Date: May 08, 2018
“The degree to which one can be considered an atheist while simultaneously being an adherent of a sect of a traditionally monotheistic, polytheistic, or non-theistic religion is the subject of ongoing theological debate. About the book [Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion]: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307476820
Some people with what would be considered religious or spiritual beliefs call themselves atheists; others argue that this is a contradiction in terms.
Christianity, as a theistic and proselytizing religion, tends to view atheism as heresy. According to the Book of Psalms 14:1, “The fool hath said in his heart,1 there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” However, high rates of atheism have been found among self-identified Christians in the United States. For example, 10% of self-identified Protestants and 21% of self-identified Roman Catholics were found to be atheists in a HarrisInteractive survey from 2003.
There is no single Christian approach toward atheism. The approach taken varies between Christian denominations, and Christian ministers may intelligently distinguish an individual’s claims of atheism from other nominal states of personal perspective, such as plain disbelief, an adherence to science, a misunderstanding of the nature of religious belief, or a disdain for organized religion in general.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this explicit. While it identifies atheism as a violation of the First Commandment, calling it “a sin against the virtue of religion”, it is careful to acknowledge that atheism may be motivated by virtuous or moral considerations, and admonishes the followers of Roman Catholicism to focus on their own role in encouraging atheism by their religious or moral shortcomings:
(2125) […] The imputability of this offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances. “Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion.”
A famous idiosyncratic atheist belief is that of Thomas J. J. Altizer. His book The Gospel of Christian Atheism (1967) proclaims the highly unusual view that God has literally died, or self-annihilated. According to Altizer, this is nevertheless “a Christian confession of faith”. Making clear the difference between his position and that of both Nietzsche’s notion of the death of God and the stance of theological non-realists, Altizer says, “To confess the death of God is to speak of an actual and real event, not perhaps an event occurring in a single moment of time or history, but notwithstanding this reservation an event that has actually happened both in a cosmic and in a historical sense.”
Many would dispute whether this is an atheist position at all, as belief in a dead God implies that God once existed and was alive. Atheism typically entails a lack of belief that any gods ever existed, as opposed to not existing currently.
A 2001 survey by “Faith Communities Today” found that 18% of Unitarian Universalists (UU) consider themselves to be atheists, with 54% considering themselves humanist. For comparison, 16% of UUs consider themselves Buddhist, 13% Christian, and 13% Pagan, according to this study.