Easter is the holiest of holy Christian days. As a result, it has the least secular significance, which is relatively apt. As a Christian, I always felt bad that I didn't really care for the holiday. Since the death of Christ was basically the point of the entire religion, it was something that we were constantly reminded of, a touchstone that every lesson returned to. There wasn't much more to say on Easter. So it was always a boring affair - everyone pretending to be emotionally swept up in the moment while stifling yawns.
As an atheist, I care even less about Easter. I dislike even the secular aspects of it. I hate the colors, for example. I hate to go to Target and see pastels everywhere. I hate the inconvenience that Easter Sunday inevitably brings to those of us who don't care if Jesus died on a cross or not. I hate the extra long waits at restaurants and extra short hours at stores. I even hate the Easter candy!
But I can deal with that. It's just one day and I'll probably just spend it like any other day. The offensive part of the day is the story. As I mentioned at the top, it is the central theme in Christianity, so it is familiar to most people. It is so familiar, in fact, that we rarely examine it. Let's do that now! What follows is simply an examination of the story, the myth if you will (I know that I certainly do) of Easter. I discuss events in context of the story, not history.
Jesus died a horrible death. He died for all of our sins, so it had to be extremely horrible otherwise it wouldn't count. Right? I mean, if Pilate had some kind of pain-free, humiliation-free killing device, would it have been much of a sacrifice? Since death is pretty much the only truly universal experience among humans, the fact that Jesus died isn't that big of a deal. And the fact that he was crucified is too bad, but hardly unique. It was apparently a fairly common form of torture and execution, which means that other people felt the same pain. But they were guilty, you say. Jesus' innocence made the pain more intense. Doubtful. Besides, if someone came to me (yes, selfish old me) and said that if I died a horrible death, they would spare the eternal souls everyone in the world (rules and restrictions may apply, void where prohibited), I would almost certainly bite that bullet for humanity. Oh - and I would come back to life in three days anyway. I suspect that most people would selflessly throw themselves on the proverbial altar.
But why did Jesus have to die? Well, because otherwise God would throw everyone into hell. Because he hates us. Sorry - because he loves us. Because although being omniscient and omnipotent, he can't manage to break this one rule that he made up himself. At least, he can't break the rule unless he sends his son (who is really himself) to be tortured and executed. Mysterious ways indeed!
So why does God have such an insatiable thirst for blood? I don't even have a snarky response to that. He really is a ruthless monster throughout the Bible. Christians often paint him as a benevolent and loving father figure, but in doing so much of his actions are ignored and Christians become complicit in God's crimes and foolishness. God is pure light and righteousness. By comparison, humanity is filthy and evil. Seen through this lens, it is little wonder that Christians unblinkingly swallow the whole story of salvation. But it is a reprehensible philosophy to cling to (unless it's true, in which case I'm fucked, because God has no sense of humor or patience for this crap).
And this brings me to the offensive message of Easter: humanity is worthless and beyond evil, not worth saving unless someone bleeds to death for it (but not really). I took the dogs for a walk today and when I came back in, I found a tiny little green inchworm stuck to my clothes. I took it outside and deposited it safely on a tree. I didn't ask for any kind of punishment or pain for this service, and I felt that the little inchworm had too much worth to just throw into the trash (just to be clear here, I don't always do that, but in this case it seemed like the right thing to do). Does that make me more merciful than God? Clearly the analogy breaks down fairly rapidly, but it's fun to imagine how God might have handled the situation.
To wrap up - I am not evil. I am not wicked to the core. I make mistakes, but none of them warrants eternal torture. No one, in fact, deserves torture, eternal or otherwise. Not even the son of the judge. God is evil. But that's just part of the myth.