Having criticized the ‘new atheists’ I should offer the caution that the confusion is in part the result of the behavior of Christians. Christians don’t understand the strange muddle of their theological beliefs, and the rejection we see now is based on a kind of frustrated anger that won’t tolerate any more double talk or faith demands on, say, the doctrine of resurrection. The answer to the question for me is, I wasn’t there. period. I can’t resolve that theological issue, but I can’t see how Christians are going to maintain the foundation of Christianity in a world of people trained in science. That said, I never underestimate the Christian combination. It is genuinely weird and full of surprises. It is a tour de force of beating the odds with a strange set of doctrines that should have crippled it at the start. Theological confusions or not, it has/had a genuine spiritual basis: this religion took over the Roman Empire, and that wasn’t just some kind of random result. So if that is true, and if it is true that the doctrine of resurrection is unsound, then it follows that the spiritual powers behind Christian expansion knew the doctrine was false, but used it anyway. How could anyone take such a chance and get away with it? That’s the real puzzle of Christianity. The spiritual powers driving early Christianity bet the limit against the house with an impossible doctrine and won. I give up, I don’t understand this. Obviously this was a near con emerging to fuel a religion based on miracles. But it was a sincere belief system for its new adherents. But it was an amazing risk. Every other Roman in the forum protested this was madness, a savior risen from the dead, nope. But I am not required to have faith here. The modern mind will suffer fatigue with this issue and find religious allegiance increasingly hard, as one simply drifts away.
Another simpler answer, hardly revolutionary, here is that the doctrine is a confusion interpolated by confused converts much later. The experience of the ‘resurrection’ was a confusion created by people who could understand what must have been the experience of a ‘dead’ person in something like the Tibetan Bardo. They sensed the presence of something, could it be the spirit of Jesus. That’s quite different, and at least plausible. The resurrection thus was nothing of the kind but the experience of feeling the spirit of the dead in a dead human. It happens all the time: people sense they are interacting with ghosts. But the fact remains Christians will never accept this and always insist on the most impossible interpretation here. This mystery is the signature of a strange set of spiritual beings into whose company the ‘risen’ Jesus entered immediately, the term ‘Christ’ becoming the name for this strange phenomenon. This may be rubbish, but the confusion here is on both sides. A final question here is, what happened to the body, then. In India, gurus there by and large refuse to truck with this question of the Jesus drama. Please note. The buddhas are too polite, but one wasn’t. The buddha figure Rajneesh always insisted that Jesus was drugged and didn’t die on the cross, and departed to India the next day. Well, we have dog-chasing-its-tale three times round and at the end we still don’t know. I think that this worked in the ages now past, but is starting to not work, and people like the new atheists are reacting in revulsion, no longer willing to allow this Escher diagram full reign in limited brain space.
We should note that Islam very quietly but deliberately assessed the history of Christianity here and tried to rescue the issues of the religion from confusion, making sure to honor the legacy of Christianity (and Judaism) as kin religions in the emergence of monotheism.
I think that Christians need to figure their position. The covered wagon is surrounded by a ring of Indians, secularists, and their eroded position still maintains a potential viability. But exit strategy here is unclear, and the probable endgame will likely be the sudden dissolution of the whole game, a very unnerving result.
In LFM, the book on a new communism, I have suggested something like the ‘generalized format’ of Christianity. That format, with almost no content, is enough to be a continuation of Christianity for a new future. More on that some other time.
One of the strangest things about Judaism and Christianity is the way fake miracles are invented as myths, while the real miracle is missed. That clue gives a way out and an ‘exodus’ to a future of religion/secularism that can be a dignified endgame to the spectacular rescue vehicle that overtook the Roman Empire. It was that feat of the stupendous that is the real wonder of Judeo-Christianity, not the concoctions of miracle mongering that we now see as diminishing the dignity of a formation that was ultimately able to lead ancient civilizations beyond, or almost beyond, the institution of slavery. The final victory of abolition was based on a millennial reorganization of spiritual/secular society that led beyond that ancient curse.
In any case, the idea of a generalized format Christianity, not really developed, is a way to see beyond Christian theology to the powerful historical dynamic of that religion. We see a way that contradictory legacies, from buddhism, to Judeo-Christianity, to Islam can navigate into a future form of social existence, as postcapitalism. Secular atheists are going to be there too. Even in this form the result could be a bit turbulent. But it can work. We have discussed over at Gurdjieff Con the way neo-buddhism is already the case in a new formation for a new era in the now passing legacy of the Osho/Rajneesh figure. A useful study guide and and a way to mediate the larger traditions of antiquity.
The moral here is that a new left needs to become adept in the anthropology of the religions of an earlier era. It is worth studying the history of Islam to see an earlier solution to this problem, obscure to us now, viz. in the strange appearance of a sufistic interior religion. That example is very hard to understand, but it shows the potential.
Moral, modern secularists show undoubtedly try to take the lead in the realization of modernity, but should never underestimate the legacies of the Axial Age.