The Atheist Paradox: Christianity Is the Dominant Religion on the Planet. It’s Unbelievers Have the Most in Common With Christ
…To reread these primary Christian documents is to remind yourself how radically concerned the Gospels are with the excluded, the non-chosen people, the scum, the chavs.
A little while ago, I watched Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. I’d missed it on its original release in 1988, although I remembered news reports of the bother it caused, among certain groups of the devout, for its blasphemous portrayal of Christ’s dying dream on the cross — giving up his mission, marrying and having sex with Mary Magdalene, living to old age. Watching it today, the film seems very 1980s, in good and bad ways. But what struck me most was not its closing scenes. It was the vividness with which Scorsese generates a sense of the startlingnovelty of Christ’s ministry. This is surely at the heart of Christianity: that the world was one way, for thousands (science now says billions) of years, then a man was born who embodied the message thateverything is different now.
It so happened that, the week I watched the film, there was other news of bother among Christians. The BBC reported on plans by the Church of England to ordain female bishops. Some members of the Church are so outraged by this decision that they are planning to leave. Since none of those upset could be coaxed into saying ‘But women are inferior to men!’, at root their outrage was based upon the complaint ‘But this is not what we are used to!’ To say that something violates tradition is always, in the end, to denigrate it, to say it’s just not what we’re used to. And part of me thinks, fair enough: continuity and tradition are important props to help human subjectivity along its torturous path.
It seems to me that newness is one crucial idiom of Christianity that gets short shrift. So, consider this an atheist’s apology for Christianity