There is a theologian and religious philosopher named Adam Kotsko who claims to be a Christian Atheist. In an interview in Religious Dispatches Magazine he seems to try to explain this. The section of the interview which he addresses this idea is below and the full article can be read here.


Christopher Hitchens has said something to effect, and I can't find the quote, that if you take away many of the revolting aspects of religion, pushing your faith on others, the mandatory fear and worship of god, etc.. then he too would be a fan. This is not what Kotsko is suggesting but I believe he is saying that if you make Christianity more "humanistic" in nature, then you can both be an atheist and a christian.


I personally reject the idea, and think this is just another theologan trying to find a way to push back against the rise of secularism but I was wondering your interpretations and thoughts.

Can a chrisitan be an atheist according to Kotskos "logic"? 



One of the interesting things I’ve found from reading your blog is that you are in fact an atheist. What relevance do you see this theory having for atheists?

Well, first I want to hedge on this atheist question in some way, and say I’m not a traditional theist; but if I’m an atheist, I’m at least a Christian one.

In any case though, I think that a lot of work by secular philosophers recently has been reclaiming the Christian tradition, and theological concepts, that provides some prima facie evidence for its relevance—people like Slavoj Zizek or Alain Badiou or Georgio Agamben. My work’s been very influenced by them as a way to reclaim the Christian heritage in a more convincing way than simply rejecting it because it has religiousness all over it.

At one point theologian Thomas Altizer posted on your blog that we haven’t really thought through a proper atheism yet.

Right. I think that you can see this with the New Atheists. Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ and Dennett’s books are a kind of simplistic critique of religion that’s basically not going to change anyone’s mind. I think there has to be more to say about religion other than the fact that it makes no sense as an empirical claim. That’s just too obvious to be interesting. I think that we as a society deserve a better form of atheism.

Another of the interesting moves you make is you effectively leave the anthropomorphic God “in place,” which is a definite contrast to the attempts to deconstruct the God of metaphysics in the work of philosophers like Jean-Luc Marion and Richard Kearney. What was the rationale for leaving God in place?

I took my cue from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who has argued that we have to accept the metaphysical parts of Christianity. This is against the work of Bultmann who in his reading attempts to rehabilitate Christianity by cutting out the bits that seem credible to contemporary people.

Bonhoeffer says basically to leave the myth in place, but what we need to do is remove the religious framework through which we interpret it. So we’re not necessarily talking about God, we’re talking about human beings. My reading is relevant to our concerns in our world, and not primarily about salvation or the Church. I object to the de-mythologizing approach in that it’s fundamentally arbitrarily and that it always has Christianity and theology in retreat. It’s trying to be acceptable to a liberal audience, and it’s doomed to be unpersuasive. You’re basically admitting what you’re saying is irrelevant. So I think preserving the text as is but with a different framework is a better approach.

So is it possible to have atonement if we deconstruct the idea of God?

I think it’s possible to have redemption, and have change and transformation in the way we relate to the world and each other. I don’t think that requires God.

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Good point.  The culture aspect adds another layer that I didn't think of.  You could be culturally Christian, as well as looking to Jesus as a moral example without believing in gods / magic.
If your going to choose a moral example Dr.Seuss would be better to be honest.
No doubt.


The butter battle book

The Sneetches

The lorax


Morals of those three works alone have more value then anything jesus ever said.

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” - Gandhi

Being as Gandhi was a racist and there were rumors of him and 12 year old girls..its hard to believe he wouldn't have gotten along well with Mormons and Catholics at least.
Many of the traits that make us “good” are universal to all peoples. Empathy towards others, honesty, respect and all the noble characteristics that distinguish us from other creatures – though not all of them unique to mankind – have evolved over our history. Religions, because they believe a god created us, also believe that these universal traits can only become “noble” by following their teachings. I have Empathy for my fellow humans (love thy neighbour). It has nothing to do with any religion or my Atheism. However religions have seized the ownership of these traits and become moral dictatorships. They believe that these traits are god given and not evolved. So many people who are not very religious consider themselves Christian because they consider themselves “good” people because they follow religious dogma rather than professing a strong belief in a god. But anyone who professes to be an Atheist would know this. He or she would know that god is irrelevant to leading a life that a religious person would deem very Christian. I do not believe that Kotsko understands this so he is not an Atheist. He also claims to be a Theologian. In my view as an Atheist, theology is the study of nothing. This also means he is not an Atheist. He ends the interview by stating his next book is about the devil (WTF). So I suppose for his next book promotion he will be talking about being a “satanic Atheist”. The man does not “get” Atheism.

It's ALL a matter of definitions and usage. "So many people who are not very religious"... What do you mean by "religious" in this context? Do you mean, "good"? 

Because our culture is so entrenched, there will be lots of words with religious origin and religious definition which are in common usage - even by atheists. (I welcome all movement away from such usages just as I try to eliminate sexist language from my communications even when it may sound clumsy.) 

What I'm saying is that the word, "Christian" has come to mean, in one common usage, "of, or pertaining to, the 'nice' aspects of Christ's teachings - like Sermon on the Mount."

Most on this board would have no trouble with, "these so-called Christian, right-wing, tea-party types don't behave in a very Christian way". Someone calling themself (please excuse the anti-sexist word invention) a Christian atheist can probably be said to be using the word "Christian" in that same sense.

An atheist who uses the term christian in such a way is giving credence to the argument that secularists lack morals without christianity. Its appalling and i find the idea disgusting personally.
Well, I agree, but isn't "appalling" and "disgusting" a bit strong? Would you be appalled and disgusted if I said, "someone calling HIMself..."? Not many years ago this was accepted usage. But, in deference to the possible "herself"s my language is shifting. If people refer to themselves as "Christian atheists", I know what they mean. Yep, let's start moving away from religious language just as we're moving away from sexist language. But finding intentional offense in this is stretching it a bit, I think. (See "offensive")

Wrong him to point this out to. The vagina wielders with their panties in a bunch over language just look dumb trying to change him to her. I tend to embrace our sexual differences as a wonderful thing personally.


However reinforcing the idea that morality sprang up out of jesuses asshole is indeed offensive.

Hi Mike - I mean they are not fundamentalists but still Theists and cannot understand that Atheists do not need Religion to be “good”. They may not participate too much in religious customs but still have a Deist based outlook on life and how it should be lived. That outlook or world view is based on what they call Christian principles.


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