This is the basic question of the book is: "Is it possible to ransom any genuinely salvific ideas found in the major religions from their supernaturalist captivity, and what price do we have to pay for the ransom?" (p. 16)
Why do we need "salvific" ideas? What's there to be saved from? I've always felt I was a terrible candidate for Christian conversion, because I completely lack the sense of being a sinner. I've never felt any need for salvation.
But Johnston isn't talking about anything as simple as sinfulness. He's looking for a "fix" for
certain large-scale structural defects in human life that no amount of ordinary psychological adjustment and no degree of the resultant natural virtues of prudence, courage, moderation, just dealing, and so on, can adequately address or overcome. These large-scale structural defects include arbitrary and meaningless suffering, the decay of aging, untimely death, our profound ignorance of our condition, the destructiveness produced by our tendency to demand premium treatment for ourselves, and the vulnerability of everything we cherish to chance and to the massed power of states and other institutions. A truly religious or redeemed life is one in which these large-scale defects are somehow finally healed or addressed or overcome or rendered irrelevant. (p. 17)So--he's looking for a "fix" for all that, and it's going to be religious in a very broad sense, but free of supernaturalism. Stay tuned.