I recently read a book titled as above, only to realize that there is another, more recent book with an identical name written by Daniel Maguire. For the record, the book I got a hold of was the one by Lloyd George Geering, whose author has fully come to terms with the death of God and even argues–accurately, in my view–that the word God has come to lose all meaning. The book is refreshing in that it’s not about moderate Christian apologetics, and instead fully owns the maturity of secular thought that we have achieved and proposes the Good News that Christianity has transcended the need for God and has naturally evolved into contemporary secular humanism. The book closes on an Atheist Gospel note:
there is increasing personal freedom to think and to speak, the slaves are being freed, patriarchy is crumbling, homosexuals are free to come out, weapons of mass destruction are being widely condemned, racist attitudes are being overcome, equality of the sexes is being achieved, the disadvantaged are no longer being ignored, human worth and values are being increasingly honored.
The book advises that we see Christianity as an evolving civilization, and even argues that this shift towards a Christianity Without God is necessary, not just inevitable, for the full emancipation of man–a project which, he argues, advanced with Jesus but then became stagnant until the Renaissance.
The above mentioned progress, he argues, is the outcome of Christianity’s natural evolution into secularism, which was in part due to the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. God became human, and this divinized humanity so that ultimately humanity realized the irrelevance of Platonic, non-incarnated divinity. I disagree to some extent, in that he fails to recognize that this shift had begun not with Christianity but with Hellenistic Greek religion, which was seeing an increase in Man-Gods, like Dionysus and Orpheus, whose incarnation mysteries were not different from the Christian one. It just happened that the Emperor chose Christ, not Orpheus.
To his credit, we must concede that the Jesus of the Gospels did say that the sabbath was made for man, and not man made for the sabbath, and that truth would set us free. These humanist views indicate a move away from the prevailing legalism in the Jewish religion that Jesus would have followed.
The author gives at times too much credit to Christianity, and not enough credit to Epicureans, scientists, philosophers, and to the generations-long struggles of the masses against religious tyranny. It’s noble for Christianity to want to evolve into a liberating force, but is whatever remains of it still Christianity? And is it worthy of preservation? The author argues in the affirmative.
Having grown up Catholic, I personally have absolutely no desire to join a Christian Church ever again, even if a Humanist one. I also would find it difficult to attempt to weave meaning into my life using tools as inept as the linear narrative of history in the Bible, when everything we know about the nature of things tells us that time is cyclical, not linear. But I can relate to people who cherish certain things about how they grew up, and I think there is a strong case for Christian Humanism, and in fact even the rabid Richard Dawkins has spoken out in support of Atheists for Jesus.
Those atheists who miss the ritual, the ceremony, the marking of the seasons, and the communal aspects of Christianity, will probably derive good inspiration from this book. Also, those who still see Jesus as a good moral guide, or who in some way love or appreciate Jesus, the man, as a cultural hero of our civilization, will likely enjoy this book.
Ultimately, the true mystery of the cross was most accurately articulated, not by the pope or by any priest or minister, but by Nietzsche’s Zarathustra … to which philosopher Michel Onfray in his Traité d’athéologie adds: “Yes, God is dead, but we haven’t buried him, and we are still dealing with the stench of his body, which is everywhere“. THAT, in my view, is a much more relevant existential task for our age than the preservation of the feudal vestiges of an outdated religion. And for that, we should turn primarily to philosophy.