Do you know what Christian practical atheism is? Have you ever even heard of it? It was new to me when I read about it this morning. The bigger questions are: once you know what it is, are you a Christian who’s actually a practical theist? In any case, you probably know some. Intrigued yet?
I didn’t realize there was a symbol for atheism either until I was searching for one.
The resulting combination of the cross and the atheism symbol gives the broad strokes of what a Christian atheist is.
The thing is, few, if any, people who claim to be Christian will admit to also being atheists. As if that was even possible. Hint – it’s not.
So, as we go along, we’ll see what came to be known as practical atheism is about.
I’ll also explain why I turned the name into Christian practical atheist.
Where did Christian practical atheism come from?
I came across the term practical atheism while writing a piece on Psalm 10, over on God Versus Religion.
It’s part of a series where I take an initial thought from reading a Psalm, and what it reminds me of at that time. I didn’t write about practical atheism in it. After all, when I read it, I didn’t even know what it was! Never heard of it until I read a Bible scholar’s view of this Psalm.
The concept was fascinating though. It’s something that happens all too often. People who claim to be Christian, and yet largely live like atheists. Therefore, I added a word and called it Christian practical atheism.
So no, let’s go through that writeup, and check out what the author called practical atheism. The book was published in 2005, so the survey is likely from the late 1990s to early 2000s.
A Gallup poll on Christianity in America
A number of years ago George Gallup, president of the American Institute of Public Opinion, wrote a report of his research into the religious beliefs of Americans entitled “Is America’s Faith for Real?” He was struck by a strange anomaly. On the one hand, the answers to his questions indicated that America is unusually religious. But on the other hand, the same research showed that America’s religious beliefs make little difference in how people actually live and act.
The survey results line up with my own very unscientific observations. According to most surveys. Americans answer with a percentage of Christians that’s just plain hard to imagine. It feels like this would be a very different country if the percentage of people who claim to be Christians actually lived as Christ taught. there would be so much less hatred and crime of all sorts.
Here is the positive side:
Well, it would be the positive side if all these things were true.
Eighty-one percent of Americans claim to be religious, which places them second only to Italians, whose rating is eighty-three percent.
I’m sorry, but religious doesn’t mean Christian. By that comment, I’m not belittling any religion. For instance, several years ago I read a survey where one of the most “popular religions” was Jedi Knight.
Seventy-one percent believe in life after death. Eighty-four percent believe in heaven.
People have all kinds of beliefs about Heaven. I’ve known some people that didn’t act religious at all, but hoped God has a sense of humor, because then they’d have a shot at Heaven. And others who were into the proverbial sex, drugs, and rock and roll who fully expect to be in Heaven.
Too many know so little about God that they don’t have a clue about Heaven. They think Heaven will be a better version of what we have here.
Sixty-seven percent believe in hell. A large majority says it believes in the Ten Commandments.
Well, what can I say? Obviously, there’s a disconnect on this one.
Nearly every home has at least one Bible.
Having a Bible in the home doesn’t mean it’s read. We don’t get to know the word of God by osmosis or some kind of book-to-human near-field communication.
Half of all Americans can be found in church on an average Sunday morning.
Not in any place I’ve ever lived. And recent surveys show that, at most, many of these people only go to church on Christmas and Easter.
Only eight percent say they have no religious affiliation.
That’s just hard to believe.
Most say that religion plays an important role in their lives.
Also hard to believe. And if it does, I wonder – what religion and do they really know what their religion teaches?
One-fourth claim to lead a “very Christian life.”
No comment. That number’s too small to really know.
Ninety-five percent believe in God.
Which God? Given that Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same God, this is impossible. Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God. Islam teaches that God has no son. Therefore, it cannot be the same God. And that doesn’t even begin to count other religions.
But listen to these percentages:
This is where reality sets in.
Although 95 percent believe in God and four out of five say they are religious, only one in five says that religion is the most influential factor in his or her life.
It’s easy to say religion is an important factor in our lives. Until we sit down and start ranking, for the important decisions in our lives, the various things that went into making those decisions.
Most want some kind of religious instruction for their children, but religious faith ranks far below many other traits parents would like to see developed in their sons and daughters.
This is just one example of what I wrote above. Even things like sports for kids is an example. If God is number one, how come so many parents and their kids skip church so often because the kids have sports on Sundays? That says sports is number one and God is, at best, number two.
Only one in eight says he or she would consider sacrificing everything for religious beliefs or God.
And yet, isn’t everything what God asks us to sacrifice?
He observes “a high level of credulity, … a lack of spiritual discipline,” and a strong “anti-intellectual strain” in the religious life of most Americans.
That means: too ready to believe something – not living like what we think we should – and some kind of contempt for intellectual people.
Too ready to believe something – that’s very dangerous when we don’t even know what our religion actually teaches.
Not living like we think we should – also dangerous on multiple counts. We often don’t know how we should live. But even if we do, too many don’t follow it. That’s kind of the point of Christian practical atheism. Skip the parts you don’t like!
And the anti-intellectual part? Hey – I’ve been told I’m an intellectual person., by people who are in some of my classes. There’s nothing wrong with being intellectual. It means you think. And we think about it, God gave s a brain. And He told us to use it!
Gallup records “a glaring lack of knowledge of the Ten Commandments,” even by those who say they believe in them.
I don’t think I need to add anything here.
Only one in eight Americans says that religion makes a significant difference in his or her life.
That number is maybe the most believable one in the entire survey! And that’s just plain sad. It doesn’t matter what we say, what we believe, or what we think, if what we do has no relation to any of the other stuff.
It’s exactly what James wrote about.
Faith and Deeds
Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Jas 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Jas 2:20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
Jas 2:25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
This is practical atheism, and it is extremely widespread. In fact, according to Gallup and his statistics, it is the religion of most of today’s Americans. It is the philosophy of the wicked who are described by David in Psalm 10. 1Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 83–84). Baker Books.
Conclusion – Do you know what Christian practical atheism is?
And there we have it. Christian practical atheism.
If you claim to be Christian and the stuff above describes you, it’s time for a serious look at yourself.
If you’ve thought about becoming a Christian, but don’t want to because your experience with Christianity is actually Christian practical atheism, please don’t sell God short. Find out about Jesus from someone who actually knows and follows Jesus. Your eternal soul depends on it.
If you’re truly trying to know and follow Jesus, consider His words to the church in Philadelphia:
To the Church in Philadelphia
Rev 3:7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
Rev 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Christianity Cross Image by sspiehs3 from Pixabay
Atheism Symbol Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay
Combined images by me
- 1Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 83–84). Baker Books.