i used to be a great hater of christians. in my view, they were the morons who are holding us back.
that view has changed somewhat.
first, i don't believe in progress. all the basic ideas that will occur to a sentient being are known, and it is how we discover them - our personal truth - that makes change. change is a silly word for it, since the world is always changing, even if we do nothing. but, motion, or energy exchange, if you will. just like breathing.
next, i don't believe in a dualistic fantasy world in which "pure" spaces like heaven, hell, and heck, God exist. it doesn't make any sense. i believe this universe created itself and did a good job of it, and part of that success originates in its design that has no hackable symbolic layer, thus can never be corrupted in its most basic ways.
also, i don't believe anyone is watching over us, and i find that to be a dangerous assumption. we are in the driver's seat (thanks to jeff for this line) and i'm fine with that. the changes we make to our world have consequences, and we can destroy ourselves or better ourselves. in a modern time, sometimes, we have to be reminded that life itself can kill you and that it is probably a good thing that such ambiguity exists, as that way we stay in touch with the world as whole, where otherwise we might fall back into personal, solipsistic illusions - a symbolic layer of our own making (which can be unmade).
i also don't believe in personal immortality. something that is immortal animates me, and what i know of my consciousness isn't "me" any more than a computer "is" the programs it runs. i'm me because the vehicle for that pneuma and this body and the mind that grew within it know only my situation. my genetic past, mainly my parents but including the whole of my tribe, and my experiences while growing up, which were far from comprehensive. (in a modern time, we like to try to force standard experiences on people, but i prefer vive le difference! because i like diversity among individuals, since we all have strengths that may come in handy if aliens attack)
.^.-..^..-.^..|).__|-.^..|||..+..|||..^.-|__.(|..^.-..^..-.^.that being said...
there's many things i like about christianity.
for starters, let's debunk the word conservative. on a political level, it means something silly. on a personal level, it means valuing the basic things: good behavior, ethical living, effective contributions, self-discipline, intelligence, learning, family and friends and love. this has nothing to do with being a political conservative, which is more a case of some pseudo-rightists hijacking a useful name and using it to disguise their business dealings (the left, on the other hand, uses egalitarian flag-waving to disguise their business agenda in international finance - there are no good guys in modern politics).
i tend toward conservativism in the christian way. i like family values for myself and those around me. i'm not very much concerned with the actions of people in faraway places and the "rights" they may have. as far as i'm concerned, diversity means they can do it there, and i'll do what i need to here - and whichever one of us is closer to perceiving the eternal values will survive in greater fecundity. so far, most of the people i've seen who have embraced forms of perversity, self-abuse, abuse of others, wastefulness, sloth, etc. have met their own ends. i don't see this in a moral sense, as in "judgment has been passed on them." i mean, in the nihilistic sense, that if you poison your own fields you will starve, and if you live a lazy and abusive life you will miss out on creating the things you would need to live otherwise. there's a fair amount of my own experience in here, as i had to do it incorrectly in order to appreciate why i'd done it correctly in the past.
for example, i'm a relatively chaste person. i used to smoke a lot of marijuana and at some point in the future may do so again, but really my fundamental loves throughout my life have been learning, the outdoors and friends/family (even if parts of my own family are not people that i wish to deal with regularly). i like life and i think life is basically good. i don't believe it needs some magic changing, or some kind of morality that doesn't exist in nature, or even some vast perceptual shift to make it good. it is good. it is perfect. and i worship it.
i don't believe my values, even when i was at my most radical phase, were ever in conflict with traditional values. i may have had a certain amount of premarital sex, and smoked a lot of drug, and indulged in drink, and even committed theft and political vandalism. the majority of my actions fell within traditional values, and i don't believe any values system measures an individual by the extremes, but by the whole of the life, and the life-direction. my life-direction included hedonism but that's only one of the lives i've lived. it has also included sober study, natural contemplation, and a good amount of religious mysticism and hard work, including unpaid unnoticed unrewarded hard work for others. looking at the whole, i would say my life has been extremely traditional, in addition to "staying current" with behavioral norms as i went through the process of learning what i believe, questioning every assumption i've known and working from a few known truths to a large picture of truth. in that truth has led me to a life in which eternal values, including a lot of what we know now as "traditional values," have been and continue to be important. this does not mean i limit myself in any way to some rubric of behavior, but that with good values as my goals-guide, i ascertain my methods-guide dynamically.
if i had to have a god, it would be "nature" in the sense of nature-universe (the whole universe as a natural process) as exemplified by the forest; for more information, you can read the works of ralph waldo emerson and arthur schopenhauer, maybe including some side reading on nietzsche's "pragmatic idealism."
in this sense, however, i'm not that different from the enlightened christians i've read. meister eckhardt or william law would be good examples. i've also met many good people who were christian, and fallen in love with at least one christian woman. as in most things, in them there is a balance of truth.
in hinduism there is a belief that all religions have some truth in them, but not equally (nothing in this world is equal except for abstract numbers, which do not exist except in our minds). therefore you have to start with eternal values, and then go shopping among the religions for what conforms to those eternal values, rejecting the rest.
in christianity, i find a useful devotional nature; i reject its pity, morality, and egalitarian aspects. i reject its psychology of revenge. i reject its doctrinal conformity projected onto other human beings. i reject its international, and trans-tribal, nature. i reject is election of certain people as the chosen of god while ignoring the rest of us. and i reject, most of all, the idea that martyrdom is heroic. sometimes one must die for a task, but not by accepting death. that's morbid and diseased. i reject jesus christ, and i reject most of what is written in The Bible, including a good part borrowed from the ancient sumerian, buddhist, jewish and shinto faiths.
i embrace its nobility, its ethical rectitude, and its big beautiful churches and wonderful hymns. i embrace its social aspects, including its desire for community. i embrace its traditional valus, although for me this viewpoint has to go back for 10,000 years. i embrace its praise for relatively circumspect sexual behavior; i've found that mostly what "free love" does is create "free pain," free unwanted babies and STDs, and other confusions that aren't necessary. sex isn't that great. in fact, compared to good marijuana, it's pathetic, unless you're with someone you really care about. then i could do it all day - as well as doing other things with that person, such as loafing, learning, loving and producing spawn. family is continuous and sex is its mechanism, thus sex must be handled carefully. the same is true of drugs; when they are used with healthy values in mind, they are mindblowing and wonderful, but when used indiscriminately or incautiously, they are destructive. i embrace the self-discipline that christianity espouses regarding these two things. i embrace its love for the family. i embrace its tradition of learning, and monasticism. i embrace its stained glass windows and acts of ritual like communion.
i reject the fears many christians have of psychedelic substances, although i have some cautions about them as well, because for me the psychedelic experience is one entrance into the temple of truth. you can come in via any door, but every passageway connects, thus if you keep thinking, you will arrive at what truth you can know eventually. and continually.
i reject the fears many christians have of people like myself, who will not swear by the book or any specific doctrine; similarly, i reject the fears of certain political movements that follow similar lines. i see no reason to toe the line when the spirit is in order.
christianity would in my view benefit from further europeanization. when i first would attack it, i'd say witty things like "well the bible is an edit of an edit of an edit and has been modified by thousands of scholars over the years, so the real truth isn't in there," as if truth were something from another world with no precedent in this world. being older and wiser, i'm glad for the work of european scribes in turning a middle eastern religion into something more civilized (middle eastern religions tend to emphasize vengeance and revenge, coming from lands where trading created peoples who thus had no other culture in common but commerce). i'd like to see christianity get more europeanized, along the lines of what meister eckhardt, william law and ralph waldo emerson were doing.
i would like to see the ancient vedantic learning incorporated into the bible, including the full explanation for the doctrine of relativity.
egalitarianism is for people who lack self confidence and also do not trust the world. that psychology is the mindset of a passive sociopath and not a leader.
most christians, like most people, haven't a snowball's chance in hell of understanding what their religion is really about. i think a few spiritual concepts, and several behavioral ones, should be summarized into a one-page document for these people so they can find out definitively what they "should" be doing without getting lost in religion itself. i've seen far too many starry-eyed, deluded people, and ultimately their suffering and behavioral pattern is similar to that of a heroin addict. both can't get through the day without their dose, whether of positivity or opiate. that's deranged behavior.
like drugs, religion can be used if you approach it with good values. in my mind, experience, and philosophy (including history) are the only ways to discover good values, if they aren't alread bred into you by generation upon generation upon generation of people who discovered them and lived by them. if you live with good values, you can pass them onto your children, and eventually after years of selective breeding according to these values, your descendents will know them at a genetic level.
they will thus be closer to eternal values.
for me, christianity is a new religion; it is only about two millennia old. it is still undergoing its adolescence. where i once condemned the whole thing, i now seek to change it according to eternal values, as i change everything i encounter. there is one force that asserts value, and another that removes it; both are necessary. this is the essence of gnosticism (middle eastern quasi-vedantic hinduism) and is what emerson and schopenhauer both saw. this is part of eternal truth. we need night as much as we need day .