It’s an amazing thing that religion has survived so long without a shred of evidence to back up its claims. I was thinking about the way religion survives – the exploitation of human hopes and fears – and it occurred to me that much of this is a matter of tone.
You can state point by point the claims of a religion, entirely accurately, and make the proponents of that religion uncomfortable by so doing. That is amazing. All you have to do is not bend over backwards to make the indefensible sound like it might be okay if you tilt your head and squint just so.
If I was still religious, I would probably explain the Christian mythology like this:
A loving, omniscient and omnipotent god created the universe, and it was perfect. A man and a woman were granted stewardship of the perfect Earth, and only had to follow one rule: Do not eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now, god had no desire for slaves, so he had granted the humans free will and thus they had the ability to disobey him. And this they did, eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was angry at them for their disobedience and cast them out of perfection. Their sin caused the earth to be less fruitful, caused the earth to be hard to plow and caused the animals to be set at odds with the people. They were cursed with hard work and painful and dangerous pregnancies and all their offspring after them. In addition they would all be doomed with death and sent to hell.
Until Jesus. Jesus is both god, and the son of god, born to a virgin girl. He, alone amongst all men is without sin and so could take upon himself the sins of all the world by his willing sacrifice for us. He died after performing many miracles of healing and going through many tribulations, including being rejected by those he came to save. This allows people to avoid hell, if they believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness.
As is, I would tend to explain the story like this:
The bible says that god created the universe and a perfect Earth, and god created man and woman to be curious. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was planted right where Adam and Eve would succumb to it, which god knew ahead of time, being omniscient. He then acted surprised when they walked into his setup, threw a pantomime of anger, and cursed them for being as he made them and acting as he made them act. He blamed this on them, of course. He cursed them and doomed them to an eternity of punishment called hell, (Hel actually being a concept stolen from the Greeks) which he made for the purpose.
He, being vain, still wanted to be loved, despite being an utter arse unworthy of the love of humankind. He sent himself to be his own scapegoat to sacrifice to himself, so that he would be able to forgive humankind for being how he made them, being constitutionally unable to forgive without a sacrifice. However, you have to accept his abuse and injustice to be worthy of being shielded by the scapegoat of Jesus, so you need to take onto yourself the ‘fault’ of Adam and Eve.
Now, obviously there is no evidence for such a story, no matter whether you are spinning it for tithes or if you are scrutinizing the story for the (im)moral beliefs of the writers. But pointing out that the “Good News” sounds really shady even if you believed in a god might be a good way to get people thinking.