What Is A Christian Atheist?


So, I’m still looking for an explanation as to why the vast majority of atheists specifically reject the Christian god, but rarely the gods of other religions. I refer to these people as Christian atheists. Yes, it seems like a very strange designation, but let me explain.

As a follow-up to my original survey on the topic, I have had further discussion with some of the participants in that survey (see my post Who’s the Real Atheist?) to try to understand what was behind the survey numbers.  Some helpful data also came from the website of Atheist Alliance International which has information on some 275,000 atheists worldwide, including the following:

  • The vast majority of atheists used to be Christians.
  • Less than 20% of atheists had a religious background other than Christianity.
  • Only about 5% of atheists had a religious background other than the Abrahamic faiths.

It appears that the vast majority of atheists, especially those in western civilization, were Christians when they were children since that was the religion of their parents. Over time, they developed different belief systems separate and apart from their parents. For some, their experience within Christianity played a role in shaping their opinion about the existence of a creator god; in this case, their negative experience helped to shape their world view that a creator god did not exist.  Eventually, they left Christianity and from then on considered themselves to be atheists. Thus, my reference to them as Christian atheists.

Aside: I was a bit surprised to learn this, although in retrospect it closely follows my own personal religious experience.

Interestingly enough, Christian atheists all claim to have rejected God, however, the only religious experience/concept that they have had in their life was that of a Christian god, at a time when they, themselves, were Christians. They were taught, as most Christians were, to believe that the Christian god was the Creator who was responsible for all life. He(God) was the one and only god. There were no others.

However, atheism, by definition, is the rejection of any sort of god.  The thing is that there are  4,200 religions in the world, most of which have creator gods. Yes, 4,200. Having rejected the Christian god (the one and only god), Christian atheists apparently don’t seem to feel that it’s even necessary to learn about any other possible gods, or consider them at all for that matter. Only the Christian god is relevant and they have already rejected him.

The reason why I find this phenomena more than a bit curious is that if a blind man says that he sees nothing, he is obviously speaking the truth.  However, if he says that there is nothing to see… well, that’s a horse of a different color.  So, when the Christian atheist says that there is no creator god to be found anywhere, I compare him to the blind man who says that there is nothing to see.  The problem is, how would you know unless you looked.  

And that’s why I call them Christian atheists… simply because they have really only rejected the Christian concept of a creator god… as if Christianity has a monopoly on God.



All the bickering and name calling between atheists and Christianity has all the earmarks of an internecine feud, in many respects between certain Christians and certain former Christians. Some of the comments about Christianity actually feel more like an attack on Christianity, itself, rather than a referendum on a creator god. Maybe, that explains why Christian atheists can’t stand Christianity, since they were once Christians themselves.


“When I was a kid I had an imaginary friend and I used to think that he went everywhere with me, and that I could talk to him and that he could hear me, and that he could grant me wishes and stuff. And then I grew up, and I stopped going to church.”   – Jimmy Carr

4 Responses to “What Is A Christian Atheist?”

  1. Nan said

    You may have a point … for certain individuals who refer to themselves as atheists.

    But when you consider the true definition of atheist as “someone who believes that no deities exist, then it doesn’t matter whether they have a Christian background or not. They simply do not believe in god. Any god. Period.

    I do wonder why you continue to belabor this point?

    • chicagoja said

      It’s a personal fascination that I have based on my discussions with a number of atheists. And you’re right, it doesn’t matter what their background is. An atheist is simply someone who doesn’t believe in any god. Almost all the atheists that I know used to be Christian. Because of their upbringing as Christians, they first rejected the Christian god and then became atheists which, as you said, is the rejection of any god. So, how did they make the leap from the rejection of a Christian god to becoming an atheist? Most seem to argue that God does not exist because the Christian god does not exist which doesn’t make sense to me. I actually agree with many of their arguments about a Christian god but an atheist, as you said, rejects all gods. However, there is no interest on their part of the gods of other religions (actually I don’t have any interest either, but then I’m not an atheist). They had a personal experience which caused them to reject Christianity (I’ve been there and done that) and because they have rejected the only god that they have known their whole life, they reject the possibility that there still could be a creator. So, I still have no valid rationale for how these people rejected the gods of other religions, especially when they know little to nothing about them.

  2. Nan said

    From my perspective, to believe there is some sort of entity that exists somewhere “out there” is baffling. NO god has made him/her/itself visible to humans. And any events attributed to “god” (any god) are nothing more than imagination at work.

    You seem to question why those who have rejected Christianity also reject the possibility there could be a creator. I can’t help but ask … what does it matter? I guess to me it’s a non-issue.

    However, from your previous posts, I get the impression you do believe in some kind of a creator — of the extraterrestrial type. I suppose it this were true, it could answer a lot of questions. For me, however, it’s all too fuzzy to draw any conclusions.

    • chicagoja said

      Thank you for your comments. I’ve spent many years researching why people believe in what they believe in. The belief, itself, is not nearly as important as the rationale behind why they believe. All beliefs are valid to the believer regardless of whether or not the belief is logical based on the “evidence”. So, while it may be baffling to you that a God exists, it is perfectly acceptable to others. That’s why it’s called a leap of faith. I agree with you that any events attributed to “god” are illusory. With regards to your comment that no god has made itself visible that is also true, but perhaps irrelevant. That is, you have created an image of a god based on your own past personal experience (let’s say as a Christian) and then declared that he cannot exist because he does not meet that image. So, one of the questions that I am asking is why does a god have to be limited to the Christian concept of God? I’m simply trying to understand that rationale.

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