Friday, March 20, 2009

Not quite Christian; not quite atheist

There are folks who don't believe in trinity, or in God, or in an afterlife who still call themselves Christian. They don't hope for a resurrection; they don't think about Jesus much. But they still call themselves Christian and often identify with a particular denomination. Who are these guys, and are we welcoming them? Peter Steinfels reports
The many nonbelievers [Zuckerman] interviewed, both informally and in structured, taped and transcribed sessions, were anything but antireligious, for example. They typically balked at the label "atheist.” An overwhelming majority had in fact been baptized, and many had been confirmed or married in church.
Zuckerman wrote from Scandinavia, but I've seen the same attitudes in the USA. I had lunch with with a guy a few years back. By my lights, he was completely atheist. Didn't believe in the God in Heaven, didn't believe in God as the ground of being or God as infinite love. A "Physics is All There Is" bumper-sticker kind of guy. Except that he was chair of the Evangelism Committee of one of neighboring mainline churches. He didn't strike me as a hypocrite; he felt little contradiction between his private views and his office.

For me, if I'm a member of a church, it is very important that the doctrine I hear espoused from the pulpit be consonant with what I believe. So I'm a UU. But some other people ... well, I wish I understood better what these folk mean when they say they're Christians and not atheists.


  1. Christians who don't believe in the trinity used to be called "Unitarians"!- indeed the Unitarian in the USA used to call their denominational newspaper "The Christian Register" up to 1957!


  2. Sure and there are still many Unitarian Christians active today. But I'd like to know more about these guys who believe in no God, no Jesus, no afterlife, no resurrection, no atonement and who do not hold Jesus at the center of their spiritual lives and still consider themselves Christian. What to they mean by that?

  3. There's a Christian covenant group starting up at my UU church, and I wonder what it will be like. I don't know if I'll join, but I may go to the first meeting to learn more (baptized Episcopalian).