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What's the main logical or doctrinal basis that is put forth by those Christians who don't believe in the existence of God? I mean, in the Bible Jesus spoke of God the Father many times, so how do they logically explain their belief that God doesn't exist?

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  • Wow, this is news to me! I am curious to know as well - there must be some who can answer this? – Probe Deeper Jan 12 '12 at 21:37
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    @ProbeDeeper Yes, that's right: "divine" means "of god(s)" and so Christian atheists cannot believe Jesus was divine. There is no logical contradiction for those like (SE site answerer) Steely Dan, who follow the teachings of Jesus or other "Christian tradition" authors like St. Paul as a moral philosophy (as opposed to a metaphysical system). – Chelonian Jan 14 '12 at 5:19
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    I think this question should be more specific. If it's referring to Christian atheism, it should say so. If it's referring to Christian atheists plus "cultural Christians" plus whomever else, it's probably too broad. If it's only referring to cultural Christians, it should probably say that. Specificity is good. (For those wondering why I'm referring to "cultural Christians," refer to the accepted answer.) – Mr. Bultitude Aug 12 '15 at 16:04
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    Meh, I think it's fine. – 3961 Aug 12 '15 at 16:37
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As an alternative to "Christian Atheism" as a belief system, there is another interpretation here of a Christian who does not believe in God, which is the "cultural Christian". This was reminded to me by a comment on the question referring to "Jewish" as both the adherents and / or the society - but is has been identified that this is very genuinely the case for Christianity too. This obviously is not based on a scriptural position, but on society and observation; there really are a large number of people who will identify (when asked in passing) as Christian, by which they mean (typically) they have been raised within Christianity, but don't really believe in it as such (and don't typically attend a church or worship, except maybe things like "saying grace" at mealtimes through habit and expectation).

This may be tied to the fact that to say "no, this is not what I believe, and I shall separate myself from it" can sometimes take a lot of effort and energy, jeopardise friendships and relationships (and humans are social creatures) and prospects (perhaps impacting business relationships). It can also cause friction within a family, etc. I can fully accept that it may be a lot easier to just "go along with", since that takes no effort (not even church attendance etc) - especially if their stance one way or the other on the matter is not of huge importance for them (compared with, say, more pressing needs like feeding the family and paying the bills). There are also sometimes additional factors if they want to get their kids into a particular school (alarmingly common), where rocking the boat may cause complications.

So - looked at from that perspective, the cultural Christian (in reality, not a true believer) is a very real phenomenon. This is not, however, a Biblical basis - it is, simply, an observation on the complexities of modern society.

(removed "modern", as there is no reason to suppose this is in any way new)

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    I think this is far more common if less vocal instance of "Christians" who don't belief in God. They are more frequently agnostics than atheists, although the distinction is not important ... whether in actual belief of just pragmatic function there are masses of cultural Christians who do not believe in the deity described by orthodox Christianity and do not in any real sense worship any sort of deity. – Caleb Jan 14 '12 at 23:16
  • @Marc - In my church they call this case "Nominal Christians" – brilliant Jan 14 '12 at 23:35
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    Well, I see some differences between these terms as discussed above: Christian Atheist (Does not believe in any divinity or practice Christian rituals, but likes and emulates the ideal Christ as a model of virtue) versus Cultural Christian or Nominal Christian (Does not deny divinity, but is not a serious believing Christian, but practices Christian rituals to varying degrees). Another point I wish to make is that the Christian Atheist does not practice Christianity as far as I can tell. – Probe Deeper Jan 15 '12 at 5:56
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    @Probe the nominal/cultural Christian is participating in a community - and "practicing" here is not really the right word. While they don't openly deny divinity (which would remove them from the community), they are not really accepting it either. I do agree a cultural/nominal Christian is a very different position to that of the Christian Atheist, hence wy this is a different answer. It does, however, meet the definition of the question. – Marc Gravell Jan 15 '12 at 8:35
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    Christianity is not a set of rituals, it is a way of life. If a person is living, or sincerely attempting to live, in emulation of the Christ, with universal brotherly love, he is living Christianity; whether or not he "practices" ritualistic "Christianity" is not really important to being Christian. – Steely Dan Jan 15 '12 at 15:11
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Based on an example of proponents of Christian Atheism, the logic behind a 'Christian' who does not believe in God/god, seems to be:

"I can call myself Christian if I strive to be like the ideal (and not real) concept of Christ. I do not have to believe in the divinity or divine origin of Jesus or Christ."

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I don't know that there's a "main" (in the sense of "universal and accepted by all atheist Christians") one, but I can certainly speak for myself:

The assertion that "[believing] in the divinity and/or divine origin of Jesus Christ" is the "definition of 'Christian'" is not one I accept. It is my position that the Christ is an ideal, and that it is a mistake to identify the Christ with Jesus personally. Jesus was but an imperfect manifestation of the Christ. Thus, we do not necessarily need to accept everything Jesus said. Much of what he did points us in the general direction of the Christ, but it remains to us to separate the wheat from the chaff and continue fleshing out our understanding of the Christ and Christness. Jesus's importance comes not from his supposed literal divinity, but as the originator of the tradition of Christ-seeking in which I consider myself to be working within. While many of those Christ-seekers, I believe, made grievous errors, the ultimate goal is still the same.

This Christ is an ideal, an example we should strive for, because by living in this ideal manner as exemplified by the Christ all people can live among themselves without destroying one another (thus, the Christ is very literally our savior, by showing us how to avoid our own destruction).

  • Moderator note: Please take your discussions to our chat room. Comment threads are not the place to carry on debate about any issue. Please save comments for improvements/corrections to the actual post in question. Thank you. – Caleb Jan 14 '12 at 22:30
  • Who was it, that as "the Christ" exemplified this mystical notion of "the Christ"; after all, it some ideal was exemplified, there must have been an example, no? – user32 Feb 6 '12 at 19:15
  • No actual person. The Christ is an ideal. – Steely Dan Feb 16 '12 at 19:42
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    @SteelyDan: You seem to be expressing a New Thought / New Age Christology - rather than Christ as being a unique office held by only one person in history, Christ is a state we can all aim for (like Buddhahood in Buddhism). Rather than Christ as a unique intersection between humanity and divinity, all humans having the potential to be God and Christ being the fulfilment of that potential – Zack Martin Nov 13 '12 at 10:07

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