I was driving home from work yesterday and I noticed a sign posted outside a church I pass every day: "Christ died for the ungodly". I thought about that for a bit, and for the life of me I cannot figure out what on earth that is supposed to actually mean.
Sure, it sounds profound. God loves you so much that he sacrificed himself for you. Or maybe, God loves you so much that he sent his only son to die for you. But closer examination reveals how utterly vacuous and nonsensical the whole concept really is, which really cuts to the core of how ridiculous Christian theology actually is.
The first question to ask is what it even means to say that Christ "died". If Christ is God, it doesn't make much sense to say that God can die. But if God can't die, there can't be any sacrifice. So perhaps the Christian would say that Christ's bodily form died. But that trivializes the very definition of death, and even according to Christian theology (since everyone experiences bodily death), that wouldn't be anything particularly remarkable. Plus, most of us don't get up after three days and fly up to Heaven in front of a crowd of people (remember, Heaven is up in the sky!). For most, bodily death is, ya know, more of a permanent kind of thing. All that makes the idea of Christ's "death" rather trivial.
The second question is what, exactly, Christ is sacrificing, and to whom. Himself? But if Christ is also God, then God is sacrificing himself to himself. Huh?
The third question is, how does the act of Christ dying on the cross provide atonement for humanity's sins? What's the process here? Is it just that God has a weird blood lust and, after getting tired of goats and calves, decided that only his own blood contained enough magic whatever to be sufficient for him to forgive sin, so he made himself a body and temporarily killed it? Why this whole bizarre system of blood atonement at all? If God is omnipotent, doesn't he set the criteria for what is sufficient for human atonement? Why not, I dunno, burn a bunch of crops instead of kill things?
In other words, it's not entirely clear on how Christ 'dying', if you can even call it that, actually does anything for the 'ungodly'. The book of Hebrews, which was instrumental in my deconversion, attempts to patch all that nonsense together. Essentially, old timey Jews were required to sacrifice animals to Yahweh in a ceremony carried out by a high priest. Yahweh for some reason decided that this wasn't good enough, even though it was his idea in the first place. He promised a 'messiah', which turned out to be himself. Because he was without sin, he was the perfect sacrifice and the perfect high priest. So he sacrificed himself to himself, and that somehow gave him carte blanche to forgive sins when people acknowledge his 'sacrifice' (if you can call it that), which he apparently did not have before for some reason.
Makes perfect sense. That's why, despite all the quasi-academic posturing of people like William Lane Craig, Randal Rauser, Alvin Plantiga and Ed Feser spouting sophisticated-sounding philosophical arguments, when you get to the core of what they actually believe it's so ridiculous that you understand why they spend so much more time on the sophisticated-sounding philosophy: it distracts people from the inanity of what Christianity really is.