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Is It Possible For An Atheist To Be A Christian?


NORM
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We've danced around this issue throughout many of the threads in the Debate and Dialogue Forum.

 

Time to call the question!

 

It is possible to be a Jew and not believe in a deity. I know several. This is not something that is widely advertised, of course, but it is no secret that Judaism is about what one does, not what one believes, the Hasidim notwithstanding (they do not represent the majority).

 

Even many Theistic Jews will tell you that they no longer believe in the coming Moshiac (Messiah in Christian terminology). This worldview emerged shortly after the Shoah. Many figured that if the Moshiac would not come to save his people from such horrendous persecution, then either the promises of G-d were mythology or worse; G-d had abandoned them.

 

It took real chutzpah to evolve a third interpretation: G-d wants us to be responsible for our own salvation! No Deity required.

 

This became the impetus to stress good works in society over obsession with G-d's promises of a land flowing with milk and honey that Jews could call their own. Zionists, of course, believe this land DOES exist; and is modern, secular Israel. Oy! Some Promised Land!

 

So, is this same evolution possible in the Christian world?

 

Is it enough to emulate the words and actions of Jesus? Do those words command a belief in the supernatural deity as an a priori position to hold in order to claim the mantle of Christianity? Should the Bible be the sole (infallible?) source of knowledge on the subject?

 

Can an atheist be a Christian?

 

NORM

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So, is this same evolution possible in the Christian world?

I think it has happened for many.

 

Is it enough to emulate the words and actions of Jesus?

I think I know which words you will emulate so I will say yes.

 

Do those words command a belief in the supernatural deity as an a priori position to hold in order to claim the mantle of Christianity

There are atheists and non-theists who are Christian - but one must always ask just what kind of G_d are we not believing in? Is ground of being sufficiently non-theistic to be a negative answer to the question?

 

Is suggesting that evolution has brought us to the point where love and compassion as our highest value and as a reuslt it is appropriate to say that G_d is love - is it sufficient to say that the G_d of love is the result of evolution not the cause of it?

 

Dutch

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I recall Marcus Borg talking about the differing paradigms through which we can view Jesus. He made the distinction between the pre and post easter Jesus saying that he was human pre easter, and divine post easter. This is how he explains some of the additions to Mark's Gospel that we have in the other Synoptic Gospels where a faith community has added to the base story to show how it feels about Jesus, in it's own context, some decades after his death. The later Gospels seem more post easter focussed, some of which is transposed into their pre easter narrative as a consequence.

 

Those around Jesus were obviously exposed to the man, a very human character, enlightened, with huge charisma and something about him which made his followers down tools and leave their families, home, work etc to be with him. I suppose in this context it was only a matter of time before they came to think of him being closer to G_d than they were, but he was still human. Once he was dead, the divine aspect in the Christian story really starts to grow wings.

 

An atheist might simply identify with the pre easter Jesus as an enlightened individual who was a wise moral teacher, able to supress his ego and put others before himself.

 

Having said that, I think Borg may have also stated that this version of Jesus is fine, but shallow.

 

Personally I think a person can be a follower of Jesus' teachings as a humanist; and if they follow Jesus then I suppose they can call themselves Christian, if that is what they want to be known as. What is in a label anyway?

 

Paul

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I think that someone who sincerely identifies themself as a Christian is a Christian. This would almost certainly entail a theology or philosophy that centers on Jesus and recognition of the Bible as the primary religious text.

 

I don't think an analogy with Judaism is useful. Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity. People can not only be atheists but anti-religious as well and remain Jewish. And, the ethnicity has a genetic basis. This is not the case for Christians.

 

Some years ago, I had a friend (a professor of Hebrew) who was Israeli, Jewish (genetically) and an atheist. She was active in a synagogue primarily for social reasons and for maintaining her culture. She practiced certain aspects of Judaism but based on a cultural motivation, not religious. She had respect for the Tanakh, but as historic Jewish writings, not divine revelation. Her identity was strongly Jewish which she supported through religious practices and synagogue involvement.

 

George

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In my opinion, NORM, this question cannot be answered on THIS board. Why? Because not only is it a question, as Dutch has mentioned, of who or what God is, but it is also well-known to many of us "old-timers" that this board will not define who or what a Christian is. As George has mentioned, those who identify themselves as Christians are allowed to do so here without others questioning their beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, or life-styles. So because there is no agreed-upon consensus here of who/what God is or who/what is a Christian, it's my opinion that the question cannot be answered.

 

But I also think that the question is, no offense, relatively mute. Though Christianity has (and probably should) have something to do with Jesus, Jesus himself never taught it. As you've mentioned about some Jews, Jesus taught a "way", a lifestyle. Now, the question can be asked, "Did Jesus believe in, relate to, and worship God?" and I think the scriptures are pretty clear that, yes, he did. If that is the case, then the question becomes "How much should we be like Jesus?" and believe as he did? That's a question that, I suppose, each of us must answer for him- or herself. For instance, I believe in the reality of God as love, but I don't agree with Jesus that epilepsy is caused by demonic posession. I agree with Jesus that we should love our enemies and seek their highest good, but I disagree with him that God will burn his enemies in unending conscious torment.

 

Was God, as the NT claims, the source of Jesus' power and words and ministry and message? Or was Jesus simply operating out of a higher consciousness within? Or was all of the "God stuff" invented later and read back into Jesus and his ministry to make him marketable? Who's to say?

 

But what I would say is this: if we look at the character of Borg's pre-Easter Jesus, yes, atheists can and do exhibit that kind of character. They can be "Christ-like" every bit as much as self-professing Christians in exhibiting the "fruit of the Spirit" that Paul talks about in Gal 5, without any of the doctrines and dogmas of Christianity. In this sense, to me, actions speak louder than beliefs.

Edited by Wayseeker
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We've danced around this issue throughout many of the threads in the Debate and Dialogue Forum.

 

Time to call the question!

 

It is possible to be a Jew and not believe in a deity. I know several. This is not something that is widely advertised, of course, but it is no secret that Judaism is about what one does, not what one believes, the Hasidim notwithstanding (they do not represent the majority).

 

NORM

 

Norm,

 

As a long time progressive, I agree with your stance that is about what on does. You are talking about what many consider to be one of the greatest ethical systems ever devised, despite bad press from some circles.

 

Myron

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I hope that "a belief in the supernatural deity as an a priori position" isn't necessary to being a Christian or I'm in big trouble. I was a non-theist long before I ever heard of progressive Christianity, yet I always managed to follow the teaching ascribed to Jesus in the gospels. It definitely causes raised eyebrows and more than a bit of ostricism among my theistic friends, though.

 

I definitely believe in "Something Other" , whether we this "Other" God, Allah, Nirvana, Higher Power, Love, Mind of the Universe, or Ground of all Being. I believe, not because I can prove it, measure it, or touch it, but becauses I have experienced this "Something Other" when I behave in the way I think the words and actions of Jesus in the gospels suggests I should. Does that make sense? I don't know about A-theists being Christian, but I suppose one could easily enough. I don't think that the experience of this "Other" is a requirement. IMO its the following the way of compassion, acceptance, and inclusion that makes Christians. After all, "they'll know we are Christians by our love". (Funny how that one kind of slipped through the cracks.)

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I hope that "a belief in the supernatural deity as an a priori position" isn't necessary to being a Christian or I'm in big trouble. I was a non-theist long before I ever heard of progressive Christianity, yet I always managed to follow the teaching ascribed to Jesus in the gospels. It definitely causes raised eyebrows and more than a bit of ostricism among my theistic friends, though.

 

I definitely believe in "Something Other" , whether we this "Other" God, Allah, Nirvana, Higher Power, Love, Mind of the Universe, or Ground of all Being. I believe, not because I can prove it, measure it, or touch it, but becauses I have experienced this "Something Other" when I behave in the way I think the words and actions of Jesus in the gospels suggests I should. Does that make sense? I don't know about A-theists being Christian, but I suppose one could easily enough. I don't think that the experience of this "Other" is a requirement. IMO its the following the way of compassion, acceptance, and inclusion that makes Christians. After all, "they'll know we are Christians by our love". (Funny how that one kind of slipped through the cracks.)

 

I believe in G-d, but have grown weary of the theist versus anti-theist arguments. It is an old and now useless battle. It fails to connect with anything I FEEL. It assumes that philosophical categories made thousands of years ago are immutable and no human since has transcended those categories.

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I believe in G-d, but have grown weary of the theist versus anti-theist arguments. It is an old and now useless battle. It fails to connect with anything I FEEL. It assumes that philosophical categories made thousands of years ago are immutable and no human since has transcended those categories.

 

Myron, good point. This is a much more nuanced issue than it may have been in the past although Spinoza in the 17th century, may have been close to a 'modern' Ground of Being idea (if I understand either one correctly).

 

George

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Myron, good point. This is a much more nuanced issue than it may have been in the past although Spinoza in the 17th century, may have been close to a 'modern' Ground of Being idea (if I understand either one correctly).

 

George

 

George,

 

Yes.

 

Spinoza admired the teaching of Jesus, as a person of Jewish ancestry.

 

Spinoza wrote the basic outline of what would become the explanation of Darwinian evolution.

 

A. N. Whitehead made that very clear in Process and Reality.

 

Myron

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I believe in G-d, but have grown weary of the theist versus anti-theist arguments. It is an old and now useless battle. It fails to connect with anything I FEEL. It assumes that philosophical categories made thousands of years ago are immutable and no human since has transcended those categories.

 

I don't understand - are you agreeing with me, disagreeing with me or simply making a statement? I have to agree completely that some human experiences have transcended these categories. IMHO, it is only some who have transcended these categories - those who choose to learn and grow. Stagnation, imo, is the breeding ground for intolerance, misunderstanding, and an "us-vs-them" mentality; that includes theists vs. atheists.

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I don't understand - are you agreeing with me, disagreeing with me or simply making a statement? I have to agree completely that some human experiences have transcended these categories. IMHO, it is only some who have transcended these categories - those who choose to learn and grow. Stagnation, imo, is the breeding ground for intolerance, misunderstanding, and an "us-vs-them" mentality; that includes theists vs. atheists.

 

In agreement, yes. I do not think there is only one formula for a healthy, thriving human being.

Edited by minsocal
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We've danced around this issue throughout many of the threads in the Debate and Dialogue Forum.

 

Time to call the question!

 

Can an atheist be a Christian?

 

NORM

 

There is a movement that exists that specifically refers to themselves as "Christian Atheists"

Wiki defines Christian atheism as ....

" an ideology in which the belief in the God of Christianity is rejected or absent but the moral teachings of Jesus are followed."

 

Progressive Christianity in my best understanding makes no distinction in defining God that would eliminate such a conclusion that an atheist cannot be Christian . As noted in the 8 points there is an emphasis on the importance of the way we behave as the fullest expression of our beliefs rather than what we say we believe or how we define a God beyond human description. Having said all that the word atheist seems to me to have slightly different meanings to different people but i personally see no problem in an atheists rejection of traditional organized religious Christian definitions of God yet holding to the moral TEACHINGS OF JESUS and still considering oneself Christian.

 

Joseph

 

PS Perhaps you might find this previous thread interesting that was started by an atheist member here.at Progressive christianity

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An atheist might simply identify with the pre easter Jesus as an enlightened individual who was a wise moral teacher, able to supress his ego and put others before himself.

 

Having said that, I think Borg may have also stated that this version of Jesus is fine, but shallow.

 

Personally I think a person can be a follower of Jesus' teachings as a humanist; and if they follow Jesus then I suppose they can call themselves Christian, if that is what they want to be known as. What is in a label anyway?

 

Paul

As much as I enjoy reading Borg and find his writings inspiring and thought provoking, I don't understand why some Christians think that viewing Jesus as an enlightened teacher is "shallow." There have been plenty of famous philosophers and religious activists throughout history who were nothing more than enlightened individuals and yet we consider them to be some of the greatest heroes and heroines of all time. MLK Jr, Susan B Anthony, and Leo Tolstoy were just enlightened individuals and not deities and yet we would hardly consider them to be shallow. As fascinating as I find the development of the post-Easter Jesus to be, I personally think the teachings and life of the pre-Easter Jesus to be much more inspiring and relevant to today's society and culture. While I'm aware that many Christians find the post-Easter Jesus to be comforting to them, so many Christians tend to treat the post-Easter Jesus as being like Santa Claus, where being a Christian becomes more about making sure you're on Jesus' nice list instead of the naughty list so you can get free gifts on Christmas, as opposed to fighting against poverty and social injustice like the pre-Easter Jesus was concerned about. The Greek word for faith in the NT is psitis, which was an action. Faith in the NT was not about having a correct set of beliefs in human-made creeds written centuries after the historical Jesus lived but it was more like a contract of being committed to Jesus' teachings and living out the Way in your daily life.

 

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus divides the sinners and the saved based on their actions and how they treated each other and not because of what they believed about him. When the apostles are confronted by someone who isn't a part of them who is casting out demons in Jesus' name, in the earliest of the gospels, Mark, Jesus warns the apostles not to stop him because those who are not against him are with him. The Nicene creed and the Apostles' creed weren't written until decades after the historical Jesus lived and most of the doctrines espoused in them were voted in by the church for political purposes as much as theological reasons. Early Christianity was incredibly diverse with some Christians believing in up to over 300 gods and some Christians who didn't even believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus such as the various Gnostic groups that were only branded as heresy when Christianity became the official religion of Rome and used its political power to force itself on everyone else.

 

I myself consider myself to be a Christian atheist. While I would gladly wish that there was a supernatural god, I don't believe in a supernatural being that intervenes with the natural universe to answer some people's wishes while ignoring other people's wishes. I do believe that prayer can transform people's lives even if it's not through supernatural means, and I still pray every day myself and I read the scriptures everyday. I'm also still actively involved in my church community though since my church community is a fundamentalist church, I have to be in the closet about my "heresy". While I reject most of the doctrines of the various "official" creeds, I do believe in the teachings of Jesus found in the gospels and I even believe that the other NT authors like Paul and James had their own contributions worth considering. I don't claim to know what will happen to us when we die though it would be nice if an afterlife existed for us of some sort though I could do without all the fire and brimstone of hell. The only "creed" I accept is that Jesus is Lord, which according to Bishop Spong, is the earliest creed found in the NT. I believe in a radical Christianity that's inclusive of all walks of life that promote social justice, tolerance, and love for everyone and I believe in a Christianity that's more focused on helping the least of these than on judgemntalism and being intolerant of other religions and ways of life. If this makes my view of Jesus shallow, I would much rather be shallow than be part of a Christianity that emphasizes the concerns of the next life over the concerns of this one and focuses more on getting into God's exclusive club for white heterosexual men than loving your neighbor as yourself.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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As much as I enjoy reading Borg and find his writings inspiring and thought provoking, I don't understand why some Christians think that viewing Jesus as an enlightened teacher is "shallow." There have been plenty of famous philosophers and religious activists throughout history who were nothing more than enlightened individuals and yet we consider them to be some of the greatest heroes and heroines of all time. MLK Jr, Susan B Anthony, and Leo Tolstoy were just enlightened individuals and not deities and yet we would hardly consider them to be shallow. As fascinating as I find the development of the post-Easter Jesus to be, I personally think the teachings and life of the pre-Easter Jesus to be much more inspiring and relevant to today's society and culture. While I'm aware that many Christians find the post-Easter Jesus to be comforting to them, so many Christians tend to treat the post-Easter Jesus as being like Santa Claus, where being a Christian becomes more about making sure you're on Jesus' nice list instead of the naughty list so you can get free gifts on Christmas, as opposed to fighting against poverty and social injustice like the pre-Easter Jesus was concerned about. The Greek word for faith in the NT is psitis, which was an action. Faith in the NT was not about having a correct set of beliefs in human-made creeds written centuries after the historical Jesus lived but it was more like a contract of being committed to Jesus' teachings and living out the Way in your daily life.

 

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus divides the sinners and the saved based on their actions and how they treated each other and not because of what they believed about him. When the apostles are confronted by someone who isn't a part of them who is casting out demons in Jesus' name, in the earliest of the gospels, Mark, Jesus warns the apostles not to stop him because those who are not against him are with him. The Nicene creed and the Apostles' creed weren't written until decades after the historical Jesus lived and most of the doctrines espoused in them were voted in by the church for political purposes as much as theological reasons. Early Christianity was incredibly diverse with some Christians believing in up to over 300 gods and some Christians who didn't even believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus such as the various Gnostic groups that were only branded as heresy when Christianity became the official religion of Rome and used its political power to force itself on everyone else.

 

I myself consider myself to be a Christian atheist. While I would gladly wish that there was a supernatural god, I don't believe in a supernatural being that intervenes with the natural universe to answer some people's wishes while ignoring other people's wishes. I do believe that prayer can transform people's lives even if it's not through supernatural means, and I still pray every day myself and I read the scriptures everyday. I'm also still actively involved in my church community though since my church community is a fundamentalist church, I have to be in the closet about my "heresy". While I reject most of the doctrines of the various "official" creeds, I do believe in the teachings of Jesus found in the gospels and I even believe that the other NT authors like Paul and James had their own contributions worth considering. I don't claim to know what will happen to us when we die though it would be nice if an afterlife existed for us of some sort though I could do without all the fire and brimstone of hell. The only "creed" I accept is that Jesus is Lord, which according to Bishop Spong, is the earliest creed found in the NT. I believe in a radical Christianity that's inclusive of all walks of life that promote social justice, tolerance, and love for everyone and I believe in a Christianity that's more focused on helping the least of these than on judgemntalism and being intolerant of other religions and ways of life. If this makes my view of Jesus shallow, I would much rather be shallow than be part of a Christianity that emphasizes the concerns of the next life over the concerns of this one and focuses more on getting into God's exclusive club for white heterosexual men than loving your neighbor as yourself.

 

Very well put Neon Genesis, there is nothing shallow in there.

 

Paul

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I'm also still actively involved in my church community though since my church community is a fundamentalist church, I have to be in the closet about my "heresy".

 

I can relate to everything you said in your post - particularly this last one. I too stayed on in my church well past losing my religion. I simply immersed myself in all of the social action ministries of the church. However, inevitably, conversations would tend toward "well, what do you believe..."

 

It became unbearably tiresome to continually have to defend my non-theistic worldview and the well-intentioned efforts to "re-convert" me.

 

I eventually found refuge in my local Jewish community who were only interested in my mitzvah, and not my eternal soul.

 

I wish you all the best, Neon. Props!

 

NORM

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I have always considered myself a follower of Jesus Christ. I was not concern that I rejected his belief in the supernatural. I reasoned that this was part of his cultural heritage and not essential to his message.

 

Recently I have challenged my assumption that I am truly a follower of Jesus Christ, since I also do not believe in a personal God who answers prayers. I now cannot see how I can claim to be a follower of Jesus while rejecting one of his central beliefs (belief in a personal God who cares for us, and acts in response to our prayers). Isn't this analogous to a person who is a terrorist claiming that they are also a follower of Ghandi or MLKJ?

I have since stop taking communion and plan scale back my involvement in Church. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this question.

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Nino,

 

First, it would be helpful if you introduced yourself in the section titled (appropriately) "Introduce Yourself."

 

As to your point, I don't think one must accept everything that we think Jesus believed in order to identify as a Christian and participate in a church community. However, like you, I abstain from certain practices like taking communion because it may misrepresent my personal beliefs (or doubts). The pastor (also a friend) asked me about this several years ago. I explained and it has never been an issue. But, I have no objection to those who do.

 

George

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If I had to, I would label myself as an atheist christian. I am atheist in that I don't believe in a theistic God, and I am christian in that I believe the main thrust of Jesus' teachings have value and are worth trying to follow. If other christians don't like me self-labelling as that, well I guess it's just bad luck for them. Nobody owns the definition of christian, there is no trademark or copyright, so I can be a christian as I want, and they can dislike it or disagree, as they see fit. I guess it's easier because I am not attached to any sort of 'club' (church) which has doctrines or creeds which may pressure me into adhering to the majority view (other than TCPC, which I am comfortable with).

 

Norm, as you ask in the OP, is this evolution possible in the Christian world? - well I think we are seeing a lot more of it currently. Many Christians are moving away from a 'father christmas in the sky' view of God. Many have embraced 'God' as spirit rather than a bearded father-figure sitting on a throne somewhere.

 

You ask "Is it enough to emulate the words and actions of Jesus?" I say yes, other Chirstians say no.

 

You ask if "those words command a belief in the supernatural deity as an a priori position to hold in order to claim the mantle of Christianity?". I say no, other christians say yes.

 

"Should the Bible be the sole (infallible?) source of knowledge on the subject?" Again, I say no, other Christians will kill for this.

 

Ask me again in two thousand years, and I might offer different answers :)

 

Cheers

Paul

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I have always considered myself a follower of Jesus Christ. I was not concern that I rejected his belief in the supernatural. I reasoned that this was part of his cultural heritage and not essential to his message.

 

Recently I have challenged my assumption that I am truly a follower of Jesus Christ, since I also do not believe in a personal God who answers prayers. I now cannot see how I can claim to be a follower of Jesus while rejecting one of his central beliefs (belief in a personal God who cares for us, and acts in response to our prayers). Isn't this analogous to a person who is a terrorist claiming that they are also a follower of Ghandi or MLKJ?

I have since stop taking communion and plan scale back my involvement in Church. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this question.

I can understand your concerns. While I consider myself a Christian atheist, I have turned down an offer to teach Sunday school at my church. I was once offered an opportunity to teach Sunday school because they thought I knew a lot about the bible more than most Christians do. For one thing, I don't like getting up in front of everybody else to teach and I don't think I would be organized enough to be a Sunday school teacher. But I also I would feel hypocritical agreeing to teach when I don't agree with their conservative beliefs. But I don't think disbelieving in a supernatural god means that you can't find value in the teachings of Jesus or even in religious rituals. Atheism itself is a modern belief that didn't really exist in Jesus' time and culture. The furthest to disbelief you could have reached would have been some kind of deism but atheism was used more as political insult towards "heretics" that rejected the state gods. Socrates, for example, was accused of being an atheist because he rejected the authority of the state gods but he was actually a deist and the early Christians were actually labeled atheists by the Romans because they didn't believe in the Roman gods. It's only in modern times due to the advances in science that atheism has become a reasonable position to hold, so nobody knows what Jesus and the apostles would have thought of atheism. Have you tried the Unitarian Universalist church? I've never been to one myself being still in the closet but I've heard nothing but positive things from other atheists who have attended and they're very accepting of all religions and philosophies and many UUs are also atheists. I've heard the liberal Quakers are also pretty non-theistic friendly.
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Now, the question can be asked, "Did Jesus believe in, relate to, and worship God?" and I think the scriptures are pretty clear that, yes, he did. If that is the case, then the question becomes "How much should we be like Jesus?" and believe as he did? That's a question that, I suppose, each of us must answer for him- or herself. For instance, I believe in the reality of God as love, but I don't agree with Jesus that epilepsy is caused by demonic possession.

 

a couple thoughts

 

1, We don't hesitate to examine what was meant by "demon possession" but there seems to a reticence to inquire about the nature of the divinity Jesus has a relation with as described by the authors of the Gospels.

 

2. I often run a across a three part description of our involvement with ideas about God. Jesus talked about God, talked to God, and acted as God would, in Jesus' understanding.

  • There is ineffable ultimate reality. Perhaps ground of being or the matrix or the breathe from which comes.
  • Many humans choose or create a personal language to live into their relationship with this ultimate reality. Many find this relationship to be one of love.
  • Some see as perhaps Jesus did that we are to live out of this experience as God participating in the creation of more love.

Only dogmatic westerners then write these ideas into creed to belief. They do not need to be. The first seem to be about experiences and not doctrine. the third is a call to action as most here agree is Jesus's call on our lives.

 

I don't hesitate to take communion. I do it to honor all the wonderful experiences I have had in the past. I also participate where there is an attempt to fence the table to challenge this human attempt. If it is a divine event then no humans should fence it and if it is not divine it is a social events that can be meaningful with those involved. I do not feel that it a creedal statement. It is merely a cultural ritual in which each find meaning in different ways.

 

 

Dutch

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I can relate to everything you said in your post - particularly this last one. I too stayed on in my church well past losing my religion. I simply immersed myself in all of the social action ministries of the church. However, inevitably, conversations would tend toward "well, what do you believe..."

 

It became unbearably tiresome to continually have to defend my non-theistic worldview and the well-intentioned efforts to "re-convert" me.

 

I eventually found refuge in my local Jewish community who were only interested in my mitzvah, and not my eternal soul.

 

I wish you all the best, Neon. Props!

 

NORM

Thanks for the words of support. Sometimes I feel like I'm caught between worlds and I have to keep my true self hidden from both. If I came out as an atheist to my Christian community, I would likely be excommunicated for such blasphemy and sinfulness. On the other hand, while I can be as critical of religion and the supernatural that I want on atheism forums, I also feel like I have to hide my Christian identity from the atheist community. At another forum for skepticism I post at, there was a member there who came out as a Christian atheist and not only that but he revealed he was also a minister in the Lutheran church. While he did get a lot of support from the other members, there was one member in particular who kept harassing him over it. He kept on calling him a liar and a fraud and demanded to know all his contact info so he can contact the church he worked at to find out if he was lying or not so he can out him as a fraud and ruin his career.
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Jesus talked about God, talked to God, and acted as God would, in Jesus' understanding.

 

I agree with you, Dutch. Jesus, being a good Jew, did not shy away from God-talk or God-language. God and God's kingdom were, according to the gospels, the centerpieces of Jesus' ministry and message. In this sense, and just speaking for myself, I don't know what is to be gained by wanting to claim the name of Christian while discarding the two central realities that seem to be at the heart of Christ himself. Christianity, for all of its faults, has always claimed to be more than a philosophy or a moral code. It has, for better or worse, made the claim that Jesus somehow reveals or mediates God to us.

 

For many Christians, Jesus is the "way" to God. Metaphorically, Jesus could be said to be a sign pointing to Philadelphia or a road leading to Philadelphia. The atheist has typically concluded that Philadelphia does not exist, thereby, IMO, insinuating that Jesus doesn't point to or lead to anything real. So I question what it means to call one's self a Christian or a follower of Christ while saying that God doesn't exist. I don't at all deny that some of Jesus' teachings are good philosophy or decent morals or laudable humanitarian practices. But in my opinion, to be a Christian is more than this.

 

Granted, progressive Christianity is involved in the process of sifting through what has been handed down to us in the Christian religion, valuing what still makes sense, what is meaningful, what is worth keeping. And I think it does well to continue the God-talk and the God-language in reconsidering who/what God is and what God means to us. But, again in my opinion, it is quite another thing to dogmatically state that God does not exist and then to assert that this, too, is Christian. My feeling on this is that if such a thing is possible (Christian atheism), then it exists outside of what Jesus taught and showed us of God. And this may well be the case for many "progressive" religions who have "outgrown" the teachings or the views of their founders or chief teachers. This is probably why, for many progressive Christians, it is not so much that we are still Christians as it is that Christianity was our roots.

 

So, again, we have this wonderful and challenging process of "test all things, hold to what is good". And many of us have let go of such things as original sin, substitutionary atonement, the submission of women, the damnation of homosexuals, the threat of everlasting torment, etc. I'm just not convinced that we should let go of God-talk and God-language or to go to the extreme (IMO) of saying that God does not exist while saying that we still takes Jesus and his teachings seriously, that we follow Jesus, but we don't believe in God. I don't know how to make sense of such a statement.

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I agree with you, Dutch. Jesus, being a good Jew, did not shy away from God-talk or God-language. God and God's kingdom were, according to the gospels, the centerpieces of Jesus' ministry and message. In this sense, and just speaking for myself, I don't know what is to be gained by wanting to claim the name of Christian while discarding the two central realities that seem to be at the heart of Christ himself. Christianity, for all of its faults, has always claimed to be more than a philosophy or a moral code. It has, for better or worse, made the claim that Jesus somehow reveals or mediates God to us.

Jesus did use religious language frequently but it's not a matter of whether or not Jesus used God-talk but what does Jesus mean by his God-talk. As Marcus Borg puts forth in many of his books, the kingdom of God Jesus describes in his gospel is not necessarily a supernatural kingdom in another dimension that you can only reach by believing in a correct set of doctrines. For Jesus, the kingdom of God is already among us and within you and is a political transformation rather than a supernatural means of salvation.

 

For many Christians, Jesus is the "way" to God. Metaphorically, Jesus could be said to be a sign pointing to Philadelphia or a road leading to Philadelphia. The atheist has typically concluded that Philadelphia does not exist, thereby, IMO, insinuating that Jesus doesn't point to or lead to anything real. So I question what it means to call one's self a Christian or a follower of Christ while saying that God doesn't exist. I don't at all deny that some of Jesus' teachings are good philosophy or decent morals or laudable humanitarian practices. But in my opinion, to be a Christian is more than this.
The question again, is not whether or not Philadelphia exists, but is Philadelphia a magical kingdom that exists in another world that you can only get to by chanting a phrase of magic words or is Philadelphia a place that you can make real through your own actions.

 

. And I think it does well to continue the God-talk and the God-language in reconsidering who/what God is and what God means to us. But, again in my opinion, it is quite another thing to dogmatically state that God does not exist and then to assert that this, too, is Christian. .
I don't see how it's "dogmatic" to assert that God doesn't exist anymore than it's "dogmatic" to assert that God does exist.

 

So, again, we have this wonderful and challenging process of "test all things, hold to what is good". And many of us have let go of such things as original sin, substitutionary atonement, the submission of women, the damnation of homosexuals, the threat of everlasting torment, etc. I'm just not convinced that we should let go of God-talk and God-language or to go to the extreme (IMO) of saying that God does not exist while saying that we still takes Jesus and his teachings seriously, that we follow Jesus, but we don't believe in God. I don't know how to make sense of such a statement.

Is it more Christian to say you follow Jesus but don't believe in God than it is for Christians to say they believe in God but they cherry pick the teachings of Jesus to back up their prejudices or act in hypocritical ways? Which do you think is more Christian? Edited by Neon Genesis
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