Because we have grown up and live in a society deeply rooted in Christianity it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to view it objectively. I sometimes wonder what anthropologists and psychologists from a completely different culture would make of it, or better still, from a different planet.
What roles do God, Jesus and Mary play for the people who believe in them?
One could spend a long time discussing what we actually mean by the word, "God", since everyone has their own understanding of the word, which leads to great confusion both through misunderstandings and falsely assumed understanding.
It occurs to me that God, Jesus and, particularly for Catholics, Mary, appeal to natural childish desires for wise, powerful and loving parents, which persist into adulthood. I remember the terrible disillusionment and disappointment when I first realised that my parents (particularly my father) were not infallible or perfect.
How wonderful it must be to believe in a God who is like the perfect father: someone who loves us, provides for us, protects us, can answer all our questions, and is infinitely wise and powerful.
Jesus has the huge advantage of being an actual person, someone who, although still perfect, of course, is much more approachable than God himself.
And Mary, the perfect, loving mother.
It is not difficult to understand why Christianity became so popular. It has great appeal to deep human desires.
Fundamental to Christianity is the notion of guilt and "sin". Jesus, it is claimed, died on the cross in order to atone for OUR sins.
How convenient: sin all you want in the knowledge that belief in Jesus will absolve you from them all.
First the Christian (concept of) God curses us for eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (i.e. becoming human); then he offers a means by which we can avoid taking the responsibility that goes with heightened awareness. He just wants us to believe in him and do what he tell us, like a tyrannical father who doesn't want his children to grow up and become independent of him, but always to be dependent on and subservient to him.
Abrahamic religions treat man as an animal (the way we treat dogs, for example), training us by means of punishment and reward to behave morally. Although the Abrahamic (concept of) God is often called "father", he behaves like a master.
Man's defining characteristic is his potential for heightened levels of awareness; it is what distinguishes us from all other animals (if any disagree, let them speak up!). We have the potential to know and to consider the consequences of our own behaviour. The next essential step is that we take responsibility for it.
The source of Christian guilt, I suggest, is a reluctance to face up to this responsibility. It is facilitated by a (concept of) God who offers us forgiveness - provided that we believe in and submit to him. He doesn't want us to grow up and become independent.
Would it not make more sense to have a (concept of) God who encourages us to face up to the responsibility we have for our own behaviour?
We need to face up to and take responsibility for what we are doing with our planet. Otherwise we will soon be extinct.