood this.

  2. Odd is the absolute right word. If Christianity were an infomercial, which it’s not too far removed from, they would be able to sell pretty much anything I guess. Whatever story doesn’t make sense, they smooth it over much like Donald Trump does. It baffles me that this is the world we live in. At least there’s you and other intelligent thinkers to find an oasis with occasionally 🙂

  3. I fully support your right to believe what you want and to express it in the clichéd “marketplace of ideas,” and I subscribed to your blog because you offer a perspective fundamentally different from mine. I wanted to understand that different perspective so I could be an ally to those fighting for their equal place.

    Unfortunately, you don’t seem to demonstrate at least a modicum of care in trying to even understand the Christian’s perspective on Easter. You raise some valid questions, questions that may or may not have answers, but your snark betrays that you’re not even willing to try to understand. For instance, it is possible to be a person’s children in more than one sense, and all you have to do is look at adopted parents, “second” mothers and fathers, surrogates, etc. to get an idea of that concept. However, you simply mock it.

    I hope you and other nonbelievers find that equal voice someday, but if you were seeking to persuade others to join with you, I’m afraid you have failed spectacularly, at least with me.

    Whether this was your aim, though, I wish you success in raising happy, healthy children.

    • I’m pretty sure the writer has spent more time than any christian trying to understand ‘the other side’ and there is enough ‘snark’ on that side to smother me for a lifetime. I have to lighten up when my christian friends post their ‘real men believe in god’ memes and that’s probably what you should do here. We all need some humor on our side

      • I have to agree with Crystalintexas. As atheists, even in the public sphere, there is an overwhelming disdain and lack of respect for us nonbelievers. And yet, we are expected to go out of our way to show “respect” for the believers. Eventually, whether it’s my son coming home crying because his peers jeered at his belief (who are their role models…their parents!) etc etc… we develop a level of insensitivity too. Yah can’t have it both ways.

    • Hi Matthew – I’ve always been snarky, but it seems I hit a nerve this time. Perhaps you should ask yourself why. As you know from past conversations, I was raised Catholic, and I’ve had my share of religious studies. As you also know, Christianity is pretty rampant in America. That’s why the stores close down and businesses recognize Good Friday or Easter Monday. Nonbelievers don’t have a national day of reason; we don’t have a place where we can express our disbelief, cynicism, and sarcasm. Yet we tolerate a lot of Christian propaganda in our lives. I’ve heard plenty of people–even friends and coworkers–mock atheists.

      This is a blog for secular parents. I’m writing to them, not trying to sway Matthew Acton.

  4. Maybe, as someone put it “we are spiritual beings living a human life”. I think that this far transcends god and the like. Maybe it’s like the line in the movie “Contact” “This is the way it’s been done for millions of years. We don’t know who designed the machine”.

  5. If we could all just celebrate the fact that it is gorgeous outside at this time of year (on the northern hemisphere), the world would be a better place.

  6. I saw a meme posted on FB which claimed that the bunnies and eggs are tied historically to an ancient celebration of “Ishtar”, a goddess of fertility and sex. It went on to explain that the annual spring holiday for Ishtar was changed when Christianity became the state-endorsed religion, but the bunnies and eggs (symbols of fertility) remained. I didn’t bother to Google any of this to seek confirmation, but it sounds plausible to me!

  7. What I struggle with more than answering questions about Easter (because my kids don’t believe in god and just want the chocolate) is how to participate in family Easter gatherings. My husband’s family, no less. I don’t want to be rude and not attend, but it’s not my holiday and we all feel a little uncomfortable, especially since we are not coming from church. I feel guilty for attending! “Hi, we don’t believe in your magic god, but we’d like to eat your food and our kids want to hunt for eggs. Cool?” If we don’t attend, then we’re stand-offish. There’s no winning.

    • I understand your reasoning, but isn’t the winning in spending time with family and the time your kids get to connect with their cousins and grandparents? Easter baskets, candy, and egg hunts have nothing to do with Jesus or God. My extended family is a bunch of gun toting, republican, racists, but those conversations come up rarely and when they do I let them slide buy and return to talking about life. Hopefully that helps.

  8. I have a question: how do you raise children in a non-religious household, but still teach them the stories from the bible? I grew up in an Episcopalian household, but I am not Agnostic now and do not practice any type of religion. Since I am not religious, and neither is my boyfriend, and we don’t go to church, how can we teach our kids the stories from the bible without it being religious? I want my kids to at least have some knowledge of the bible and it’s stories so they blindsided in the future and have no idea what people are talking about. We don’t have kids yet, but we are talking about it, Since I grew up going to to church I know the stories, but since my kids more than likely will not be going to church, same goes for other religions as well.

    • I’m a Christian and my wife and I are raising our kids that way as well. However, I’m a growing agnostic who questions everything, including the authority and accuracy of the Bible. While we read the stories of the Bible to our boys when we finish we sit and talk about it. We allow them to ask questions and encourage them to challenge it. Most of the time my response to them frames everything in “Some people believe…” followed by insights I’ve found through my own research and historical context. Most of the Bible can be read as myth that simply provides examples of making choices and their consequences. Approach it the same way as reading your kids the Odyssey or Treasure Island, and conclude “what can we learn from this”. You can learn something from it without believing in it.

  9. I just stumbled upon this article/blog, and I must say I agree with it. I also wanted to say that my wife and I have two wonderful boys (ages almost 12 and 9) who both say they don’t necessarily believe in a god or goddesses. As for Easter, I explained to them that the original “Easter” was a Pagan belief that included rabbits (because they reproduce so quickly) and eggs (for the fertility factor), and that was good enough for them. My wife and I have always spoken to them in the most mature way possible, but in terms they understand, about all things, regardless of whether they are religious or life events. We don’t practice any religion, and in the last few years moved from Boise, Idaho (quite religious and conservative) to Portland, Oregon (much less religious and conservative), and the family that lives in this area don’t belong to any church or believe in anything differently than us.

    We’ve raised our boys (and will also continue to do so) with both the understanding that while we believe we don’t or cannot know whether a “higher power” exists, we also don’t believe that one exists, so we refer to ourselves as “agnostic/atheist”. On that same token, however, we are also teaching them to respect the beliefs of their peers and those whom they meet.

    Our kids have always thought with rational minds, and we encourage them to ask questions about EVERYTHING. Why humans celebrate certain events is just one of the things about which we encourage questions and future discussion and thought.

    • Hi Barrett – Thank you for the comment. I love to hear that other parents are successfully raising their kids to question everything and to be respectful. It’s not easy. Welcome and hope to hear more in the future.

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