Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Easter Story: Where the "Trinity" Becomes an Absurdity

Someone at work awhile ago told me that her Sunday School, or maybe her fundy college, taught that the Trinity is like the three forms of Water.  Each has its own "identity" but they're all H20.  So I asked why Jesus referred to God in the third person.  Her answer:  "good question."
She didn't have a good answer.

Tonight I had the opportunity to go to a Good Friday concert at a Methodist church.  They requested no applause, and there was a prayer/mini-sermon at the beginning, but otherwise it was just a concert with a peculiar theme.

During the brief speechifying, I sensed some awkwardness, as if they were embarrassed to tell such a ridiculous story.  Or maybe I was projecting.  *shrug*  Anyway, during the more boring parts of the concert instead of thinking about Christ's suffering and his love for "each of us," (except many groups he slams in the gospels), I found myself thinking of how the concept of the Trinity makes no sense in light of the Easter story.

The basic story is that we are stained by original sin, or sins we've committed, or by being sinful beings by design, and only animal sacrifices could save us from God's wrath until Christ allowed himself to be betrayed, marched through the streets of Jerusalem in shame, and then killed by crucifiction.  .... then he gets put into a tomb (typical of the time) and then disappears from it, and then appears to people, Elvis-style, for a time... and then goes to live with God.

...except that he is God.  And in the story, he cries out to God, "Why hast thou forsaken me?"  Now, if he was so powerful that he could have liberated himself if he'd wanted to, why would he say that?  And why refer to God in the second and third persons?  And if he could decide to forgive us via his "sacrifice" of being dead for part of a weekend, why not just decide to forgive us just cuz?  They're his rules.  He can change them... unless he's not all-powerful.

So... the Trinity is problem for several reasons:
  • Jesus refers to himself as "Son of Man"
  • Jesus refers to God in the second and third person
  • Jesus didn't have the power to jump off the cross
  • Jesus was expecting God to intervene for him
  • Jesus as half-God and half-human was more in keeping with stories of his time
  • Jesus didn't willingly sacrifice himself - he could have turned himself in rather than be betrayed
  • In the cannibalistic meal he references himself as a sacrifice, but sacrifice to whom?  Can a god be sacrificed to appease himself?  That's just plain messed up.
  • Jesus says the "father" acts through him, not that he is  his own father
  • Jesus "sits at the right hand" of God.  How can God sit next to himself?
Well, at least that many reasons.  Even if you accept everything else as historically true in the Bible, the Trinity seems like a big stretch.

Why does it matter?  Well, the reason this came up with my coworker is that when I asked why Baptists don't consider Mormons to be Christians despite the words "Jesus Christ" being right in the title of their denomination, she brought up the Trinity.  She said they can't be "Christian" because they don't believe Jesus is God.  Apparently, even though they say that believing in salvation through Christ's sacrifice is key to being a Christian, there's a whole list of things they will hold other Christians to. 

 The Nicene Creed, which was codified in 325, is still kind of central, but you'd think that you could drop one or two without being ex-communicated by fundies.  But... take a look at this other version, known as the Apostles' Creed, which goes easy on the Trinity crap.  Yet fundy theology doesn't say that the people who say those words aren't Christians.

What a fucked up theology and fucked up bunch of followers.  If there really were an all-powerful deity behind this, couldn't he have fixed it?


Chatpilot said...

Great observations Lady Atheist! When I was a fundie I too was puzzled by the idea of the trinity. I developed my own belief by reason in order to try to explain this mess. I agree with you that God being who he was could have easily just forgiven mankind without the requirement of suffering. In fact he actually commands that of us towards one another as per Matthew 6:14,15. For some reason God is unable to do the same.

My interpretation of the trinity required that there be three separate God's each having his own function in the overall plan. The Father the creator, the son the redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the teacher and comforter. The only way that they were all one was in plan and purpose. That was the way I used to rationalize it.

Chatpilot said...

I know this is not the traditional interpretation but it made sense to me at the time. And kept me from looking like a jack ass when I was asked questions about the trinity.

LadyAtheist said...

Good call on God being unable to obey one of his own commandments.

Even though I think it's all hooey, I do have some respect for Christians who have answers to these questions, because it means at least they're questioning things even if they have to contort their brains to come up with a rationalization.

Of course, they don't like actual thinking because there's a chance they might wind up an apostate like us!

Infidel753 said...

Yep. It's a jumble of incompatible elements from varying mythologies. Given the lack of training in logic, and the poor nutrition and widespread disease (affecting brain development) prevalent in those days, the people who tried to edit it all together into one story simply weren't intelligent enough to notice the glaring inconsistencies that are so obvious to us -- to say nothing of how badly it fits with the Old Testament.

Daniel said...

You make a lot of good points, I think I'll be following this blog from now on.
But, there are a few things I have to add to the discussion. If Jesus is God, then God must have in some sense "died" when Jesus died. But that's impossible, God can't die. In addition, Jesus was supposed to have suffered "separation from God" in being forasken by God...but how can God forsake and be separated from himself? Either Jesus wasn't God, or God somehow died and became separated from himself. Christians have to believe that the Trinity was broken at some point during the Easter story. The only "solution" I've encountered is to say that it was Jesus' human body, not his divine nature, that died. That would mean Jesus ceased to be God on the cross, and that somehow the very nature of Jesus could be split...
The crucifixion story seems to be the most obvious falsification of the concept of the Trinity. That's not even taking into account the whole problem of the atonement, where Jesus somehow pays for sins he never committed, and allegedly takes the punishment we deserve without spending eternity in hell (that we also allegedly deserve).
It's just absurd, and one of the reasons I found it impossible to remain a Christian.

Happy Easter!

L.Long said...

Gawd put a piece of himself into the boy jesus at birth which made him one with gawd but separated by the body. So when he says 'Why...' that is his body self saying that.
At the body death the 'gawd part' goes on to hell for some reason, then appears to a few folks, then raises to heaven.
Why? If gawd could have skipped all that???
Because he wanted Xtians around and he works in mysteries ways of course!!

I'm X-Catlick, X-alterboy, X-almost priest, X-just about everything else, X-agnostic, now an atheist whose old enough to find out the truth soon enough.
Good post.

LadyAtheist said...

Thanks Daniel

Good point, re: "god" dying. How can an immortal being "die?" and why is his suffering such a big deal if it was just the body suffering and not his immortal spirit?

His "separation from God" sounds kind of like a psychotic break the way you put it. Did he dissociate and lose track of the god in himself because no "god" would "suffer" this way?

or... did the delusional messianic cult leader suddenly realize he was just an ordinary mortal? At least Koresh predicted he'd go up in flames and kept accelerant handy to make sure things went down that way.

My first problem with the atonement thing was that a "loving" father was punishing his one good kid for the sins of all his brats. How could you call that guy "loving?"
(not considering the problem of Eve's sin at the time, which makes it all even more insane)

LadyAtheist said...

L.Long I forgot all about that stint in Hell until I re-read the Apostle's Creed. If he really did come back and talk to his followers, why was it left to someone else to describe Hell in Revelations?

And how does 30 or so hours in Hell atone for millions of sins? If that's all it takes, why would the sins of one person require an eternity in Hell? Makes no sense at all.

B.R. said...

Shh! You might cause butt-hurt, LA!

How could you spoil Jewish Lich Day with your ungodly inquiries?! How dare you! ;)

LadyAtheist said...

B.R. that comment was over my head. I think that's a good thing!

L.Long said...

Go here

for a quick run down of lich.

LadyAtheist said...


like a soul-lichen attached to a body

B.R. said...

What can I say? Upon reflection, Jesus seems more like a lich than a zombie(at least in the classical sense of the word). Thank my geology professor for pointing that out. :D

B.R. said...

And thanks for the link, L. It's was pretty informative. I wonder why you don't see liches used in fiction or video games very often. They would make way better enemies than garden variety zombies.

B.R. said...

Lol. Lady Atheist isn't here right now, Gideon. So what's stopping you from clearing up everyone's misconceptions? If you succeed, perhaps LA will leave your post up.

LadyAtheist said...

whoops! Apparently our troll got out of the nuthouse this week, or maybe he'd given up trolling for Lent.

Anyway, troll post has been moved to the Spam folder. Move along. Nothing to see.

B.R. said...

"Apparently our troll got out of the nuthouse this week, or maybe he'd given up trolling for Lent."

LOL. A combination of both, perhaps?

Infidel753 said...

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."

Thomas Jefferson

LadyAtheist said...

Infidel, you have inspired me to come up with an "argument" against William Lane Craig...