The “Special” Saviour

Question from Meg:
So why don’t you believe in God? I’ve always found that with most real atheists there is an actual reason rather than just a lack of interest.

And also,
In previous discussions I’ve noticed that there has apparently been other stories of saviours with twelve disciples etc. I have never heard of these parallels, so I can’t say whether or not they are true but I do know one thing for sure. Not one of these could forgive sins. Does this not mark Jesus as special?

Answer by SmartLX:
It’s certainly not a lack of interest. Religion as a whole is not only interesting but fascinating. It is rather a lack of evidence or convincing arguments. At a certain point enough time had passed since my early indoctrination into Catholicism that the emotional connection had faded, so I was able to look at it with no strong bias, as a real agnostic. As I did I realised I didn’t buy into it at all anymore, and had not replaced it with any other faith, and was therefore an atheist.

While it’s been established that the individual features of Jesus’ story are all fairly common in mythology, Jesus does apparently represent a unique combination. For instance, while many gods have spent time in human form and many gods forgive sins, I know of no other story in which the earthly avatar himself was personally responsible for forgiving sins. Here is a list of other crucified saviours, and the reasons for several have to do with sin, but none of them appear to be quite the same.

I suppose you could call Jesus special based on that, but it would mean that all comparable figures are also special in their own ways. They’re all unique combinations, because they’re all at least slightly different. The Hindu god Indra, for instance, is probably the only one who had to get wasted on the liquid essence of another god (Soma) before fighting a serpent to get Earth’s water back.

Ultimately, even without devaluing the word “special” like this, the idea that Jesus was special among religious figures does not in itself support the idea that he was really a god, or rose from the dead.


“The idea that we are punished for all our bad deeds after death requires the existence of an afterlife, and atheists generally don’t believe in an afterlife.”

Question from Louis:
Does an atheist believe in the concept of sin? Do they believe they can be punished for sin?

Not usually.

The idea that we are punished for all our bad deeds after death requires the existence of an afterlife, and atheists generally don’t believe in an afterlife.

The competing idea that our bad deeds follow us around ethereally in life and cause misfortune requires the existence of either an interventionist god or an unknown and purposeful energy, which ancient Indian religions named karma, and atheists generally don’t believe in that either.

This doesn’t mean that atheists think bad deeds go entirely unpunished. That’s what the law is for, to begin with. Besides judicial punishment for illegal deeds, other selfish and destructive acts turn other people against us, and provoke revenge and grudges. They also make us feel guilty and want to atone.

That’s why we don’t need a god to enforce our morals. We have other people, and we have ourselves.