I invigilated a GCSE Religious Studies exam today. I had to have a go, didn’t I?
Time: 1 hour
1. Beliefs and Teachings
a) State two beliefs about Jesus (2 marks)
1. He was alleged to have been born to a virgin woman; a story spun to hide his mum getting pregnant out of wedlock.
2. In similar vein, his dad was purported to be a non-human deity who impregnated his mum via the ‘holy spirit’.
b) Describe Christian beliefs about the Trinity (5 marks)
This is the somewhat ridiculous concept that despite their belief that there is only ONE god (the several thousand other claimed gods being dismissed as nonsense), this one ‘true’ god somehow manages to divide itself into THREE distinct manifestations.
These manifestations are held to be two male figures – the ‘Father’ and the ‘Son’ – and an asexual/non-sexual entity variously known as the ‘Holy Spirit’ or the ‘Holy Ghost’. Although thinking about it, this must also presumably be male if it did get Mary pregnant (with her consent?). This probably explains why Christian Churches have a long history of sexism and misogyny.
The only one that is claimed to have ever taken any physical and/or visible form is the ‘Son’ a.k.a Jesus Christ. Having supposedly been born to a virgin, the story goes that he grew up to become an itinerant Jew preaching largely socialist principles of social justice and equality. Not surprisingly, the Roman authorities had him down as a trouble maker and eventually lost patience with his impudent claims and had him executed. But all good stories need a happy ending, so he allegedly rose from the dead, only to disappear off the face of the Earth a few days later to join and ‘be one’ with Father and Spirit i.e. never to be seen again.
Many believe that he will come again, presumably by similar methods. So if your daughters ever get pregnant and claim to still be virgins, perhaps you shouldn’t be too hasty in jumping to the obvious conclusions.
c) Explain why Christians believe in life after death (8 marks)
The obvious reason is that it is because they have been indoctrinated to believe this from a very early age. Only by perpetuating this myth can people be persuaded that they will face some sort of post-death judgement of their lives; a judgement with eternal consequences no less!
This has been a classic tool of control by many, if not most, religions throughout history. We have yet to devise a better myth to subjugate people and keep them subservient. This deceit persuades people to put up with all manner of injustice and pain on the basis that, so long as they keep the faith, do as they are told and repent for their ill-deeds (and ill-thoughts even), then they can expect eternal joy/happiness/paradise/orgies etc in the ‘next life’.
The beauty of this con is that it can never be categorically disproved. As with Bertrand Russell’s ‘Cosmic Teapot’ analogy, it is a logical impossibility to prove that something that does not exist actually does not exist. This is the only plausible reason why this nonsense still persists.
d) ‘The Resurrection is the most important belief about Jesus’
Discuss this statement showing that you have considered more than one point of view. (15 marks)
To the believer, or perhaps more accurately, to the churches, this is probably the most important tenet as it reinforces all the ‘life after death’ nonsense just discussed. It also engenders the myth that this character was more than a mere mortal man, but was actually some form of superhero.
It is certainly one of the less trivial and trite ‘miracles’ credited to him; after all David Blaine and Dynamo (and the like) regularly trump tricks like walking on water and turning water into wine. Dynamo’s trick with the bucket pouring out ‘impossible’ quantities of fish would probably have had him deified back then too.
Jesus appears to have outdone Dynamo at levitation though. It was cute of Dynamo to levitate 40 odd meters above the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue in Rio, but Christ apparently levitated up into the clouds and was never seen again.
There are, of course, many other important beliefs about Jesus that can be argued to be more important, depending on your perspective. Many, for example, believe that the Jesus character is purely a work of fiction. They point to the lack of consistent, irrefutable evidence.
Others (of which I count myself) are prepared to believe that all the extraordinary legends and myths are loosely based on the life of a charismatic dude living in that era (a bit like Robin Hood).
a) State two roles of the Church in the local community (2 marks)
1. Church buildings act as ‘beacons’ in the local community to signify that there is a group of that particular sect in that community.
2. The church thereby creates divisions and degrees of segregation in those local communities by competing with all the other religious brands pitching up in that community for a congregation to fleece and manipulate.
b) Describe a Eucharist/Communion service (5 marks)
This is probably the most obscenely repulsive concept in the whole pantheon of repulsive concepts promoted by Christian churches, but especially the Roman Catholic church.
The service involves a priest uttering a few words (a magic spell) over a wafer and a goblet of wine. The RC church would have you believe that this spell, through the obsequiously grand sounding but impossible process they call ‘transubstantiation’, ACTUALLY turns the wafer into the ACTUAL flesh of the long dead Jesus, and the wine into ACTUAL blood (without actually looking, smelling and – thankfully – tasting like anything of the sort). Believers are then encouraged to cannibalistically consume this supposedly now raw meat and blood.
Slightly less deranged Christians hold that this service is, of course, merely symbolic rather than actual, as if that makes the whole concept significantly less hideous.
c) Explain why Easter is an important Christian festival (8 marks)
First and foremost it is a hugely important festival for the chocolate industry in many Christian countries. It produces a huge spike in their revenues and profits that can help sustain them through the rest of the year. It does of course focus on pagan symbols such as eggs and rabbits as nobody wants to munch on a chocolate crucifix with a dying man on it.
It can be argued that this emphasis on pagan symbols (seen in Xmas traditions too) shows a degree of admirable inclusivity and multiculturalism on the part of a Church that has a history of forcing itself upon folks in the aftermath of conquests.
Alternatively, it can be argued that this absurd mish-mash of symbols and ideas embodied in modern day Easter celebrations underlines the inherent nonsense we have been ‘sold’ throughout the Christian era.
To believers, it should be pointed out, Easter is supposed to be (from the Churches’ point of view at least) the most important festival in the calendar, as it acts as an annual reinforcement of the Holy Trinity and ‘life after death’ myths previously discussed.
d) ‘Christmas is a more important festival than Easter’
Discuss this statement showing that you have considered more than one point of view (15 marks)
To the vast majority, this is certainly true. The whole set of myths and traditions (again largely pagan) that have been built around Christmas make it a lot more fun than Easter overall.
In theory, Christians are supposed to rate Easter as more important (due to reasons just expounded by the controlling church hierarchies). However, despite the attraction of chocolate and hot cross buns, Christmas wins hands down in terms of joy and fun.
As is often key in the capitalist world we now live in, the marketing people have done a brilliant job of taking the naff story of three supposedly ‘Wise Men’ proffering useless luxury goods as gifts, and turning this in to the ultimate festival of excessive consumerism imaginable. On this basis, the economic importance of Christmas simply dwarfs that of Easter overall.