I'm not trying to argue that this is what Christ really believed. I'm also not arguing that this is the truth about Christ. I'm just arguing that, even if you assume a naturalistic interpretation of the world, if you're an atheist, you would still have to contend with Christ as the defining human type, rejecting nature's demands. I accept this isn't the theological view of Christians, but I'm speaking to atheists and naturalists, not to convinced Christians.
Also, your contention that Christ's act of facing death for all of creation to atone for man's wrongs is more courageous than the alternate interpretation, of Jesus as a human being rejecting the demands of nature by facing death... its a distinction without a difference. In both cases, Christ believed and behaved in precisely the same way, There is only one person called Christ, and he only lived one life, faced one death, believed one set of beliefs. Whether he was right or wrong changes nothing about his courage or sacrifice.
In fact, if you really think he "knew" he wasn't really dying, knew he was God and the pain would be short and quickly pass... in that kind of narrow interpretation, the sacrificial act loses all grandeur. Only as a genuinely incarnate human with human fears and human doubts does the sacrifice have significance. Suffering a few hours of scourging and hanging on a cross is really nothing if you know how the whole story ends. That would be a negation of the incarnation.
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