Sunday, July 28, 2013

Vicarious Redemption And Masochism

In almost all ancient cultures you had the idea that humans or animals could be sacrificed, and that this sacrifice would somehow make your situation better. The ancient Aztecs were ripping out human hearts and offering them to their sun-god in the hopes that it would keep him happy and he would continue to rise everyday and provide them with warmth and nourishment. The ancient Jews would pile all of the townspeople's sins onto an animal, and send that animal out into the desert to die of thirst and hunger, atoning for the sins of the people in the process.

Sacrificial offerings are an ancient relic of our primitive past. There is a reason why no one in the modern world sacrifices people or animals anymore: it doesn't work. Nature doesn't give a crap one way or another whether we offer it a lamb or a warm, beating heart.

That brings me to Christianity. Christianity is not a religion that repudiates human sacrifice. Christianity is a religion that celebrates a single human sacrifice as though it were effective. Jesus dies for the charge of blasphemy under the Jewish high court, and his followers begin believing that his death on the cross was a vicarious redemption for the sins of all mankind. Now let's set aside arguments for the historicity of this event for now, let's focus on the story. As kid growing up hearing of the crucifixion I always thought it was kind of silly. I mean why would god sacrifice his own son to us, and why would we all need a sacrifice anyway? Then I came across Hitchens' critique of the crucifixion and it got me thinking even more about it. Hitch said the vicarious redemption was the sickest aspect of Christianity, which I thought was ironic in a way, because it's the one thing Christians must believe in to be properly called Christians.

Hitch argued that the abdication of moral responsibility through being thrown onto Jesus' torture and death was morally reprehensible. I don't disagree with him that the idea of thinking you can be purified of all your faults via a human sacrifice is a gross perversion of morality and is also a relic of our superstitious and ancient ways of thinking. But talk to a Christian about this, and it all makes perfect sense. They'll say it was necessary and was an act of grace and love on god's part to sacrifice his only son for our sins. And they'll say that we all deserve to have been sent to hell in the absence of this offer without hesitation.

That's what years of religious brainwashing will do to you.

But looking at this attitude from another angle, the ease with with Christians justify our lowly state and deserve of eternal punishment kind of reminds me how many abused wives will justify their husband's abuse by saying that they deserve it, and that their husbands beat them because he loves them. And they'll say things like, "It's all my fault for not pleasing him properly." This to me sounds exactly like the excuses many Christians make for god's anger, wrath and judgement. "It's always our fault," they'll say, "we deserve his judgement and punishment." "We're sinners." The similarities here between abused wives and Christians are amazing. This all to me sounds like they are products of the masochistic aspect of the human personality. There is a part in all of us, to varying degrees, that wants us to feel like a lowly, unworthy, piece of crap that is always wrong, and in need of discipline and correction. That's ultimately where the masochistic aspects of religion and abuse comes from.

One of the reasons why Christianity was so successful, I think, is due to its amazing ability to capitalize on the guilt and masochism that lurks in the minds of its followers. It is thoroughly imbued with guilt, and what more could the masochistic aspect of the mind want more than to find an outlet to justify it's feelings of unworthiness and desire for punishment?

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