Functional Atheists

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All year round, you can find people that don’t live their lives based on God. These people get dinner with their kids, make sweaters, go snowboarding, drink coffee, have sex, bomb other countries, and they do all of this without calling out to God. They might not even pray daily or at all (or maybe only when they get cancer), and they don’t consult the Bible for pretty much anything. But they have one crucial difference between themselves and the rest of the world.

They call themselves Christian.

And that’s…well, the only difference between them and the rest of the world. As far as I can tell, their lives function a lot like mine does, except that they profess to believe in a God, or believe in his son Jesus Christ.

I call these people “functional atheists.”, because they function like me, although they call themselves Christians. 

I don’t know what other kind of world they think I live in because I’m an atheist, but I can assure them that my day doesn’t consist of the baby-eating bloodbath that they’re probably thinking of when they hear the word. In all fairness, it just means someone who doesn’t believe in God. That’s it. There’s literally nothing else.

So what surprises me about these functional atheists, who, as you’ll recall, are people who live their lives without even being vaguely informed by their “faith”, who don’t go to church, don’t pray, don’t have a prayer group, don’t study the Bible, and might only find themselves in church on Easter and Christmas or when relatives are over, is that they do choose to stand up at random times.

Do you just believe that someone is better if they believe in God rather than not?

After a shooting, they’ll send thoughts and prayers, or they will be outraged if an atheist group is also allowed to distribute literature on a school’s campus, or they will be horrified at the thought of removing the Ten Commandments from a courthouse. Research shows that many of them would be put off by the idea of an atheist president, and this affects their vote. Or when terror strikes, we all unify in solidarity as “one nation under God.”

But why? If that thing (God) doesn’t affect your life in any real or measurable way any of the rest of the time, why would you let it decide who you should and shouldn’t vote for? Do you just believe that someone is better if they believe in God rather than not?

And if it’s just not important to you, as your actions would suggest, why don’t you just drop it the whole way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on “functional atheists”, and about the role that God apparently plays in the lives of these Christians where he doesn’t seem to play a role at all.

Feel free to comment, like, share, and follow below! And it’s the first post of the new year. 🙂 It feels good to be back.

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8 thoughts on “Functional Atheists”

  1. it is true that the difference between a believer and a person is 1 religion.

    it is curious that the majority of people on the earth live in the benefits of science – cities – or around them – yet cling to the rather ancient ideas of magical interference.

    curious too this idea that there is a plan, so prayers and rituals couldn’t have any effect even if….

    religion is a mental illness and needs to be in the diagnostic manual

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    1. “Curious too this idea that there is a plan…”

      Curious indeed. As Neil Degrasse Tyson says, “There are things that exist in the natural world that do not have your health or longevity as a priority. So I cannot look at the universe and say, ‘Yes, there’s a god and this god cares about my life’ at all. The evidence does not support this.”

      So to Neil, the idea of some being out there is even more tolerable than the idea that that being is good, or wishes us well, but that’s the supposed chief attribute of God.

      Or like Eddie Izzard said, “If there is a God, his plan is very similar to someone not having a plan.”

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      1. YES! also they don;t get the message that when you determine your own values you don;t need them dictated to you and very few people who read the bible are the intended targets, it was a text manual for the people who were fleecing the flock, not the actual flock. so once people got to actually read that incoherent mess of an endless committee writing. seriously, legislative language is the only writing more overwritten

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  2. I’ve also heard this type of Christian referred to as a “nominal Christian” or Christian in name only. I’ve seen some nominal Christians go so far as to admit that they don’t know whether a god exists or not or if Jesus was the son of this god or not, but they still consider themselves “Christian” or followers of Christ because they value the morals of love, charity, peace, and so forth taught by Jesus. I think they cling to this label because it’s easier not to change and they feel social pressure to remain Christian. That said, I think most nominal Christians do believe in a god and do believe in the supernatural claims about Jesus because these beliefs were indoctrinated into them as children and they have been brainwashed into thinking that Christianity is the default position and that atheists are the ones with the burden of proof.

    I hesitate to appropriate your term “functional atheist” since their is no atheistic way to function. As you said, atheism is a position on a single stance–the existence of gods–it has nothing to do with how one acts, with morality or daily life. Also, what does it mean to be a functional theist? Does it mean contemplating God? Because, with us as examples, atheists can contemplate God more often than Christians. Does it mean being passionate about your religion? But just because you accept a claim doesn’t mean you will be passionate about it. For example, I believe that the earth is spherical, but I tend to live my life without contemplating the nature of the earth’s sphericity or being passionate about how it relates to the force of gravity which then relates to me personally. In a similar fashion, Christians can accept the claims of Christianity as true, but not live their lives contemplating or being passionate about how these claims may affect their daily lives.

    I’ve heard Christians call atheists essentially “functional Christians” since atheists live morally, but this is a rude and inaccurate portrayal of atheists. Likewise, calling nominal Christians “functional atheists” is a rude and inaccurate depiction of them.

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