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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

What is a "Christian-Atheist"?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (26784points) September 2nd, 2010

Someone that I know was talking about a book they are reading by the same title. I googled it, but I still don’t understand. The information that I was finding seemed conflicting. The book says “Believing in God But Living As If He Doesn’t Exist”, but somewhere else I read that it means following Jesus’ teachings while rejecting the existence of god.


I feel incredibly stupid, I can’t wrap my head around this at all.

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27 Answers

syz's avatar

Uhhhh, it’s a title for someone who doesn’t know what “contradictory” means?

From your last sentence, I would infer that it means someone who lives a moral life for the sake of living a moral life, regardless of a “reward” at the end of that life (perhaps by using the theoretical “teachings” of Jesus as a guideline). As both an atheist and a good person, if that’s accurate, then I find it highly offensive. I can assure you that I can live a moral life without having the tag of “Christian” attached to me.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@syz I guess that is part of my question, also. As an atheist, I can’t see why adding “Christian” to the title makes it any better or any worse. If you are just a non-believer leading a decent life, why call it anything at all?
Are people actually identifying with this label? Like “Hi, my name is Neffie and I’m a Christian-Atheist.” ??

I find this whole thing to be really baffling. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.

syz's avatar

My guess would be that it’s a hook to get people to buy/read the book. And frankly, if you don’t have the sense to figure out how to be a good person on your own, if you have to make a point of using Christian tenets to do so, then you’re not bright enough to write a book that I want to read.

muppetish's avatar

“but somewhere else I read that it means following Jesus’ teachings while rejecting the existence of god.” – Maybe a “Christian-Atheist” does just that? They follow the Beatitudes because they find they are good morals to live by, but reject the idea that Christ exists. Sort of like following the meditation principles of Buddhism without being Buddhist or agreeing with the Hindu principle that killing a living creature is wrong without accepting other religious principles central to the religion.

It’s a pretty misleading name no matter how you slice it.

zen_'s avatar

I see no problem or contradiction with the term; people can consider themselves whatever they want. If someone is born Jewish, and is respectful of the religion/culture/race whatever you consider it – or they, more importantly, and happen to not believe in God – well they are Jewish-Atheist.

So can’t ine be Christian-Atheist?

Blackberry's avatar

A liar, delusional, or ignorant person.

They most likely meant what the other answers stated, but just used an inaccurate label.

harple's avatar

It could possibly be people who were brought up Christian as children – taken to church regularly etc – and so learnt their morals from a Christian standpoint, but as adults don’t actually believe in God. They’re atheists, but their background is in Christianity? As @zen_ said, really.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@zen_ okay, that makes some sense. I was just really struggling to understand it. That helps, though.

Rarebear's avatar

@zen_ is right. I’m a Jewish atheist, and have many friends who are the same. But truth be told, I haven’t ever met a Christian atheist, but I suppose there’s someone out there who is.

Blackberry's avatar

@zen_ I’m confused, though. Why do we not call ourselves “Creole Atheists”, or “Arab Atheists” etc. If you’re an atheist, you’re an atheist, if you’re a christian, you’re a christian, right? I’m not ‘challenging’ you, I just want some clarification.

zen_'s avatar

Here’s my clarification, despite your first post which was just plain dumb and snide (A liar, delusional, or ignorant person); I don’t know to whom she is referring, or why they claim that, but I don’t challenge how someone wishes to present themselves – especially if I can’t hear them explain/defend it.

What’s unclear about my example, or @Rarebear ‘s – who actually said she is one? If you call yourself Black/African American or whatever is PC nowadays (I’m neither Black nor American and am out of touch with it) – who’s to tell you not to? F them if they do.

I’m Jewish by culture and background, and I am not an atheist in that I don’t know whether there is a God, but I don’t feel like pissing him off if he exists. So I’m a Jewish Undecided. If I were an Atheist, I’d be a God-damn Jewish Atheist – and F@ck anyone who says otherwise – it aint their beeswax.

Jewish/Christian/Muslim – whatever – Atheist. One’s the background, or religion by their own definition, the other is that they don’t believe in God. No brainer here.


Blackberry's avatar

@zen_ I still don’t get it, but thanks for replying :)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I disagree that it’s a no brainer. I was genuinely have trouble understanding the concept, and to say it the way that you did makes it seem like you believe the question was stupid?

Rarebear's avatar

@zen_ I’m a boy
@Blackberry Let me try to explain by relating a story from this website

Rabbi Shammai was an engineer, known for the strictness of his views. The Talmud tells that a gentile came to Shammai saying that he would convert to Judaism if Shammai could teach him the whole Torah in the time that he could stand on one foot. Shammai drove him away with a builder’s measuring stick! Hillel, on the other hand, converted the gentile by telling him, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”

Reading that story above, nowhere do you see the word “God.” Judaism at its core is a humanistic religion. You can be theist, agnostic, religious, or secular and that’s fine. But if you can’t not be a humanist.

zen_'s avatar

I meant that after explaining it twice, and most of the people here agreeing with me and adding their own, it became a no-brainer. There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.

The s added to the he was a typo. Sorry rare.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

The answer I received from someone who read the book in question said that it was about people that believe in Jesus and God, but live as if they don’t. Basically hypocrisy within the church.

So it appears that there are two definitions. Which explains why I was getting two different answers from google.

Blackberry's avatar

@Rarebear Ok that makes sense, but then why wouldn’t we just use the label Christian/Jewish/Black/Secular Humanist?

Well, zen is right, people can call themselves whatever they want, but it just seems inaccurate, or maybe unnecessary. Isn’t it like the same reason why we don’t label each other “Black/White American”, or “Asian/Hungarian Buddhist” etc. I could call myself a ‘Black Liberal Atheist Sailor American Humanist’...but I would rather shorten it, or use whatever label I needed depending on the conversation/topic.

I don’t have a problem with the labels, I was just trying to understand them.

TexasDude's avatar

Maybe they mean they are a “cultural Christian?”

It’s like the equivalent of “cultural Jews,” people who consider themselves to have some type of Jewish heritage, but aren’t followers of the Jewish religion.

muppetish's avatar

Does part of the confusion here stem from the definition of atheism? Because I conceptualize atheism as “I do not believe in God or any other gods” and not “I reject all religion”. The two tend to go hand in hand, but not always. The Christian-Atheist or Jewish-Atheist identifies with what could have been their previous religious perspective or a newly adopted one in which they relate to certain practices in the religion while still maintaining that a Creator does not exist.

I have many friends who are Buddhist and by definition they are atheists. Referring to themselves as Buddhist-Atheists would sound a bit redundant, but it’s only a label.

This is why I just say I am non-religious. Semantics can get so messy.

Rarebear's avatar

@Blackberry Sometimes I do call myself a Jewish secular humanist. But you can be a secular humanist and a theist.

Blackberry's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie “people that believe in Jesus and God, but live as if they don’t”

Yes, that is why I used the term ignorant (although I should have said ‘confused’), if you are half-assing the religion, why lie to yourself? Either follow it, don’t follow it, or stay agnostic if you don’t know what you really believe yet.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@muppetish yes, that seems to fit one of the definitions. A person that adheres to the teachings of Jesus and traditions of the church, but does not believe in god.

And apparently the book’s definition is one who believes in both Jesus and god, but does not adhere to the teachings. Hypocrisy.

@Blackberry I don’t really care what anyone wants to call themselves. I had just never heard this term before, and it struck me as conflicting. Maybe it isn’t, but I didn’t understand it.

Blackberry's avatar

@muppetish Semantics…that was the word I was looking for.’s all just wording and it doesn’t matter.

muppetish's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie I can never wrap my head around living a double-life like that. How can you believe in something and not practice it? If nothing else, it makes the term more confusing though. “False-Christian” would make more sense than “Christian-Atheist” (which would be contradictory in this context), but that’s just my perspective.

@Blackberry Glad to provide the term :)

Blackberry's avatar

@Rarebear Indeed. There are various branches of humanism.

ratboy's avatar

From the blurb on Amazon:

‘The more I looked, the more I found Christian Atheists everywhere.’ Former Christian Atheist Craig Groeschel knows his subject all too well. After over a decade of successful ministry, he had to make a painful self admission: although he believed in God, he was leading his church like God didn’t exist…. Christians and Christian Atheists everywhere will be nodding their heads as they are challenged to take their own honest moment and ask the question: am I putting my whole faith in God but still living as if everything was up to me?

downtide's avatar

I think most British people would fall into this category. If you ask a Brit what their religion is, most will say “Church of England.” If you ask the same people if they believe in God, the majority will say no.

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