This isn't part of a real debate for me. I promise - the question of the historical accuracy of the Jesus story is about as relevant as the question of how Santa delivers all his presents on one night. But I'm going to indulge myself in a little bit of mythology busting.
I used to get choked up when I thought of Jesus's sacrifice for my sins. The images of the crucifixion scene, with the humiliation and the pain and the needless and unjust punishment nearly brought tears to my eyes (I say nearly - I'm a tough nut to crack!). But was it really a sacrifice? I'll probably not get into the ridiculous reasons why Jesus was sent to die in the first place, but if you take the time to think about it, it's a little absurd that an omnipotent and all-knowing god requires any kind of cheap legal maneuvering to not kill and torture his precious creations for all eternity.
Anyway, tonight I aim to focus on the mechanics and plot of the crucifixion, the tearjerker, the passion. Let me set the scene for the uninitiated (wishful thinking), Jesus is innocent. Fully god, fully man (doesn't make sense) but somehow railroaded into being crucified, as was the style at the time. The Romans were cruel bastards - they may not have invented or even refined torture, but they apparently knew their way around whips and executions. No doubt Jesus suffered at the hands of the Romans (for the sake of this post, I regard the Gospels as truth, so far as the plot is concerned). But did he suffer more? Was his humiliation greater than that of everyone else? If not, what's the big deal? Crucifixion was hardly an unusual way to dispatch any kind of troublemaker. So how can Jesus's crucifixion be worth so much that it pays for the sins of everyone in the world ever? Because that's the claim. We are all sinners and worth the trouble of tormenting for eternity, but Jesus died and paid for our sins. Pretending that the whole setup is true, how is one man's finite pain worth the same as everyone else's eternal suffering? Besides, he came right back to life! Three days later (three technical days - probably less, or so the story goes) he comes back to life and is better than ever! Hardly a sacrifice.
Thinking of Christ figures in modern fiction, I find plenty of more worthy and wily sacrifices. Aslan, for example, gave himself up willingly, but it was a tactical choice. He took the pain and humiliation in exchange for greater power and the strategic advantage of surprise. Gandalf died to save his friends, but it was a fair fight. Plus, he only managed to save them for about a week before they were in dire peril yet again. E.T., Neo, Flynn (from Tron) are all examples of one man (or alien) making a sacrifice for his friends and coming out on top. And just the most cursory look through stories of wartime heroism will uncover true stories of men who made true sacrifices - no eternal life awaits them, no increased powers or power over death. These men died so that others could live. Jesus is not fit to stand on the same stage as these men.