This is in response to a lot of questions Andrew had about whether Christianity makes sense or is worthy of concern.(The challenge was to EILI5, I suppose this is as simple as I can make it for now.) I am coming at this in an admittedly unorthodox way. I don’t know that I believe in a personal God, or even really know what that could mean, so setting aside this fundamental Christian doctrine, i.e. whether God is either personal or ethical. I will try to put the other rudiments of Christianity in a way that would make sense to the average five-year-old (or 35-year-old) deist, atheist, or pagan.
Pascal’s thought: “The sages who have said there is only one God . . . have seen by the light of nature that if there be a true religion on earth, the course of all things must tend to it as to a center. The whole course of things must have for its object the establishment and the greatness of religion. Men must have within them feelings suited to what religion teaches us. And, finally, religion must so be the object and center to which all things tend, that whoever knows the principles of religion can give an explanation both of the whole nature of man in particular, and of the whole course of the world in general.
And on this ground [atheists] take occasion to revile the Christian religion, because they misunderstand it. They imagine that it consists simply in the worship of a God considered as great, powerful, and eternal; which is strictly deism, almost as far removed from the Christian religion as atheism, which is its exact opposite. And thence they conclude that this religion is not true, because they do not see that all things concur to the establishment of this point, that God does not manifest Himself to men with all the evidence which He could show.
But let them conclude what they will against deism, they will conclude nothing against the Christian religion, which properly consists in the mystery of the Redeemer, who, uniting in Himself the two natures, human and divine, has redeemed men from the corruption of sin in order to reconcile them in His divine person to God.
The Christian religion, then, teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it. The knowledge of only one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.
And, as it is alike necessary to man to know these two points, so is it alike merciful of God to have made us know them. The Christian religion does this; it is in this that it consists.”
My thought: A peculiar aspect of Mormonism and many fundamentalist Christian faiths is the refusal to accept the theory of evolution as a viable explanation of the origin of human nature. What evolutionary biology tells us about human nature is that it is our nature to be evil, to oppose God, and oppose the Law. This is a truth that is very Christian, but something that has been denied vehemently since Plato. Most Mormons are very much with Plato on this point.
If Mormons were able to embrace evolutionary biology more completely I think they might come closer to understanding original sin, and then recognize the reality of the escape from original sin.