Religions often seem rather complicated. There are the "sacred" texts, but other writings are often relevant too. Clergy study in schools devoted to religious study so they can learn far more about the intricacies their religion than most believers will ever have the opportunity to do. Some universities even have departments of theology or religious studies to provide advanced education in these complex systems of inquiry. And yet, it seems that the bulk of these examples are necessary primarily to formulate answers to the common objection that the core doctrine of the religion simply falls apart under scrutiny.
How hard would it be to boil a complicated religion down to the core message, the very heart of the faith? Take Christianity for example and ask yourself whether we cannot easily strip away the apologetics and arrive at the crucial essence to which legions of believers are attracted. I submit that it might look a lot like the following:
There is an all-powerful, all-knowing, and loving god who exists on a supernatural plane outside of natural time and space. This god created everything around us and remains deeply concerned with human affairs. We know of him because he inspired several humans to write a book about him and what he wants of us.
All humans are sinners. If you have ever done anything you shouldn't have (according to rules contained in the Christian bible), you are a sinner. Since we have all broken at least a couple of these rules, we're all sinners. Sinners deserve punishment of the worst kind, and the Christian god is eager to inflict them. What this god has in mind is torturing your soul in the worst possible ways for eternity once you die in this world.
Fortunately, there is a way you can earn the forgiveness of this god and escape eternal punishment. In fact, this god sacrificed his own son to show you how to do this. You see, he sent his son to our world a couple thousand years ago so that he could be brutally killed and then revived as a spirit to appear to a few people before returning to the supernatural world. All of this was done so that the son could show us the way to escape punishment and earn the reward of spiritual immortality.
The son's "good news" was that the Christian god will forgive your sins and grant your spirit eternal life on a supernatural plane after death in exchange for believing in him and his son. Of course, it is also a good idea to demonstrate the sincerity of your belief by loudly proclaiming it whenever you can and by attempting to get others to believe it too. If they resist, simply recognize that you are trying to do them a favor.
Tags: religion, Christianity, theology, faith, belief, Christian, god