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Are Agnosticism and Atheism Compatible with Christianity?

Discussion in 'Liberal Christianity DIR' started by spiritually inclined, Jun 30, 2007.

  1. spiritually inclined

    spiritually inclined Active Member

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    Are agnosticism and atheism compatible with Christianity? If so, how would such people view the sacraments (if you're Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, etc.), especially baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist, as well as the Bible and Jesus?

    Can Progressive Christianity be expanded to include aspects of other religions?

    James
     
  2. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    I don't consider myself Christian but then again, I have friends who do consider themselves Christian who accept even less of traditional Christianity than I do, so...

    I'd say it depends on how you define Christianity. Some would say that the crux of Christianity is the Trinity, and if so, it would seem to me that agnosticism and atheism are incompatible. Otoh, others would argue that if one follows the teachings of Jesus, then one is a Christian; in which case, it would seem to me that one need not necessarily believe in God. Despite his teaching us to pray, despite his many references to Abba (Father), the moral teachings of Jesus are essentially humanist.

    As for baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist..., I can easily see all of these as being rites that affirm community. Baptism into community. Confirmation, once the person is old enough to decide for her or himself to join in community. Also as a rite of passage into adulthood. And the Eucharist, a sharing of a communal source of sustenance. The bible would be stories and teachings written by humans in sincere effort to understand their own experiences. And Jesus would be a revered teacher, someone to emulate. Both the bible and Jesus would be part of a shared history/tradition.

    My 2 pennies.
     
  3. angellous_evangellous

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    There's a whole movement called Atheist Christianity. I'm not sure how popular they are, but Albert Switzer is one of its leading figures.

    Here's an article that I wrote on Altizer: Will Christianity Survive the Death of Theism
     
  4. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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  5. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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  6. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    The formal obituary didn't make it into the regular papers.
     
  7. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    Seriously guys, I won't argue that classical theism isn't dead in academic circles, but have you looked outside the ivory towers?
     
  8. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    Sure. I see people more likely to take confession with a therapist or a psychologist than with a priest. People who increasingly look to non-"religious" law (civil and criminal) as the touchstone for normative principles, the rise of nationalism as the dominant factor in individual human identity to which religious identities increasingly are secondary, and people increasingly looking to science for their hope for the future and technology for the means of relating to the world in the now.

    And there's are some substantial reactionary movements in response to these forces.
     
  9. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    And just to clarify, my blog piece is not about whether theism is dead in the world. It obviously isn't for many. My blog is in large part about whether and how a philosophical agnostic can find meaning in Christian mythology. So the question I address is whether for the individual moving beyond theism, can there still be meaning in Christianity. And I've personally decided the answer is "yes." You may decide differently.

    As far as the rituals, they are for me really about community and the personal meaning of the symbols anyway. So I can change my personal meanings I associate without being too bothered by the rituals. Except, I don't care for the Creed.

    Baptism is a symbol of cleansing or death and rebirth. If someone thinks they now have a new perspective on themselves and reality, baptism is a fine ritual to publicly affirm that new perspective.

    Confirmation is not something I'd participate in because it concerns having "right belief" to a large extent, and I consider that to anti-Christian.

    The Eucharist represents our sharing in the unity of community in love. So I have no problem participating in the Eucharist.

    The Bible is full of great art (and some other stuff). It's not the only human art that carries divine wisdom in my view, nor is there anything "authoritative" about the Bible except to the extent that I find personal meaning in a particular passage, idea or book.

    Jesus is an archetypal symbol representing the sacrifice of egoism and self in non-violence and love, giving up certainty, guilt and fear to reclaim one's power over their perspective and attain personal responsibility for how I see the world and others in it. To me, it doesn't matter whether there even was a Jesus in history, or what he said or did, though I understand it means a great deal to some. I didn't find much personal meaning in Christianity until I set aside the idea of an actual, historical Jesus, which allowed me to use Christian mythology as mythology. That made it far more valuable and useful to me.
     
  10. spiritually inclined

    spiritually inclined Active Member

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    Interesting!

    However, I can easily see some of the more liberal churches transforming into something that is so different from what Christianity has ever been. If Christianity can expand beyond theism to include agnostics and atheists, and rituals and myths are understood in symbolic ways, I could easily see the incorporation of elements from other religions. (Actually, this has already happened in Christianity, and probably in every religion, though it is rarely admitted.) Certain churches may then evolve to something that becomes post-Christian. That is what happened to the Unitarian and Universalist churches that merged to become the Unitarian Universalist Association.

    Does Religious Naturalism, Religious Humanism, and Pantheism ever incorporate Christian elements, such as Holy Communion?

    James
     
  11. angellous_evangellous

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    I can't say... you've listed quite a mix. Christian atheists don't practice Holy Communion, and if they did, it wouldn't be Holy or Communion. :D
     
  12. spiritually inclined

    spiritually inclined Active Member

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    They never practice it? Couldn't they interpret the ritual in a less canibalistic way?

    James
     
  13. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    I'd say that the Universalists were mostly still Christian right up until the time of merger (and beyond), but that is definitely what happened to the Unitarians. :)

    Do you consider the Quakers to be post-Christian? (Tho I don't think you'll care for their decided lack of ritual.)
     
  14. spiritually inclined

    spiritually inclined Active Member

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    I don't know much about the Quakers other than that they are very progressive. Don't they still put an emphasis on Christ and the inner light of God, however?

    I could definately see them becoming post-Christian in the future, though.

    James
     
  15. Random

    Random Well-Known Member

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    NO. Atheism is to be considered an errant belief for an orthodox Christian believer (as in just plain wrong) and Agnosticism is too wishy-washy to matter anyway, Christian or no.

    There are non-theistic explanations for and interpretations of Christianity, and in fact these are the more correct ones, but intellectually it boils down to First Cause or no cause @ all (Uncaused). Somewhere between the two positions lies the truth...
     
  16. rojse

    rojse RF Addict

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    Aetheism is the belief that God does not exist as there is no proof.

    Agnosticism is idea that God may or may not exist.

    Christianity is belief in God, and Jesus, and so forth. You would be quite well versed in this.

    Agnosticism may be compatible with Christianity, as Agnostics do not believe or disbelieve in God. Aetheism, however, is incompatible, as they "know" god does not exist, which contradicts the Bible and the Christian belief.
     
  17. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

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    That's one form of atheism. The other is a simple lack of belief in god(s).


    That's the popular definition. The philosophical definition is that it is impossible to prove whether or not god(s) exist.


    What about the idea that not everything in the bible is to be taken literally? :)
     
  18. spiritually inclined

    spiritually inclined Active Member

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    And what if liberal interpretations of Christianity are not concerned with the first cause? It's considered metaphor, similar to neo-pagan atheists?
    Churches have long been aware of inconsistencies within the Bible, and now they are becoming more and more outspoken about it. The Episcopals have been applying critical study of the Bible for about 100 years now, according to Spong. There are many, many Christians who would disagree with you about taking everything in the Bible as the literal word of God, sent directly from heaven.

    James
     
  19. rojse

    rojse RF Addict

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    Thanks to both "lilithu" and "spiritually inclined" correcting me on my definitions on aetheism, and agnosticism, and my feeble knowledge of all things biblical.

    My question is, if the idea and actions of God were not meant to be taken as a literal truth, then where do we gather any impression of God? If the actions of God, the central being in which all stories of the bible were based upon, were not completely real, then the Bible must just be a set of fairy tales with a tenuous basis in the real world.

    I seriously do not dismiss the bible so lightly, that does everyone here a complete disservice. So, what have I missed in my interpretation of your answer?
     
  20. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    I posted something here, but realized it is taking this discussion in a direction no appropriate for the DIR. So I started a new thread in the Biblical Debates forum with my responses to you Rojse.
     
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