This topic is the first in my Tell Me! series, where I ask a question, explain my thinking behind it, and look for serious, opinionated debate. I’m looking to challenge ideas here, I’m asking you to step outside your comfort zone, think outside the box, and invoking whatever other cliches fit the general notion of exploring thoughts that are seldom explored.
The only rules I have for the comments are no personal attacks. This is intended to be a discussion and such comments have no place in such a forum.
Now, without further adieu, let’s start. Such is the nature of this series, that there’s no pussy-footing around, for the first topic I’m going to jump right into the fire with both feet and ask you…
Is athiestic Christianity possible?
That is, is it conceivable that a belief system could exist that revolves around the teachings attributed to Jesus Christ but has no need for God, the devil, the heavenly host, or an afterlife?
What? Am I crazy? Well, probably, but look at it this way.
In the beginning there is a religion. At the point of origin it is faithful to the teachings of the founder, be he man or god. And the initial disciples tend to remain faithful to the teachings. But, just like a Chinese whisper, over the generations the original meanings degrade. Sometimes through confusion and misinterpretation, sometimes through deliberate obfuscation to gain power, but all human religions have fractured to some extend (even scientology is now fracturing, and it’s not even a century old).
In the case of Christianity, large schisms occured even quite earlyon , creating the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Both underwent further schism. Most commonly known cases in the West would be the creation of both the Anglican and Protestant branches. Fast forward to modern times and each of these sister variants (as well as Catholicism and the Orthodox churches themselves) now have numerous official and unofficial offspring of their own.
Christianity has a large enough population and is long-lived enough that it provides excellents of how and why religions schism. The short answer is: for just about any reason, philosophical or practical, that they can. Common reasons can include: the nature of Jesus, the nature of God, the method of worship, the structure of the priesthood, or claims of new messiahs-to-be (such as the current case of the Australian AJ Miller). Finding a reason to create a new variant does not appear to be a challenge.
So, if there are so many variations, do they have anything in common? Well, obviously most put the teachings of Jesus at the centre of their beliefs, chiefly that belief in his holy nature provides salvation. Many, if not most of the variants also focus on teaching the principles of the Beatitudes. Briefly (from Wikipedia:Beatitudes):
- …the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:3)
- …those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
- …the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)
- …those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. (5:6)
- …the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
- …the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)
- …the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)
- …those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)
Generally interpretted around the concepts of love, humility, and forgiveness (although this last seems to be going out of fashion quickly [ed.]).
So, back to the original question. Can there be Christianity without God?
Well, I’ve already demonstrated that there is not one Christianity, but numerous versions, with difference ranging from practical to philosophical. So developing a new Christian denomination is clearly possible.
But, I’m not aware of a single denomination that doesn’t feature God prominently.
Jesus taught in parables and allegory about the importance of brotherly love, humility and forgiveness. God, however, is not necessary to understand or learn from these stories. Likewise, in the beatitudes, it would not be difficult to consider God and heaven to be metaphorical states of your character, or perhaps states of an ideal world that followed these teachings. So, following Jesus’ teachings does not require the concept of God, only the desire to better the world.
Now, there is one part of this question that some of you will be having trouble with. Namely, the athiestic part. That is ‘how can an athiest, who doesn’t believe in anything, believe in Jesus?‘ This is not actually much of a problem in the context that framed here.
First, it’s crucially important to note that athiesm is not a lack of belief, it’s a lack of belief in a god. For example, athiests can still believe in humanity and our indomitable will. They can believe in the need for humans to care for one another in positive, constructive ways. They can believe that new born kittens are just the cutest creatures on the planet. You get the picture.
So for athiestic Christianity to work simply requires athiests who believe the teachings of Jesus, the person, or biblical character, are worth following. In reality, they don’t even need to believe in all the teachings, after all, even for Christians, it’s a practical impossibility to follow all the rules and teachings of the bible. It’s just a matter of picking the gold and leaving the rest behind. And voila athiestic Christianity.
So, what do you think? Does it seem reasonable, or a complete crock of sh*t? I know that I haven’t convinced everybody (or anybody?) so let me know your opinions in the comments below.
Insight and longevity.