The Fantasy of Easter

fan·ta·sy [fan-tuh-see, -zee] –noun

1. imagination, esp. when extravagant and unrestrained.
2. the forming of mental images, esp. wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing.
3. a mental image, esp. when unreal or fantastic; vision: a nightmare fantasy.
4. Psychology. an imagined or conjured up sequence fulfilling a psychological need; daydream.

Is the Easter story a fantasy, of the creative imagination of a primitive culture?  Or is it a real story that continues to demand our attention?  It’s Good Friday, and again I’m thinking about the whole idea of Jesus on the cross.  Actually, this is a particularly striking time of year, as it was around this time in the year 2006 when my faith came crumbling down. And that was not long after I had been through quite a ritualistic Easter experience.

Day 048/365 - Jesus Saves
Image by Great Beyond via Flickr

I particularly like that forth definition, as it gets to the very point I am about to expand on.  The brain requires completion, and goes to great lengths to fill in the gaps, so to speak.  Optical illusions are often the result of this tendency, with the brain creating an image that is not exactly corresponding with reality.

Today I realized that I had been caught up in the process of fantasy while attempting to gain people’s favour.  I had suggested that my Easter weekend was being wholly taken up in entertaining visiting family, when in reality much of it will be spent on my own (or reading, or posting to this blog!).  I didn’t want to present myself as a loner, and I don’t like to think of myself as a loner, yet if I gave a completely accurate description of how I am

spending my time, that’s exactly how I would come across.  As such, I expanded the small time with family to include the entire weekend, appearing then to be far more social than I actually am.  I created a fantasy in my own mind, which then translates to a fantasy in the minds of those I am trying to impress.

What I’m suggesting here is that self-deception and deception of others is something that can occur in the day-to-day process of living; as much as we want to be truthful, in order to maintain or advance our social positions we will inadvertently bend the truth in our favour.  Additionally, in the absence of understanding, we use our imagination to fill the gap.  Hence the pervasiveness of religion in our time, and the belief in the spiritual realm that has stretched back as far as recorded human history.

Easter for most Christians hinges on the afterlife: Christ died for our sins, and to be acceptable to God we must put our faith in him.  Afterlife is an unknowable entity, so we naturally reach for some kind of known through our imagination.  The fires of hell provide quite the fantastical persuasion to lead many to the conclusion that they must believe wholeheartedly in Christ, or at least participate in rituals such as those that are occurring in churches around the world today.  Even for those who choose not to believe, virtually everyone has been in some way touched by death, and the experience easily lends itself to the desire for an afterlife.

The fantasy of faith has a neurological explanation, and as such I cannot and will not judge anyone who chooses belief.  As I demonstrated, I often utilize fantasy in my social experience, and quite unconsciously most of the time.  It’s wonderful that I can wake up to this and therefore choose to be more authentic, but given the nature of brains I can’t guarantee perfection.

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One response to “The Fantasy of Easter

  • Christian

    A very interesting post. I especially like your last point that perfection isn’t guaranteed, which for me is one of the central parts of an atheist/humanist viewpoint.

    I find Easter a very odd time in terms of fantasy. Christians are commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus. How much fantasy is required to make something good out of the torture and execution of a man as a human sacrifice to forgive us of our sins (that weren’t directed at the person forgiving us)?

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