As we enter Holy Week, I listened to the Homily at Palm Sunday Mass. The priest talked about how this week is the reason for our faith. He mentioned that our most sacred and high rituals derive from this week. As he went on, I realized that he was right. And that sent me off on a train of thought that was a little bizzarre.
On this Good Friday, Christians around the world gather and reflect upon the death of Jesus. It's more than reflection, actually. It's celebration. And you see, this brought me to the thought that Western Religion--that is, the Abrahamaic faiths--are really Cults of Death.
I first started thinking about Easter itself--the holiest day of the Church Year, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, meaning the ultimate forgiveness of our sins and eventual entrance into Heaven. A truly happy day. But then I realized--we spend more time and energy on the Crucifixion than anything else. From Holy Thursday with the Last Supper, the Stations of the Cross, and all of the Good Friday solemnities, everything in the Church revolves around the torture and death of a man who said how cool it would be if everyone were to be nice to one another. Much like Xipe the Flayed God of the Aztecs, Osiris, Dionysius, and any number of others, a HUGE part of Christian belief centers around a person who is tortured, killed, and ultimately resurrected.
But that's not the worst part about Western Religion. I've just talked about something relatively unique to Christianity among the Three Abrahamaic faiths. The thing that makes all three faiths more like a Cult of Death is the fact that they are all apocalyptic faiths. That is, EVERYTHING is based on the End of the World and what happens as a result. We look for it, we pray for it, we prepare for it. Even us "normal" Christians always have that in the back of our minds. "He will come again in Glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end...We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come". Right from the Nicene Creed. Now, I know very little about Judaic or Islamic theology, but the Bible tells me that deep in Judaic faith is the awaiting of the Messianic Age and the rebuilding of the Temple. Islam has the yawm al-dīn, or Day of Judgement, similar to the apocalyptic version of the book of Revelation.
Most faiths have some sort of mythology concerning the beginning and end of the world. However, most portray the "end" in terms of a renewal of a cycle, or of a significant Change, from one world to the next. Even Ragnarok only heralds a birth of a new cycle. It's only the Western faiths that present a Finite world, with a cataclysmic ending.
Religion, at least to me, is a corruption of faith. Faith is believing that there is something bigger out there, be it a creator, the Force, or whatever. Religion takes this belief, and corrupts it to where the faith acts for the religion's own ends, instead of being an affirmation. I realize that may not make too much sense, but to be preoccupied with a theoretical end is not to celebrate the the life we are living.
Case in point: The BIGGEST Christian holiday of the year is Christmas. While Easter and all the death accompanying it is the HOLIEST, it's not celebrated as widely or as devoutly as Christmas. Why?
Christmas is about BIRTH, and the celebration of renewed LIFE. Life and Peace are the two main elements of Christmas. They are also the center of many Pagan faiths, whose tenets have been co-opted by the Church as part of their Christmas celebrations. Think about it. At Yule, we have a whole season of Peace, laughter, life, and celebration. At Oestre, during the Equinox, a time that is supposed to be all about fertility and the creation of life, we have a season (Lent) of Death, Sacrifice, privation, etc. It's not until Easter itself that we allow some of the Pagan Life rituals and symbols to manifest themselves--eggs and bunnies, both strong symbols of fertility.
Yet I still believe, and partake in the rituals of my faith, but only now I focus on the message of Peace, Love, and Hope. After all, when you take away all the rigamarole about the end of the world, and strip Western Religion of all its trappings, you find a Way and a Path that is all about "doing unto others" and NOT about thinking about one's place in the "end times". It's a very Eastern concept, almost Buddhist in nature. Strange, isn't it?