Of the various paths one must be willing to take in order to end up at Christianity, I find one more puzzling than the others. What do I mean by the paths one must take to arrive at Christianity? I am referring to the various "leaps of faith" one must take to reach something approximating what modern Christians claim to believe. I see three central paths, which must be traveled in order (i.e., the first is foundational to the second; the first and second are foundational to the third).
- Some sort of god exists.
- The sort of god that exists is personally interested and involved in the affairs of humanity at the present time.
- Jesus lived, died, and returned from the dead, all for you.
The first path is the theistic belief claim (i.e., some sort of god exists). I do not accept this claim because there is insufficient evidence to support it, and I am not willing to commit faith (i.e., to believe something for which evidence is not sufficient to support it). In fact, I see absolutely nothing to gain from accepting this particular claim. It is simply unnecessary.
One could certainly accept the first path but not the second and third. This would probably look something like deism. Someone could posit a creator god that is now dead, absent, or uninterested in human affairs. As I have stated, I do not see any benefits from holding such a position, but it would be less of a stretch than the other two assertions.
A Personal God
The second path, belief in a personal god that is currently active in the affairs of humans, has always reminded me of ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Like these early civilizations, modern Christians seem to need to create their god in their own image. Their bible describes their god as having human emotions (e.g., jealousy) and as repeatedly intervening in Middle East. Like the first path, I see no evidence to support this claim. Unlike the first path, I believe there is some evidence to contract it (e.g., the failure of well-designed studies to support the efficacy of prayer).
One could accept the first two paths and reject the third. However, one could not do so and still be considered a Christian by any stretch of the imagination.
It is the third path I have always found the least plausible and most bizarre. The notion that an omnipotent god involved in human affairs would find it necessary to create and martyr a sort of demigod in order to provide humans with "salvation" for our "original sin" ranks right up there for me with Mitt Romney's belief in a planet Kolob. In fact, I daresay I find it even less likely.
It is not enough for the Christian to believe in a historical Jesus figure. The Christian must also believe in original sin, resurrection, and salvation. The degree to which Christian apologetics is willing to distort and twist reality to make this seem something other than hopelessly absurd pushes the limits of my comprehension. Christian after Christian has told me that they do not spend much time thinking about such things. I can see why!