The Greatest Story Ever Told?

“Has it got any sports in it?”

“Are you kidding? Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles.”

~ The Princess Bride

Growing up, I always thought the Gospel was the greatest story ever told, that it had all the elements of a brilliant, epic hero tale. That it was THE hero story, and THE romance story.

God makes people, God loves people, people turn away, God (or God’s son) becomes a man to save the people, he dies for the people, the people become the Bride of Christ, and in the end Christ would return with a sword and conquer evil and bring the Bride home to Heaven.  Everyone, everyone who mattered anyways, would live happily ever after.

When I left the faith, I genuinely wanted to keep believing that the Gospel was a great story. That  even though it wasn’t true, it was up there among the great stories of the world. Maybe I thought that would help redeem some of my childhood. Maybe I wanted the common ground with Christians. However, last Easter, while a very new agnostic, I watched part of the easter program (it was too triggering and my kids were too poorly behaved for me to watch the whole thing), and realized I couldn’t honestly call the story of Jesus a great story. I don’t find the gospel story beautiful – i find it highly problematic. It’s a story of damnation as much as much as of salvation.

The reason the human race needs saved is because sin was passed down from Adam. Here is hypocrisy, because the Law (Dueteronomy 24:16) clearly states that children should not be put to death for the sins of the father, and yet all of mankind is doomed to die – an eternal death if mainstream evangelicalism is to be believed – because of the sin of one man.

And what was the sin? Eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God wanted man to be kept ignorant, and the serpent persuaded them to eat the fruit.

“The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it.” Proverbs 18:15
I’ve never quite understood how Eve’s quest for knowledge was a bad thing.

But at any rate, she and Adam ate the fruit, thereby dooming all their offspring for eternity – except if they can be saved.

And of course, Jesus comes to be the savior. But only for those who truly believe. And the way is narrow, and few shall find it. So this happy ending encompasses very little of humanity. Most of humanity is going to burn in hell and be eaten by worms forever. And we’re supposed to rejoice? This is the best happy ending God could come up with?

I know Christians have answers as to why people deserve hell for refusing the gift, but frankly those answers fall flat. NO ONE deserves eternal torture for disobedience. No one.

Then comes the salvation plan itself – God actually sacrifices his son. God OWNS the son and can sacrifice him. Children are property in that world. He doesn’t even have the decency to keep watch over his son, as he lets his son take on the sin of the world. No, he turns his face away because God can’t look on sin.

At church, I have often heard people marvel at God’s goodness in sacrificing his son. “I couldn’t do it” they would say in awe, as though if they were really loving, they would kill their child to save the world. This frightens me. I have a hard time honoring anyone who (hypocritically, I might add) practices child sacrifice. How is God the hero in this story?

So in the end, the Hero comes on a faulty premise and (again, if mainstream evangelicals are to be believed) saves only a fraction of who he comes to save, and the orchestrator of the whole thing sacrifices his child’s life to himself.

I can’t like that story. I don’t even want to like that story anymore. I watched and read the story with a foreigner’s eyes last year, and it was not beautiful to me.
I appreciate the contribution that the Bible has made to literature, and I think it’s worth reading just because it’s such a major part of our culture.  But I don’t think it stands above all the other stories of its time. And more importantly, I believe people have used it to do a great deal of damage. They use it to bash homosexuals, they use it to teach children that they are dirt and inherently broken and evil, they’ve used it to condone slavery, they’ve used it to slaughter jewish people, they’ve used it to take over countries, they’ve used it to damage relationships and tear down people and abuse children. And none of this is okay.

I usually try to be charitable towards Christianity. I know many Christians who are liberal minded people. I love many Christians who are kind hearted. But right now all I can feel is anger at how this story has destroyed so many lives, and at how it’s affected my own life. There is good in Christianity, but there is also the ugly, and people need to acknowledge that.

This Easter, which used to be a spring festival and has been co opted by this bloody holiday, I will celebrate by acknowledging the harm done in my life in the name of the Gospel, and I will leave it behind again and again, until I can see myself as beautiful, and not inherently broken. This is my spring festival – a new life for myself.


6 thoughts on “The Greatest Story Ever Told?

  1. delagar

    You’ve outlined a number of the problems I’ve had with the Christian story, including the biggest one I have, the concept of eternal torture for what is, after all, a very minor crime (if it is a crime) — doubt. For simply not believing in Jesus, or not even knowing about him, we are to believe that a loving God burns people for all eternity?

    I used to (before I decided to stop discussing religion with believers) raise this point with Christians, who would smile kindly at me and tell me I didn’t have to understand it; it was God’s law. I just had to know it was the Truth.


  2. stevarious

    This right here is one of the three big bible stories that deconverted me, once I took a moment to think about it.

    The only aspect that bugged me that you didn’t touch on, was, “How is it a true sacrifice if he came back to life on the third day?”

    If I sacrifice $1000 to charity, and then cancel the check three days later, I’ve sacrificed nothing. If I sacrifice a fine piece of artwork to an art collector, then three days later buy the whole collection, I’ve sacrificed nothing. And if I give up my life to save a tiny portion of humanity from being tortured for all of eternity, then resurrect myself three days later to go rule the universe as the all-powerful right-hand-subdeity of god, I’ve sacrificed nothing. I’ve actually gained quite a bit!

    Jesus’ sacrifice was no sacrifice at all. Sure, the torture and death was pretty horrible, but that only lasted less than a day. I watched my grandmother die of cancer – that took a year, and no one could convince me that she suffered less than Jesus’ couple of hours nailed to a tree. And at least Jesus had the solace of having a signed note from god that he would come back on the third day – or at least, according to the story.

    And to prove that I’m more moral than Jesus – I would do it for everybody, not just the people that believe. I’d be like, “Why should I care whether or not anyone believes it? It’s the right thing to do. No one deserves to be tortured forever. I forgive everyone – even if they hate me and spit on me, they can still go to heaven.”

  3. Pingback: Doubt | Lana Hobbs the Brave

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