Two years ago I wrote about a pamphlet left at my doorstep by the local Jehovah’s Witnesses outfit. I can’t remember if they left me one last year, but whether they did or didn’t, I wasn’t moved to write about it. This morning the Hagerstown chapter of the Watchtower Society grabbed my attention again. They placed at Ashley’s and my front door a pamphlet inviting us to “commemorate Jesus’ death on its anniversary” which, the leaflet informs me, falls on March 30 — this year. On 2008 this same anniversary fell on March 22.
One of the perks of being the Son of God is that the anniversary of your execution/human sacrifice gets to be a moveable feast, I guess. Here’s the cover of this morning’s pamphlet:
There are three sentences before the invitation. The first is a statement, a claim there is no reason for anyone, anywhere, ever, to believe. But I’ll grant it for the sake of argument, because I want to get to the questions.
First the pamphlet asks “Why did he need to do that?”
Do they get any harder than this? Let me see.
“What must you do to benefit from it?”
This is too easy! There is nothing I can do to benefit from it, because it could not possibly have had anything to do with me. Just as I don’t believe that the ritual slaughter of an animal can relieve one of his or her guilt or responsibility, I don’t believe the ritual slaughter of a human — or even a demigod — has any such power.
More importantly, why would I ever want to benefit from it? Think about the scenario that’s been framed: A man was publicly executed in one of the most horrific ways imaginable, two millennia before anyone alive today was born, and the church that has been assembled around that execution after the fact wants me not to turn my head in disgust, but to raise my hand and ask “How can I get in on this?” When you kill someone as punishment for a crime they didn’t commit, you’re not just executing them — you’re murdering them. Christianity tells us that the God who created the universe murdered his own son, in public, in the most agonizing method possible. But Christianity doesn’t stop there! It makes this primitive, brutal human sacrifice more wicked still by telling us that if we don’t stand up and applaud and claim it as the source of our personal redemption, we will burn in Hell for ever and ever and ever, amen.
If nothing else, having this little brochure dropped off on my front stoop reminded me how grateful I am that, as Christopher Hitchens likes to say, there isn’t a shred of truth to any of it.