Can one be a Christian and an atheist, as William Hamilton claimed to be?

I believe it is, if we use the word Christian as an adjective, and not as a noun.

It is possible to adhere to the enlightened moral teachings of Christ (and in this sense describe oneself as one with Christian qualities), be respectful of the name and spiritual stature of Christ, and celebrate the meaningful dimensions of Christian tradition,  and still be an atheist.

Likewise, I believe that one can be  Hindu in one’s religious outlook by being respectful of all (non-hurting) religious faiths, by partaking in the meaningful festivities of the tradition, and by being reverential to  the beautiful icons and inspiring symbols of the religion, and still be an atheist.

I am inclined to think that there are countless atheist Christians , Jews, and Hindus.

However, while individuals may be this way, religious  institutions and guardians of orthodoxy will not look upon this favorably.

If they had the power they would ex-communicate and/or ostracize such individuals, and  call them names.

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March 11, 2012

William Hamilton Dies at 87; Known for ‘Death of God’

The statement “God is Dead” is, by itself, incomplete in that the word God is not defined or remains ill-defined.

Moreover, we need to differentiate between “God,”  “God of Religions,” “Concept of God,” and “Belief in God.”

With these clarifications it is fair to say that:

1. Whether God per se is dead or not, no mortal one can say, given that no mortal knows much about God beyond the human heart and head.

2. As to the God of Religions, most (not all) religions have different visions of God. As long as these religions exist, there will be Gods too.

3. As to the Concept of God as a useful, powerful, and meaningful entity in human culture, what some thoughtful thinkers since ancient times and in all cultures have been saying is that this concept is not necessary to lead a meaningful, ethical, and fulfilling life. What Hamilton was saying, or should have said, is that there is/was an ever-growing number of people in (awakened) societies who are feeling this way. The long-range impact this would be that the concept of God (especially as envisaged in various traditional religions) will become irrelevant in the enlightened world. But his statement was, and perhaps still is, valid largely for Western European and U.S. cultures, and not for the world at large.

4. As to Belief in God, I think here again Hamilton was very mistaken in his comment (which is a repetition of what Nietzsche had said in late 19th century) in that it was implicitly made for all of humanity, instead of specifying it for Western Christendom. Belief in God has been growing of late in many parts of the world, often with greater fervor and unfortunately with potential for greater danger since in this new version hatred for others is often associated with faith in one’s own God.

March 11, 2012