Oh, gosh. I have so much to talk about with you I don’t know where to start. First, I believe that the Jesus of the Bible, whether you accept Him as God, as man, or as legend, is one heck of a cool dude. If He wasn’t divine, then at least He was the most open-minded person in history that I know of, and His wisdom transcended that of the scholars because it was borne of true Love. I am not particularly concerned about what appear to be literal contradictions because I believe the Bible calls us to a deeper relationship with the Divine, brought about by our own personal transformation.
One problem that I think many intelligent people have had with the Church is that her “apophatic” tradition is largely ignored and largely relegated to contemplative monastic circles while only the “kataphatic” tradition seems to be on the front life. I suspect there are many reasons, not the least of which is that most people are not, in fact, comfortable with their experts saying “I don’t know.” (After all, the apophatic tradition focuses on the mystery of God, not what we think we know about God.) This is rather puzzling because the Catechism talks about three forms of prayer: vocal, meditative, and contemplative, and clearly states that the contemplative is the type of prayer that brings us to true union with God. Funny thing is most Catholics have never even heard of contemplative prayer. Many saints followed in the apophatic tradition, but it just never became mainstream for diocesan priests or the laity. A classic text in that tradition is the Cloud of the Unknowing, written by an anonymous 14th century author.
At the risk of blowing any credibility I might have with other Catholics, I think you would thoroughly enjoy some of the lectures of Alan Watts, a philosopher who once was an Anglican priest, then a Buddhist guru, then became kind of a multi-religios speaker who specialized in lecturing westerners about eastern thought. He talks about a “religion of no religion” among other things. He also paints a dreadful charicature of Jesus – as promoted by many Christian religions – and one that is incredibly better. He also speaks a great deal about how the language one speaks shapes the way we think, clear back from the days of Adam. He used to have a regular radio program, of which a number of MP3 files are around.
Also I highly recommend you read the book “My Search for Absolutes” by (non-Catholic) theologian Paul Tillich; the first chapter is optional. He starts by examining whether there is any such of a thing as an absolute in human thought, and concludes there must be in order to have bases for conversations. Then he examines absolutes in morality, finding “don’t use me as a means” as the overall principle. In religion, he finds the absolute concept of “love one another.” This description doesn’t do the book justice, but he does a great job of discussing how a religion must not point to itself but to the Absolute. Sometimes I think that some Catholics, fueled in part by the “infallibility” claim, tend to regard the Church as the Absolute itself, forgetting that the Church is but a pointer to the Absolute. The Church is there to bring God to us; she is not God herself.
By now all the good Catholics are screaming, “NO! Don’t go telling this guy to read non-Catholic philosophy!” To them, I say what have we lost? David doesn’t believe in Christianity now anyway, so why not give him some good comparative religion information? Besides, if one is always inside the Catholic box, how does one really know what that box looks like? Like a fish contemplating its own water, I never really saw the beauty of Catholicism until I stepped away from it and looked at it from other perspectives. I see the ugliness of it, too, but that’s the way it goes when you have an institution run by human beings. If it had not been for non-Catholics, I would have been driven away from the Catholic church long ago and never come back, so back off.