Be scared. Be really scared… of zombies!
December 21, 2008

Humans have always been fascinated with death. Death with a capital D. Since the dawn of consciousness, human tribes have had one form or another of cult of the dead. Early paleolithic tribes would bury their dead with some belongings – this custom extended into the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs and nowadays, most cultures have some form of ritual worship of the dead[1] which brings closure and finality to a process which, by definition, is not understood by anyone on Earth!

In the realm of the human consciousness, however, there is also guilt. A lot of it. Religion plays to the existence of this guilt and appropriates it and encourages it, in order to yield submission.

Catholics will tell you to feel guilty for having been born (since everyone bears the mark of shame of original sin), Islam will tell you to feel guilty for thought crime, and a long etc. Many of the more repressive religions share among them a morbid obsession and infatuation with ‘sexual sins’, telling followers to basically abstain from sex, hoping to control humans by controlling one of the most basic human instincts.

What does guilt have to do with death?

A lot.

In early Judaean culture, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, people would literally gather a goat, laden him symbolically with their sins and drive it into the desert to die in the wilderness, thereby removing themselves of responsibility for their actions. The rite is described in Leviticus 16:10[2]. The parallel with the medieval Catholic notion of indulgences is striking.

So by driving an innocent animal to its death, early Middle Eastern cultures relieved themselves of the guilt for having done something wrong. A legal loophole, of sorts, in a book which commands people in unambiguous terms how to behave. So you can sin, if you like, because all you need to do is load up your guilt, your shame and your sins onto a poor goat and drive him into the desert.

Christian mythology is strongly infused with this same sense of death as a liberator. Christians morbidly celebrate the death of Jesus of Nazareth – his sole purpose on Earth being to save humanity for its sins.

Speaking personally, I would never have agreed to let a man die for the sins I myself have committed. The passion and the fervour with which this event is celebrated is, on cursory examination, sickly and plain wrong. Conservative-smut peddler Anne Coulter famously referred to Christians as ‘improved Jews’ (the terrifying implication being that Jews can be ‘improved’). In one sense, this can only mean that instead of taking responsibilities for themselves for the sins they have committed, Christians 1-up the Jews, not by murdering a goat for liberation from guilt, but by letting a perfectly healthy (although questionably sane) man be executed gruesomely.

Christians morbidly celebrate the death of Jesus of Nazareth – his sole purpose on Earth being to save humanity for its sins.

It raises, of course, the question: if the Son of God himself sacrificed himself for the sins of his puny human followers, why in god’s name are Christian denominations still obsessed with sin in every form? This will perhaps lead to a series of inane and vacuous theological interchanges so I hope that I’m going to spare myself the trouble by tackling this question on another occasion.

The morbid fascination with the grisly torture and execution of Jesus of Nazareth does not stop the moment his heart ceases to beat. Because then, in possibly Jesus’ most spectacular ‘miracle’, he returns to life.