During the episode I made a comment about the seeming weirdness of Christianity that I feel it would be helpful for my thinking to try to elaborate.
I've said in several posts here that I think that the new atheist movement is primarily political: it's not about advancing new arguments to philosophers, but about shifting the tide of opinion so that, for instance, an atheist could have some shot at winning an election in this country.
In the heat of conversation on the episode, I articulated something like this by saying that all I want is for Christianity to be acknowledged as, on the face of it, really weird. I'm wondering now whether I actually believe that and whether it makes any sense as a goal.
Don't get me wrong: I do think some of the main tenets of Christianity are pretty strange-sounding, no question. "Jesus died for our sins." That doctrine (though of course it can be and is explained in many ways) seems to imply:
1. A strong view of the moral character of actions, i.e. that they somehow accumulate like in a ledger, either merely in God's mind or staining our actual soul.
2. The idea that this sin is somehow transferable: someone else can work off my debt. This strikes me as running counter to the moral intuitions that go with #1, much like the doctrine (not at issue here, but certainly present in Christianity through the related doctrine of "original sin") that sin is inheritable.
3. The paradoxical phenomena of Jesus (a manifestation of immortal God) dying; and yet he rises from the dead, not because he's immortal qua God but through a miracle that provides a loophole so that the debt in #2 is paid even though he's not really dead any more... except that he ascended to heaven, where he'd be if he was dead regardless, so he apparently rose for our sakes as well...
I'm not saying that all this can't be explained, but man, it sure does require explanation, and it doesn't seem to me a doctrine that would have immediate appeal to someone not already raised in a culture steeped in this lore (who is also otherwise well educated, though I realize that stipulation is a bit problematic).
OK, so I've got this opinion stated above, and despite any attempts at self-deprecation, I'm an opinionated person, which means I think this is a legitimate observation (I wouldn't voice it if I didn't), and I think that others should recognize it to be so, even Christians themselves. I expect a thoughtful Christian to say, like Schleiermacher, "Hey, I know this all sounds crazy, but really there's a way of interpreting this that is not contrary to science or common sense, and in fact is very fruitful lots of ways..." What this amounts to, though, on Schleiermacher's part, is voluntary political marginalization.
It's like the ambivalence we P.E.L. podcasters sometimes exhibit about philosophy: yes, thinking about whether this chair is really here or about the foundations of arithmetic is pretty weird and esoteric, and we surely wouldn't wish it on everyone, but it's fun and rewarding to us, and maybe to you too, so check it out, eh? ...But then in other moods, we join Socrates in saying that the unexamined life isn't worth living, that philosophy should be a mandatory part of education, that philosophers should have a greater role in setting the terms of our political debates, if not actually ruling a la Plato's Republic. ...And of course, when a philosopher feels this way, the wish and expectation is again that if people were trained in critical thinking, surely they would see things my way, or at least in ways that strike me as less embarrassing.
Schleiermacher, in his First Speech, addressed in his "cultural despisers" something akin to what I've identified here as standing midway between a philosophical and a political sentiment:
Those of you who are accustomed to regard religion simply as a malady of the soul, usually cherish the idea that if the evil is not to be quite subdued, it is at least more endurable, so long as it only infects individuals here and there. On the other hand, the common danger is increased and everything put in jeopardy by too close association, among the patients. So long as they are isolated, judicious treatment, due precautions against infection and a healthy spiritual atmosphere may allay the paroxysms and weaken, if they do not destroy, the virus, but in the other case the only remedy to be relied on is the curative influence of nature. The evil would be accompanied by the most dangerous symptoms and be far more deadly being nursed and heightened by the proximity of the infected. Even a few would then poison the whole atmosphere; the soundest bodies would be infected; all the canals in which the processes of life are carried on would be destroyed; all juices would be decomposed; and, after undergoing such a feverish delirium, the healthy spiritual life and working of whole generations and peoples would be irrecoverably ruined. Hence your opposition to the church, to every institution meant for the communication of religion is always more violent than your opposition to religion itself, and priests, as the supports and specially active members of such institutions are for you the most hated among men.
So yes, reading S. is causing me to reflect on whether I'm being at all fair in harboring such sentiments; this inevitably partial self-examination is the most I can promise at this time.
P.S. the fish shoes image came from here, though I can't tell from a web search where the collection of weird shoes shown there originated at that site or who's responsible for them.