Sunday, August 7, 2011

Something Christians Can't Grasp About The Crucifixion

Christians regularly proclaim that Jesus' Crucifixion is the greatest act of kindness ever, a divine act of supreme sacrifice that redeems all of humanity. Much like just about every other aspect of christianity, this idea goes unexamined. Well, that's what I'm here for!

The big issue, aside from the troublesome human sacrifice issue (rather beautifully demolished by Sam Harris at the end of this video here), is that it wasn't actually a sacrifice. You see, sacrifice (n.), when defined by, is one of the following:
a. The act of offering something to a deity in propitiation or homage, especially the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person.
b. A victim offered in this way.
a. Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.
b. Something so forfeited.
a. Relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value.
b. Something so relinquished.
c. A loss so sustained.

Under which definition can Jesus' actions be accurately defined as a sacrifice? Let's go through each of these 3 definitions.

1: Jesus was the god to which the sacrifice was being made. As such, if we are to believe Jesus was sacrificed, or was the sacrifice, we're saying either that Jesus was given to himself which is a contradiction of terms, or that he, a god, was killed to appease the only god in existence, another contradiction of terms.

2: Jesus did not forfeit anything of value. Jesus' human form was even less worthwhile than a regular human form, because, as seen in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21, and other passages, Jesus was able to resume human form shortly after his death. We have only one life, meaning our bodies are quite valuable, Jesus can raise himself as much as he wants, and when he's tired of it, he can go back to ruling heaven. It's akin to you or I playing Achievement Unlocked. You can't die no matter how often you die in that game, so one elephant life isn't worth anything. Jesus essentially traded up. He left his flawed human form to be permanently in heaven with the rest of the trinity.

3: Human bodies are all but worthless in christianity, and the salvation of all people is the single greatest thing ever. Destroying a human body for the salvation of all other humans doesn't really count as getting rid of something for less than what it's worth.

So christians, how exactly does the crucifixion a great sacrifice?


  1. It's a sacrifice because God willingly subjects Himself to physical pain and torment when He is blameless. It's a sacrifice because, being God and all, these aren't things He should ever have to experience, let alone in such an extreme fashion, let alone for the debts of another. To say Jesus "did not forfeit anything of value" is to pretend that feeling pain is not negative, let alone for a deity doing it on behalf of someone else. Which is obviously nonsense.

    Honestly, I'm amazed someone who purports to be examining this issue in depth could miss such a glaringly obvious response. An argument that hinges on the idea that avoiding suffering has no value? WHAT?

  2. 1: We don't know Jesus actually felt any pain. As god, he could easily have turned off the pain receptors in his human body and we'd not know the difference.
    2: As a god, he probably has a higher tolerance for pain.
    3: At best, it was a needless sacrifice. He could have simply changed his mind on the rule. It's not like there isn't precedent for god changing his mind. After all, Moses convinced god not to destroy the Israelites (Exodus 32:7-14) so why can't he just say "OK, you don't need to make sacrifices, I've had my fill. Just be good and dedicate yourself to me."

  3. 1. We don't know you exist. I think you are a woman who Googled "photo of guy in beard". Sounds funny but it's your argument against Jesus exactly.
    You never responded to my argument by the way.

  4. I'm an atheist too, and in many ways an admirer of Sam Harris, but I don't find this argument all that strong.

    1. Christians can wriggle out of this with the mystery of the trinity. You may not find that satisfying; it may not *be* satisfying, but it is pretty much impossible to argue against.

    2. I used to believe in the doctrine of Jesus Died Spiritually (JDS). If you ever want to waste an afternoon watching fundamentalists fight each other, google that phrase. Most consider it a damnable heresy, but within my sect of Christianity, it was an almost essential belief. In this belief, since Jesus took mankind's sin upon him, and "the wages of sin is death", Jesus spent those days in hell.

    Now, since neither of us believes this really happened, it feels a bit like arguing who would win a fight between Batman and Spiderman. Nevertheless, taking the beliefs on their own terms, Christians believe Jesus suffered as a man, not God, so any question of His being God so not feeling pain is irrelevant. And actually all Christians believe in the resurrection (and even Jews believe in Paradise), so the hope of the resurrection is no more or less real for Jesus than any other believer in God.

    3. The doctrine that Jesus died spiritually is also a neat answer to this. Of course, since it's a minority view, most Christians still have some explaining to do.

    Overall, though, I agree: No Christian has ever really explained why Jesus had to die adequately, or why one man (even a perfect one) being dead for three days can atone eternally for the sins of everyone ever.