The meaning of Easter loses much of its sharp edge when it is thought of as a one-time event, or as a supernatural miracle. It acquires its true force and relevance, in my view, only when it is thought of as an illustration of the way in which God normally works . . . or, for the nonreligious, the way in which reality functions.
If Easter is a one-time “historical” event that took place on a particular day and at a particular time in a particular part of the world, then it is of little relevance to me no matter how spectacular or amazing it might have been. I have absolutely nothing against one-time events. In fact, I am very interested in one-time events for the following reason. Once I have compiled a record of many one-time events that are similar in one way or another, I could use this information to discern patterns, laws, and regularities. This helps me understand how reality functions (or how God works). On the other hand, an event that is absolutely unique, in the sense that the likes of it never took place before and will never take place ever again constitutes a problem. Not that such an event is impossible; but that such an event does not tell me much about the larger picture that I am trying to discern here. Exceptions and anomalies are, for this reason, much less valuable for a scientist than the discovery of consistent patterns and regularities in the behavior of reality.
If Easter is going to have any meaning, it ought to constitute some kind of sign that points toward a discernable pattern in divine activity. In other words, we ought to be able to find events that are more or less similar to Easter, in some way and at some level, so that we may be able to generalize. It is the usual and the ordinary that gives us the best and most reliable clues to understanding reality, as opposed to the unusual and the extraordinary.
As a one-time event, then, Easter has little meaning; as a particularly powerful example of an ordinary and natural phenomenon that takes place everywhere on a regular basis, however, Easter is overflowing with significance. In fact, there is so much significance here that it is hardly exhausted by our reluctance to believe in resurrection and ascension in a literal sense.
The relevance of Easter cannot be found in the belief that it was a supernatural intervention in the ordinary flow of reality, and, as such, it could only have happened once in history. On the contrary, the relevance of Easter is found in the living experience of humankind that indicates the occurrence of the Easter phenomenon innumerable times every day.
The myth of Easter captures a fundamental truth that is such an inherent part of reality as to be virtually undeniable. Simply put, the deep structure of reality is such that it would, in the long-run, support justice over injustice; truth over falsehood; compassion over cruelty; and fairness over tyranny. Moral truths are as real as scientific truths; and opposing such truths is as foolish as trying to defy gravity.
There is nothing new
In the age-old struggle
Between tyranny and the people.
They haven’t changed their ways
In a very long time:
And neither have we altered
Any of our habits.
They haven’t stopped
Trying to burn us at the stake;
And we haven’t ceased
Turning those flames
Into blooming gardens.
There is nothing new
In the age-old struggle;
They always lose
And we always win.
(Part of a longer poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz)