“In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade…

On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue, photographers will snap us
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure…”

Irving Berlin

“They tried to nail him down, but he got away.”

Marquee outside church in Massachusetts

Well, it’s that day again, and our Greek Orthodox friends, as well as our Roman Catholic brethren and sistren, are celebrating the most bizarre and barbaric events, the darkest, ghastliest nook of their religion: Easter.

Easter, dating back to a 3,000-year-old pagan spring ritual, is now about blood, suffering, sacrifice, more blood and suffering, and — what people come to church for: religion’s heroin and cocaine — the defiance of death.

It is perhaps the most excruciating of ironies that “Easter Parade” was written by a Russian Jew. Berlin’s lyrics describe Happy Easter – smiling kids, new clothes, chocolate bunnies, egg hunts, everything at Walgreens is pink, white, purple, or yellow. My neighbor has a giant inflatable pink bunny on his front lawn.

As a child, I helped my parents assemble Easter baskets for the Gentile customers of our drug store. And I supposed they would all go to church, marvel at the Resurrection, and have massive brunches, with lots of ham.

Spring is here and it’s a happy time of year.

Bloody Easter

But not for all of us. To a Jewish humanist, Easter is when Christians engage in some of their creepiest, ghastliest, most gruesome beliefs and practices. It’s when they get in touch with their inner Mel Gibson. The color of this Easter is red, as in blood.

First there is the communion ritual, which is primitive and barbaric in the extreme. I refer to transubstantiation, the consumption of the body and blood of Christ, a practice engaged in by Jesus at the Last Supper.

Whoa! Don’t they know they’re practicing an ancient form of tribal cannibalism? Just read The Clan of the Cave Bear for a description of the primitive practice of killing and eating the god/totem (in this case, a bear).

Actual cannibalism persists to this very day. I find it astonishing that so many supposedly sophisticated people solemnly carry it out in symbolic form.

More blood

Then there’s the persecution. Easter was generally an awful time for Jews, as Christians used Jesus’ (probably fabricated) story as an excuse to indulge their worst impulses. I once read that in Charlemagne’s time, one was supposed to seek out a Jew and box his ears, thereby perhaps causing permanent hearing damage.

And there was much worse. Tortures, crucifixions, burnings…truly, much of the blood of Easter is Jewish.

More blood

One of the main reasons all this Jewish blood was shed was blood itself: for centuries, Christians tortured and massacred Jews because of the unspeakable “blood libel:” the lie that Jews used the blood of Christian children for one ritual purpose or another, typically to make the Passover matzo. For more on this lie and the untold misery that it caused, go to


I think the tragedy of the blood libel is both ironic and hypocritical, since it’s the communion-taking Christians who are the ones drinking blood!

More blood

Besides the blood libel, what are Christians so enraged about? The answer is right in front of us: the passion of the Christ. After centuries of passion plays, Mel Gibson has topped them all with a truly hideous rendition of a — I repeat, probably made-up — story.

Christians should know — but most don’t — that the story of Jesus is far from unique. Many ancient Near Eastern demi-gods were sacrificed and resurrected, but only one of them got to be at the center of a world religion. If instead the cult of Mithra had somehow taken over, people would probably still be celebrating the Resurrection, because it was the same story line!

I had resolved that I would not see Gibson’s movie, and I have not. But it was a significant part of Brian Fleming’s brilliant documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There.”

Christian porn

If there is such a thing as Christian pornography, this is it.

The similarities are remarkable. Just as with sexual porn (but unlike most legitimate movies), the title tells you exactly what you are going to see. Like porn, this movie is intended to arouse a specific base emotion, and, like porn, with its explicit focus on throbbing genitals, it pursues that purpose with relentless intensity. Like porn, it is a non-story where only one thing happens.

In his doc, Fleming rapidly goes through the movie at accelerated speed, with scrolling words that, minute by minute, describe each gory shot and act of violence. The scrolling words are superimposed on snippets from the movie.

As with porn, the first few minutes are quiet, but then the movie really gets down to business. Fleming notes the close-up of a nail being driven into Jesus’ hand — and resulting blood-spurt. He points out the care that Gibson must’ve taken to arrange such a “money shot” (my term) and create that spurt. No effort was spared to give us a close-up of 90 minutes of sadism and suffering.

And its effect must be only to inflame the most primitive parts of Christians’ brains, to the good of no one and the detriment of many.

Happy Easter, bloody Easter

Happy Easter, bloody Easter. Lillies spattered with the blood of those killed in the name of a man who supposedly preached peace and nonviolence — and who perhaps didn’t even exist. All of that rage and anger to no purpose. And to inflame it further with the images of modern cinematic technology is an outrageous act of moral irresponsibility.

The worst thing that Christians have done with Christmas is to commercialize it. That’s nothing compared with the dark underbelly of Easter: centuries of blood, barbarism, and death.

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Comment by Alan Perlman on March 31, 2018 at 4:40pm

Loren, You're right, a lot it is about the fear of death.  That's the biggie. Maybe all of adult life contains an element of preparing for the end, one way or another, and some people, early in life, flee into superstition, and they're good to go.  But again: what is the difference between them and us?

There's more than fear involved.  Oddly, Jews have no clear-cut vision of what comes after, or of any posthumous reward/punishment.  So why do they practice their hundreds of commandments?  You'd have to go to their websites and read their rationales.  I don't have the patience.  Maybe they all have OCD.

It would seem that the three-day-a-year Jews, are the most superstitious of all - they think that their ultra-lite observance is enough.  But again - enough for what? Answer: to be accepted as a member of the fellow (Ultra-Lite) Jews.  The Orthodox consider themselves the only "real" Jews, and they really do try to out-Jew each other in strictness of observance.  

So there's tribalism and social status. Everybody wants, in addition to deliverance from fear of death, the security of the tribe, plus prestige within it. 

Comment by Loren Miller on March 31, 2018 at 3:54pm

Why do they buy this bullshit?  C'mon, Alan, you know why: because they're SCARED.  They started out being afraid of death, because that NOTHINGNESS was intolerable to them ... so they invented an afterlife where they could go on forever.  Yet oddly, they couldn't make that afterlife an automatic, without conditions, where everyone got in and everyone got right with everybody else, but had to create an us-vs-them paradigm where only those who were in the right club and had the secret handshake, et cetera, et cetera, were permitted entrance.

Long story short, they traded fear of death for a fear of deity or of the untoward afterlife or the reaction of their fellows should any of them discover you don't believe in said system.  Yet if you can face the idea of death and say, "Yeah, death is coming, and I refuse to let that freak me out.  I mean to live this life and enjoy this life for as long as I have it," it all falls apart like it has no substance ... Because It Hasn't!

Comment by Alan Perlman on March 31, 2018 at 3:15pm

Reply to Berthold: good one...that's one of many good questions about God.  OK, so who made God?  

Comment by Alan Perlman on March 31, 2018 at 3:12pm

Why do they buy this bullshit?  It's a question worth asking as two of the world's major religions are celebrating their deepest myths.  Truly, atheists stand in wonder as Jews, who should, who must know better, celebrate their founding story - deliverance, exodus, divine real-estate grant -- AS IF IT REALLY HAPPENED.

We understand how primitive people with no knowledge of science could have created religion out of their own ability to conjure imaginary people and forces.  But then to pretend it's true when it is demonstrably not...to construct parks where humans frolic with dinosaurs...how can they do it?  

Somehow their brains are different in ways we will never understand, since we have no idea how the brain differentiates reality from fantasy.  You have only to turn on YouTube and watch a roomful of Muslims, always men, with their asses in the air to know that their thought processes are different from ours. Freud and Marx thought religion was madness.

On top of that, we have people reinforcing their beliefs with the most bizarre and irrational rituals because these constitute behavior that, in the words of Richard Sosis (American Sceintist, Vol. 92, March-April 2004) "is too costly to fake": "There is no incentive for non-believers to join or remain in the religious group, because the cost of maintaining membership -- such as praying three times a day, eating only kosher food, donating a certain part of your income to charity and so on -- are simply too high."

"Too costly to fake" is a wonderful way to put it,  To paraphrase an important Jewish philosopher, Groucho Marx, I would never wear a yarmulke in order to be a member of a group that wears yarmulkes. As for the lightweight religiosity of wishy-washy pretend believers (like my brother)...well, apparently that is not too costly to fake. 

Comment by Loren Miller on March 31, 2018 at 10:26am

I hate to break it to you here at Notre Dame, but Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice.
-- Sam Harris, in his debate with William Lane Craig

It also appears to be a cult of infinite human torture, as that is the likely fate of the vast majority of the population of Planet Earth, since that majority worship other gods or none at all.  For what is supposed to be a loving god, that strikes me as a massive fail.



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