I'm reading Sam Harris' "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason." So far, I haven't come across anything I didn't already know, but that's because I've been over this territory quite a bit myself. I'm not an atheist, as he apparently claims to be, but I'm not a subscriber to any particular religion anymore either. I've worked my way through a couple of 'em, based largely on reason and study but also on 'getting real' about my own experience.
I had help. Francis Baur, the late Franciscan friar who taught theology's basics to all incoming students, insisted on applying historical critical method and any evidential sources from the sciences to the subject of our interest, namely, God, the Bible, church tradition and Jesus, not necessarily in that order. This was done to off-set the natural religious bias against science that is very common in religious literature and communities, and which is seen perhaps most clearly and publically today in the debate between creationists and evolutionists.
As soon as we got in the classroom, he demonstrated right away just how much faith we all place in science, in everything from driving our cars and flying in airplanes, to seeking modern medical care, enjoying media technology, and believing in the solar system. Some of the priestly hopefuls quickly transferred to other schools. My theory is that somehow their sense of identity and well-being was tied up in ignoring this split within themselves, and identifying their 'beliefs' one-sidedly with the religious pole of their thinking. Harris writes eloquently on the wedding of ignorance and knowledge in religious moderates. I think Francis Baur would agree, because he was tough, he had 'tough-love' for christianty. For myself, I evolved an understanding of the bible as a combination of mythology and legend. I love both of these, so I'm okay with that. In my view, myth and legend are primarily telling us something spiritual about ourselves, and their historic interest is secondary to that.
I've also been reading Edward F. Edinger's 'The Psyche in Antiquity' in two parts. The first part deals with the greek philosophers as our 'cultural ancestors', and gets into each one's most representative concepts as parts of our earliest mapping of consciousness in the West. His writing is terse and to the point, illuminating, and altogether quite wonderful. The fact that he can deal with all this material in two exceedingly slim volumes astonishes me. The second volume deals with 'Gnosticism and Early Christianity.'
Anyway, reading Edinger and Harris in tandem have supported a train of my own thought that's been developing over the last year or so, about the importance of having some kind of 'measure' to apply to one's religious beliefs, ideas, principles, etc, that arises outside the religious dogma itself. In the case of Christianity and the West, that would be Reason, which we acquired thanks to our late medieval rediscovery of the Greek philosophers. And the fact that Greek thinking is embedded in the New Testament, thanks to the letters of Paul.
Here are the relevant passages from Edinger that enlighten for me the origins of Christianity and the role of Greek philosophy in it right from the start: