Getting the gist of what Christianity is about is, I think, often difficult for contemporary secularists.
To really get what Christianity is about on a psychological level – to make it seem more real – and why people have been excited about it at various points, it helps to bring in an analogy.
Consider the saying in Christianity that the Christ (i.e., the chosen one of God, historically Jesus of Nazareth, but understood more generally as the living Christ, an on-going link between humans and the divine) is the ‘way, the truth, and the life’. When I first heard this, it just sounded strange – I didn’t know what to make of it.
Psychologically, though, the idea of the Christ and what this is supposed to mean can be, to some extent perhaps, captured in contemporary streams of thought by thinking about science.
Some people are excited about science (or real science) because they believe it represents the way to various good things, and in particular leads to truth and life (health and perhaps even something like immortality). The potential for good, truth, and life in science is – in a nutshell – what makes people excited about it.
So, the idea of what science represents to many contemporaries can be used as an analogy for what Christianity represents or should represent – the intended psychological sense of Christianity.
Christianity is centrally the idea of a possible future – what Christians call ‘bringing about the Kingdom of God’, which means a society that is very good (God = the Good). This society involves fully vigourous, healthful life in a highly functioning society.
A significant part of the excitement over science is that it is a tool that can help to bring about something that in ways is similar to this picture.
According to Christianity, this society doesn’t just happen, rather it is created in part by our actions (guided by God which is mediated by the Christ), and which historically kicks off to an extent with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (just as science really gets started during a particular time in history).
Hence, according to Christianity we are now in a new era (A.D., or anno domini, ‘year of our Lord’, which is to say of the Christ).
The difference is that secularists often think this sort of picture can be brought about through science simple. Christianity, on the other hand, thinks that science is a possible and actual vehicle for bringing this about, but where the ultimate cause is properly understood to be God, mediated by the Christ.
So, just as it is a popular idea that science is the way to good things, the truth, and potentially the life (health, and so on), so the living Christ is the way to good things (the Good, or God), the truth, and the life.
That’s the idea, anyway, and can help get one closer to understanding what Christianity is about.