Let me see if I get this straight . . . a long time ago, this guy was born of a virgin, performed miracles, collected disciples, then was eventually crucified, died, was buried, and rose again to redeem mankind? Does that sound about right?
I thought so, except I'm not talking about Jesus. In this case, the guy's name was Attis and he was a fairly popular Phrygian man-god some 400 years before Jesus Christ came on the scene (though the origins of the story go back as far as 1200 B.C.). Attis was born of the virgin, Nana, became the consort of the mother Goddess Cybele. Attis is sometimes depicted as a shepherd, his priests are celibate (they are in fact, castrated), is crucified to a tree (accounts vary somewhat on this point), dies, is buried, and rises again to bring life to the world. The Attis myth reaches its peak sometime around 200 BC.
Attis isn't special though. In point of fact, guys who were born of virgins, performed miracles, died, then rose from the dead are common to many religions. Christianity adopted a lot of these old stories to make their new religion more palatable to the dominant religions of the day. As for all those miraculous things . . . well, your god wasn't much of a god if he couldn't perform miracles or had some kind of miraculous birth. Born of a virgin sounds pretty miraculous so it makes sense to start there. Water into wine? That's an old one too.
In 405 B.C., Euripedes' "The Bacchae" was released. It features Dyonisus who, among other things, is born of a virgin, turns water into wine, and has someone crucified to a tree. Dyonisus was called "King of Kings", "Redeemer", "Savior", and other familiar titles we associate with that Johnny come lately, Jesus.
Heck, let's go back even further, about 3000 B.C., to a little place called ancient Egypt, where they worshipped a guy named Horus who was (wait for it) born of a virgin (Isis-Meri). There were three wise men present at the birth while a star hung in the east. He purportedly had 12 disciples, and the list goes on.
Fast forward to the present. Now we have chocolate bunnies and eggs, symbols of fertility, birth, and renewal. That's what Easter is really all about, the end of winter and the renewal of life. It's about springtime. The word "Easter" has its origins with the goddess Astaroth, or Ishtar; that it sounds like Easter is no coincidence. Guys like Jesus just took advantage of a good time to celebrate, rolled it up with some more ancient myths, and co-opted the season to boost their godliness.
Remember folks, the only difference between a true believer and an atheist is one god. A faithful Christian has thousands of gods they don't believe in. The atheist, one more than that.
Nevertheless, these holidays are great. It's fun to get together with friends and family, and if we have to celebrate an ancient holiday to do it, cool. So enjoy your chocolate bunnies, all. And Happy Easter!
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