Eggs and rabbits, sex and death. Easter is weird. But then, the whole of Christianity has an odd feel to it. It’s the kind of eccentricity you only get when very different cultures meet and blend. A sort of… theological jazz. Greeks give the Jews the idea of the half-human demigod, Jews give the Greeks the idea of monotheism: Result, a god who is his own son. Which is pretty original, you must admit.
Another reason it’s strange is that it has such a satisfactory narrative. I mean, by mythological standards. It’s got structure, a beginning and an ending. A twist even. Like Judaism and Islam it really begins with Abraham, whom God told to sacrifice his son before relenting at the last moment. Weird in itself, but apparently just the stuff to start major religions rolling; keeps the audience off-balance I suppose.
But Christianity culminates with a dramatic reversal of this. Where before he’d demanded a son, now God sacrifices his to us. Yet instead of saying “Ha, had you going there!” at the very last opportunity, the humans just go right ahead and kill him. It’s the greatest of all surprise endings – the cavalry doesn’t make it. Humanity completely blows their one chance to return the favour God showed Abraham. It’s pretty shocking really. I’m imagining God the Father watching this unfold and shouting “Hey. Hey hold on there, I thought we had a deal.”
Wouldn’t that have been a better ending? A last-minute intervention by a stranger in the crowd. Christ is released. Everyone feels embarrassed and wanders away. The mysterious figure looks up into the sky and says, “OK, square now?” From then on, humanity and supernatural beings leave each other the hell alone.
I came across something extraordinary. Chimps may have a religion.
When the seasonal rains come, chimpanzees – the dominant males especially – do a special sort of dance or ritual. It’s hard for us to guess their motivation of course. Are they celebrating the change of season, defying it, placating it? All you can really say is that it’s a social reaction to an environmental phenomenon. And that is surely one of the hallmarks of religion – personifying and attempting to communicate with natural forces.
It’s especially interesting when you consider that there doesn’t seem to be a human society without some religious sense. A traditional (non-religious) explanation is that when faced with the inexplicable, we are forced to ascribe it to the caprice of an unknown will.
Seen that way, religion is a consequence of intelligence. But what if all humans have religion because religion is older than humans, and our ancestors treated the forces of nature as living beings, malevolent or benign, long before they had language or culture?
It would explain some things – like how people with barely any language or culture can be so religious today.
Jesus. The UK’s Channel 4 had a documentary this evening called “The Man Who Killed Michael Jackson“. Did they make that last night? Maybe they went through a documentary they already had, bleeping out the word “allegedly”.
News has been extra weird today. A US Presidential candidate vows to shut down the Department of Education, and the most remarked thing is that he couldn’t remember the name of another agency he wanted to close down? Under the influence of the Tea People the Republicans are turning from the party of the American rich into the party of American national suicide.
In France meanwhile, Sarkozy is mooting a two-speed Europe. In this version there will be an ‘inner’ group of stronger economies using the euro, and an outer using… something else. There are merits to this idea. The part that makes least sense is his assumption that France belongs on the inside.
Who owns the banks in Ireland? You would be forgiven for thinking that we had some sort of controlling interest, after having mortgaged our children’s lives to save them from bankruptcy. Apparently not though, because both Bank of Ireland and AIB have point-blank refused a government request to pass on an ECB interest rate cut. You see, they have to obey the laws of the free market. Or all except the one where losing incredible sums of money means you can’t be in business any more.
We should send them a signal. One bank – selected at random – should be allowed to collapse. Just to remind the rest what reality is.