With the return of fall and the news that college atheist groups are growing, I was taken back to my own experience as an atheist with one of the campus preachers at my alma mater. He was, of course, declaiming the greatness of his god, Jesus. Instead of taking the atheistic, gods do not exist, route of debate, I challenged him on his claim that Jesus was so great. The argument has been refined over the intervening years, but the basis still holds: the Norse god Odin is much more impressive a figure than Jesus.
Creation. Here Odin takes the clear edge. Along with his brothers, Villi and Ve, Odin killed the giant Ymir. From his skin, Odin and his brothers made the Earth. From his blood, they made the oceans and the lakes. From other body parts, they made the mountains, the trees, and the rest of the world of humans. Jesus, on the other hand, had no role in creation. He did not even exist until well after the world began.
Sacrifice, the execution. Here, the Christian thinks his god has the edge. After all, they claim, Jesus died for us all. Sadly they are mistaken. While the death of Jesus is not pleasant, being beaten then nailed to a cross until he died later that day, this sacrifice is made even weaker considering the omniscience of the Christian god. He knows that after a day of suffering, he will rise again then spend the next period in the splendorous perfection of heaven. it hardly holds a candle to the two sacrifices that Odin endured. Odin's first sacrifice involved plucking his own eyeball from his head. His second sacrifice involved hanging himself from a tree for nine days and impaling himself with his own spear. The shear level of sacrifice undergone by this god is way beyond that of Jesus.
Sacrifice, the results. Odin's sacrifices gained a great deal, both for him and for his people. By plucking out his own eye, Odin was granted sight into the future. By hanging himself, he gained the secrets of the runes, bringing writing, poetry, and magic to the Norse people. On the surface, Jesus's sacrifice also gained an extraordinary amount, namely the redemption of all mankind (or, at least, all those who believe in him). However, this also portrays a major weakness of the Christian god. If he is all-powerful, why would a god need to sacrifice anything, let alone his own incarnate self, to himself to absolve mankind of transgressions against laws that he made? A god should be capable of simply forgiving transgressions against his own laws. By exposing this weakness of Christian logic, Jesus's sacrifice actually makes him look weaker.
Lessons for humanity. Both gods teach lessons that include concepts like providing hospitality to strangers in a hostile environment, clearly a good lesson. However, the basis of each belief system could not be more different. Jesus, especially in the re-telling of mainstream modern Christianity, taught a message of meekness and humbleness. Odin taught a life of boldness and assurance. Jesus's followers are servants. Odin's are warriors. What this world needs are people who are willing to stand up for what they think is right, not those who will fawn in front of a throne. Nowhere is this difference more profound than at the end of life. The ultimate reward of Christianity comes to those who bend their knee and beg forgiveness will gain reward. Odin's followers sang out:
Catlle die, kinsmen die / Every man is mortal
I know one thing that never dies / The dead man's reputation
While we know that neither god is real, and that these mythologies are just the creations of ignorant cultures, it can be interesting to compare them and others. And sometimes it is more fun to engage the theists on their own turf, rather than in the real world.