The BBC website has pages on the different kinds of religion, including “Christian atheism.” Read the characteristics after the jump, and then I raise a question.
Non-realism (Christian Atheism)
Christian Atheists want to remove what they see as the fairy tale elements of Christianity.
They prefer to call this a non-realistic version of Christianity, rather than Christian atheism. They say that they do believe in God – but not in a fairy tale way.
To do this requires great intellectual sophistication, as you can see from the outline of non-realistic Christianity below.
Essentials of non-realistic Christianity
- Religion is about internal spiritual experiences, and that is all.
- There is no world other than the material world around us.
- There are no beings other than the living organisms on this planet or elsewhere in the universe.
- There is no objective being or thing called God that exists separately from the person believing in him.
- There is no ‘ultimate reality’ outside human minds either.
- We give our own lives meaning and purpose; there is nothing outside us that does it for us.
- God is a projection of the human mind.
- “God” is the way human beings put ‘spiritual’ ideals into a poetic form that they are able to use and work with.
- “God” is simply a word that stands for our highest ideals.
- God-talk is a language tool that enables us to talk about our highest ideals and create meaning in our lives.
- Religious stories and texts are ways in which human beings set down and work out spiritual, ethical, and fundamental meanings in life.
- Our religious talk is really about us and our inner selves, and the community and culture we live in.
- Religious language enables us to do something unique.
- Religious talk uses the familiar language of things that exist outside ourselves to make it easier for us to handle complex and subtle ideas.
- Faith therefore isn’t belief in a God that exists outside minds.
- Faith is what human beings do when they pursue ‘spiritual’ ideals.
- Saying that someone follows a particular faith is a way of talking about their attitudes to life and to other people.Worship and prayer
If there’s no God out there, it might seem pointless to go to church, or to pray. Christian Atheists would disagree:
- Worship is a beneficial activity. Worship in a group is good way for a community to:
- communicate with each other
- share ideals and ideas
- explore the meaning and purpose of their individual lives, and the life of their community
- Hymn-singing and prayer
- These are powerful ways for individual human beings to explore the meaning and purpose of their lives.
- The ceremonies and rituals of the church – are a powerful way of acting out the ideas that give meaning to our lives. They enable human beings to use action instead of words to explore their deepest ideas.
Benefits of This Form of Belief
- Those who who believe like this claim many advantages for it:
- Humanity is forced to take responsibility for everything.
- Human beings are seen as powerful and able to do things for themselves.
- Religion no longer has to try to explain many difficult issues that go with believing in supernatural things.
- Religion is no longer in opposition to scientific progress.
- Religion is an inherently democratic, rather than hierarchical activity – it’s something that comes from humanity, not something forced on us by a powerful God.
Isn’t this pretty much the teachings of liberal theology? I’d be curious to hear from theological liberals about how their beliefs differ from this “Christian atheism,” if they do.
HT: Paul McCain