Can you be a Christian if you don't believe in Jesus? - Mothering Forums

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Old 11-10-2010, 09:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am Christian. My family was never church going but I have always celebrated Christian holidays and been taught religion from a protestant POV.

 

The thing is, I don't believe Jesus was the son of God. I believe there was probably an awesome guy called Jesus, who did some good things for alot of people but I just don't believe he was the son of God. When I pray, I pray to God. I ask God for help. People praying and talking about Jesus feels wrong and weird to me.

 

So, can I actually be a Christian if I don't believe in Jesus or believe that he was the son of God?


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Old 11-10-2010, 09:21 PM
 
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I am going to go with no.  I mean you can call yourself whatever makes you happy but I would not consider you a Christian.


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Old 11-10-2010, 09:29 PM
 
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I am going to go with no.  I mean you can call yourself whatever makes you happy but I would not consider you a Christian.



I agree.  I'm curious as to why you call yourself a Christian when you don't want anything to do with Christ.  It sounds to me like you have a cultural/historic/ancestral link to the trappings of Christianity (the traditions, the holidays, the morals) but not the substantial faith that marks a Christian.


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Old 11-10-2010, 09:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Learning_Mum View Post

I am Christian. My family was never church going but I have always celebrated Christian holidays and been taught religion from a protestant POV.

 

The thing is, I don't believe Jesus was the son of God. I believe there was probably an awesome guy called Jesus, who did some good things for alot of people but I just don't believe he was the son of God. When I pray, I pray to God. I ask God for help. People praying and talking about Jesus feels wrong and weird to me.

 

So, can I actually be a Christian if I don't believe in Jesus or believe that he was the son of God?


I can't find the head scratcher smilie. By *definition*, a Christian is someone who follows Christ, who believes He is the Son of God. The only-begotten Son of the eternal Father. He is at the same time fully God and fully human. Two natures in one person (sorry - I've just finished a Church History and Patristics class - I'm in training to be a catechist - I'm Orthodox). smile.gif That's the classic definition, fought out in the fourth and fifth century wrangles over Christology.

 

However, there is a tendency among some Christians nowadays, to, as I put it in a presentation I had to give for my class last Saturday, "humanize the divinity" right out of Jesus Christ. His humanity is everything and His divinity is pushed totally to the side and ignored. So, you're not alone, that's to be sure.

 

My honest question is: why would you want to be a Christian if you don't believe in Christ?

 

 


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Old 11-10-2010, 09:39 PM
 
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I'm with the others and I'd say you can't be a Christian based on the definition of Christian.  I myself, am not religious at all, but realized I have a hard time saying out loud that I am not a Christian...I think it's just a societal thing.   I used to think I should just say that I am Christian if asked, because so many other people do.  


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Old 11-10-2010, 09:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure why I want to be a Christian. It's what I've always known? I want to start exploring religion and going to church and it's the easiest option?

 

I guess one of the problems I've always had is that he's the 'son of God' but he's not God but he is God. Does that make sense? To me he's either the earthly form of God or he's the son of God. I don't understand how he can be both. Also, God says in the bible to worship none other than Him but then he sends down someone that all Christians now worship instead of God....? See why I'm confused by this?


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Old 11-10-2010, 10:47 PM
 
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I'm not sure why I want to be a Christian. It's what I've always known? I want to start exploring religion and going to church and it's the easiest option?

 

I guess one of the problems I've always had is that he's the 'son of God' but he's not God but he is God. Does that make sense? To me he's either the earthly form of God or he's the son of God. I don't understand how he can be both. Also, God says in the bible to worship none other than Him but then he sends down someone that all Christians now worship instead of God....? See why I'm confused by this?


Your siggy says it all - "It's complicated!" ;-) It took several centuries and several ecumenical councils to explain it properly.

 

The Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All are God. Three in One, and One in Three. The Father is Eternal, the Son is begotten, and the Spirit proceeds (from the Father). Christ is the Son of God because He's begotten from the Father, but He's also God - second person of the Trinity. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1) - this is the Incarnation of Christ that many have had issues with through the centuries.


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Old 11-10-2010, 10:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Your siggy says it all - "It's complicated!" ;-) It took several centuries and several ecumenical councils to explain it properly.

 

The Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All are God. Three in One, and One in Three. The Father is Eternal, the Son is begotten, and the Spirit proceeds (from the Father). Christ is the Son of God because He's begotten from the Father, but He's also God - second person of the Trinity. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1) - this is the Incarnation of Christ that many have had issues with through the centuries.


Do you think you could dumb this down even more for me? Basically God, The Holy Spirit and Jesus and all God in different forms?
 


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Old 11-10-2010, 11:04 PM
 
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Do you think you could dumb this down even more for me? Basically God, The Holy Spirit and Jesus and all God in different forms?
 


No, that's modalism! The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the three *persons* of the Trinity. This might help:

 

http://www.oca.org/OCchapter.asp?SID=2&ID=36

 

I'm going to give you the Nicene Creed (hammered out at councils in 325 and 381), because that's my "statement of faith":

 

I believe in one God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages,
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made,
of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
and He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;
and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures;
and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead;
Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, Who proceeds from

the Father,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;
Who spoke by the prophets. In One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.
I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the Life of the world to come.

 


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Old 11-10-2010, 11:20 PM
 
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The Trinity as explained to me in Sunday School as a child used an egg as an analogy.  There are three parts to the egg (shell, yoke, white part) but they are all egg.  The trinity is like that, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  The three make up God, but each are their own part.  Like the eggshell, egg yoke and egg white.  

 

And no, by your definition I wouldn't say you sound like a Christian.  A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, so if you don't believe in Him then you are not His follower.


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Old 11-10-2010, 11:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So after reading the link above and then doing some more research I have confirmed that I don't believe in the Holy Trinity.

 

So I guess I can't call myself a Christian. Which kind of leaves me stuck as to how to progress in my spiritual journey. I identify with Judaism. It feels right in my heart but I don't think that I could ever convert.


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Old 11-11-2010, 12:19 AM
 
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You may wish to look up unitarianism and other minority nontrinitarian movements which were outgrowths of Christianity.  While Judaism and Islam each probably have enough in common with Christianity for you to feel rather comfortable with their respective theologies, it sounds as though it might suit you well to explore the history of people having your same sense of things who were also directly coming from your same theological background.

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Old 11-11-2010, 12:37 AM
 
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Not all Christians believe in the Holy Trinity as in the Nicene Creed.  But I would say all Christians believe in Christ.


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Old 11-11-2010, 12:47 AM
 
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Any misspellings or grammatical errors in the above statement are intentional;
they are placed there for the amusement of those who like to point them out.
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Old 11-11-2010, 02:14 AM
 
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I'm going to stumble on my words getting this out, but please bear with me. 

 

The nature of the Trinity is a mystery to us as humans - we don't have to understand it. It's something that is beyond us. We just have to accept it. Just like I don't understand how my car works - I have some vague understanding of internal combustion, but I don't know the details. I accept that it works, and that's enough to get in and start my car and drive it to the grocery store. I don't have to completely "get" something for it to work for me. Same with the mystery of the Trinity. I don't have to fully get it, 100%, but I have faith in it, I accept it, and it works. 

 

 

But yeah, if you're professing to be a CHRISTian, then it's a given you believe in the divinity of Jesus. 


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Old 11-11-2010, 08:24 AM
 
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That's where I was about 20 years ago. I could accept Jesus as the spiritual son of God... just as we all are... but not as the actual God.  And the whole concept of Jesus's actual divinity, and the trinity, did not fly.  Without going into everything...Jesus prayed to God the Father, not himself.  Jesus was not omniscent, yet God would be, etc.   Even a few semesters at seminary didn't help.  I explored Unitarianism--but sadly, there really aren't that many practicing Unitarians anymore (or at least public churches).  I will tell you that in my experience, your beliefs are not that uncommon.  Even the whole divinity of Jesus was not decided upon until the 4th century.  If you ask Jews if the Messiah was supposed to be God, the answer is a firm "no."  Also, if pressed on what they believe, I know of many Christians who do doubt the actual divinity of Jesus... or have doubts about his virgin birth or whatever.  Does that mean that you still can't find a place within Christianity? Nope.  But know that you will be going against the commonly held beliefs.


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Old 11-11-2010, 02:28 PM
 
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Have you tried asking Jesus if He is God?  Or if your not comfortable praying to Jesus, ask God if He is Jesus.  I could give you all kinds of verses, but that's not how I found out that Jesus is God.  I found out by asking, Jesus are you real?

 

I had denied the deity of Jesus for my whole life, but at a particular point I met a group of Christians that were really living what they believed.  I kept asking them, How do you know that Jesus is God?  They said you have to pray to receive Him.  So, reluctantly I prayed with them.  I still doubted.  They told me to go home and ask Him for yourself.

 

When I asked with an open heart, He came into me and became real to me...as God.  It was like turning on a switch.  To this day, I find that experience unexplainable and even on the bizarre side because I felt a physical expansion in my chest like a big breath of air, but it was very real to me.   It was so amazing that I asked again and the same expansion in my chest happened.   Now I have no doubts that Jesus is God.

 

And regarding asking with an open heart, I'd like to say something about that because all my life I asked about Jesus.  I really thought that I was open.  Actually, I was asking, but I was full of suspicion and doubt.  I would even say that I had a great deal of contempt for Jesus and His followers.  I have read many posts on mdc from people saying that they want to believe but that just can't make themselves believe.  It is true.  I don't think you can make yourself.

 

Somehow life's dealings caused me to drop my suspicion and contempt  and truly be an open person to Jesus.  I was so full of pride and full of concepts on how I thought God was supposed to be that it was like my heart was a locked door blocking Jesus from entering into my spirit.

 

So even though you said up thread that believing in the Trinity wasn't for you, maybe you might consider praying to God and asking Him to show you who He is.  You may not get a lightening bolt answer, but gradually you may get your answers.  I would also encourage you to read the Bible starting with the book of John in the New Testament.  Even if you've already read it, try reading it again.  The more I re-read the Bible the more I get from it.


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Old 11-11-2010, 02:54 PM
 
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I agree with the others that a Christian is someone who believes Jesus is the son of God, who lived on Earth in our physical plane and died for their sins. And they worship him specifically as their Saviour.

 

The thing is Christianity is a very popular religion, especially in the US. Anyone raised Christian (even if they never went to church) identifies with the beliefs, holidays, church services and culture. It's what we know. And many people who are not religious and do not go to church say they are Christian as a default, because their parents or grandparents were. It's like you have to be something LOL I find this fascinating!

 

I don't know much about being Agnostic but I know people call themselves that. If they are spiritual but do not identify with a religion. You might consider this if you feel drawn towards a title. Unitarian churches are a great option for those who are open in their beliefs, but love that feel of church community, shared prayer and holidays.

 

And because I am Pagan I need to give a plug for earth based spirituality. Or rather Solar based hehe It is my belief that many of the attributes of Jesus, especially his birth and death/resurretion are both shared with other dieties (Solar Gods) and follow the solar year (Solstices and Equinox). Celebrating a God near Christmas and Easter is not specific to Jesus. You can continue to celebrate the pre Christian aspect of our *shared* holidays, without worshipping Jesus. 

 

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Old 11-11-2010, 03:51 PM
 
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I think that religion aside, you can totally be culturally Christian.  I agree with previous posters that technically to be Christian you must believe Jesus is God's son, but I also have observed that there are A LOT of people who were raised culturally Christian.  Their entire childhood is routed in values, traditions, and routines that are most identified a being Christian in origin but they do not subscribe to the underlying belief system. 

 


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Old 11-11-2010, 03:57 PM
 
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Yeah, pretty sure you need to believe Jesus was the Son of God to be Christian.  You say you believe in God...have you explored more into Judiasm or something along those lines?  There are religions that believe in God but don't necessarily believe Jesus was his son.


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Old 11-11-2010, 04:24 PM
 
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I think that religion aside, you can totally be culturally Christian.  I agree with previous posters that technically to be Christian you must believe Jesus is God's son, but I also have observed that there are A LOT of people who were raised culturally Christian.  Their entire childhood is routed in values, traditions, and routines that are most identified a being Christian in origin but they do not subscribe to the underlying belief system. 

 

Excellent point.  I am culturally Catholic but I am not Christian.  To the OP - why does it matter to you?  Are you looking for a community to fit into, or some structured sort of system?


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Old 11-11-2010, 06:32 PM
 
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I think that religion aside, you can totally be culturally Christian.  I agree with previous posters that technically to be Christian you must believe Jesus is God's son, but I also have observed that there are A LOT of people who were raised culturally Christian.  Their entire childhood is routed in values, traditions, and routines that are most identified a being Christian in origin but they do not subscribe to the underlying belief system. 

 



I completely agree with this. I am culturally Christian (well, Catholic really) but no longer religiously so. That fact doesn't negate my entire upbringing however.

 

To the OP, you might also want to take a look at a Quaker meeting. Some (often the ones called churches) are very Christian, but many meetings, are not so tethered, and certainly individual members are free to believe what they want. But if you really are drawn to Judaism, I think you should explore that as well.

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Old 11-11-2010, 10:36 PM
 
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I'm going to go with No. The word Christian comes from the fact that you believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God. There are other religions that believe in the same God and not Jesus... maybe you could look into one of those?


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Old 11-12-2010, 01:57 AM
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i don't know if anyone else has gone this direction yet, but i think that it deserves some thought "believe what about jesus?"

 

i know that you assert the idea that you don't believe he is the son of god. but what does that mean, exactly? looking to the history of the church and various denominations (and gnostic ideologies), who exactly jesus was (historically, mythologically, and otherwise) and what exactly the son of God means (historically, mythologically and otherwise) is quite a complex question with *many, many* answers.

 

Some of those answers would come out quite shocking to the modern christian, particularly neo-christianity of the united states, which range from everything to the idea that no historical jesus existed, and he is merely a compilation of many stories, a retelling of older myths from the region, and that his lesson speaks largely of an individual's capacity for a higher consciousness/awareness/etc etc etc. Essentially, there is no jesus to believe in, only ideas, and even those are up for personal exploration, expression, and so on.

 

keep digging a bit, and we also discover that most of the christian holidays are simply compilations of various holidays from around the world, but with a particular relationship with christianity throughout the last 1000 years or so, and within the US, a mixture of traditions from many nations and perspectives, combined into the christmas we would see today. Fascinating stuff really.

 

That being said, i do know christians (particularly quakers) who are atheist, but resonate with the teachings of jesus and the basic christian practices within the church, and i would say that there are also "cultural christians" (as this is certainly true of "Irish Catholics" and "italian Catholics" with the "this is just the way we are, this is what it is to be irish/polish/italian/what have you." whom i have also met, but who will absolutely deny the dogmatic teachings of the church forwards and backwards, but will still faithfully go to church daily, weekly, seasonally, or what have you, with the greatest care because of their cultural heritage and connection, well outside of any religious/spiritual notion. God bless them for it too.

 

So, i go with "yes, of course." because, there are so many definitions of jesus, christ, son of god, and celebrating holidays anyhoot. smile.gif

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Old 11-12-2010, 03:58 AM
 
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I suppose you would be considered a christian in name only. I grew up in a nonpracticing catholic and methodist (I think) home. We went to catholic school, did the church thing when the holidays came round and all that but I never considered myself a christian until I decided to believe in Jesus and I wouldnt even have dreamt of doing so before that day. I understand that many people do consider themselves christians but ask them what they believe about Jesus and they dont know much about him even. I just think, personally as a christian, that there are simply a LOT of things to consider before calling yourself a christian. Like discovering what the word Christian really means. Where it gets its name, Jesus Christ, and learn what other christians believe about him. But saying that, I think its really important that people dont call themselve a christian if they dont believe in Jesus Christ. Thats my personal opinion. Theres nothing I can do about it tho. Im a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. He is my Saviour and my everything and I love Him. This is why I call myself a christian.

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Old 11-12-2010, 08:36 AM
 
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I think you would be part of a long-standing minority traditions of Christianity. Someone quoted the Nicene creed, but the Nicene creed, developed hundreds of years after Jesus, was developed because not all Christians believed in the divinity of Jesus. And there are modern day Christians who reject the trinity. Like me.


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Old 11-12-2010, 02:44 PM
 
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I think you can call yourself whatever you want. Culturally christian seems appropriate as a descriptive term. Are you looking for a church/religion/community that shares your beliefs?

I think Judaism, Islam are good examples of religions which share historical roots and some beliefs but do not adopt Jesus as God. Also, UU churches and unprogrammed Quaker meetings often embrace followers who are christian in cultural background but can also be agnostic/pagan/non-religious. Depends on the congregation, but those two both fall under the category of Christian usually without requiring the belief in Jesus as lord.


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Old 11-13-2010, 07:00 AM
 
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I think you can call yourself whatever you want. Culturally christian seems appropriate as a descriptive term. Are you looking for a church/religion/community that shares your beliefs?

I think Judaism, Islam are good examples of religions which share historical roots and some beliefs but do not adopt Jesus as God. Also, UU churches and unprogrammed Quaker meetings often embrace followers who are christian in cultural background but can also be agnostic/pagan/non-religious. Depends on the congregation, but those two both fall under the category of Christian usually without requiring the belief in Jesus as lord.



This is how I feel as well. culturally, I'm Christian. I think it would be dishonest for me to say that I'm not. Having been brought up in a country that is primarily Christian in a Christian family, celebrating Christian holidays and traditions there's no denying the influence that Christianity has had on my life. That said, I'm not interested in Christianity as my spiritual practice.

 

My family's traditions are deeply rooted in Catholicism and the idea of NOT participating in our family traditions around the nativity at Christmas, not having a baptismal ceremony with my children wearing their great-grandfathers christening gown would be unthinkable. I feel like in the US, sometimes we discount the cultural and familial significance of religious practices.

 

Do I think Jesus is God...well, yeah, sort of; I think he was an avatar like Krishna and the Buddha, and anyway the spiritual path that I follow tells me that we're ALL divine. What I don't believe in is a literal heaven or hell or that Christianity is the "one true path" (but I think it's A true path). Spiritually though, Christianity just doesn't do it for me, this is not to say that I think my spiritual path is superior in any way, just that it's more suited to me; everyone is different after all and while Christian spiritual practices may be deeply powerful and meaningful and uplifting for some, they're just not what I'm drawn to or interested in.

 

That said, as an American women who is Catholic by birth I can't just erase--nor would I want to erase--my heritage or the influence it has had on my life nor would I want to cease participating in family traditions and practices that ARE meaningful to me--not for their religious significance, but for their cultural and familial significance.

 

When someone asks what my religion is I guess my answer would depend on whether they wanted to know about my beliefs and spiritual practices or if they were asking about my background/culture.

 

Often I will say I'm a non-practicing Catholic. Or that I'm Catholic by birth but follow a Vedic path, or a Yogic/Tantric path (depending on which terms I think the person would be most familiar with).

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Old 11-13-2010, 09:07 AM
 
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Donning my flame-proof suit to offer another perspective.  Historically, not all followers of Christ have professed belief in the Nicene Creed, the doctrine of Jesus as "only son of God". As Tradd pointed out up thread, this doctrine was "hammered out" in fourth and fifth centuries (precisely because there was dissent), so hundreds of years after Jesus' life and generations after the the lives of his early followers.  Keep in mind that the term "Christian" was not likely used by the early followers, most of whom still identified with Judaism.

 

Currently, the vast majority of people who identify themselves as "Christians" are of the creedal variety, meaning that their Christianity is based on belief in (most commonly) the tenants of the Nicene Creed mentioned above.   But there have been other methods of following Jesus.  The OP might be interested in Gnostic Christianity, for example.  "Gnostic," comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means "knowledge" and speaks about an experiential path of knowing God, not through faith, but through "Logos" first-hand knowing.  There has been quite a bit written about the Gnostic Gospels and such over the past couple of decades.  An amazon search would get you started.  Best wishes to all on their paths.

 

Edited to add: well it looks like others jumped in while I typed my reply to suggest some similar ideas smile.gif

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Old 11-13-2010, 11:05 PM
 
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I heard someone say something one time that seemed to resonate for me (I'm not Christian.  I believe that Jesus led a wonderful example, but I don't believe that he is any more divine than any of the rest of us)  Anyway, what they said was, "the religion of Jesus, not the religion about Jesus."  That made a lot of sense to me because I believe that Jesus taught a lot of important lessons about what kind of life we should lead (just as I believe that many other spiritual leaders have taught important lessons about what kind of life we should lead).

 

I was raised Catholic, but have always felt kind of squirmy talking about/praying to Jesus.  Within the last few years I have started giving myself permission to say to myself, "I'm not Christian."  It has been free-ing in a way.  I will admit that it's hard b/c everyone else in my family and in my day-to-day community is so gung-ho Christian... and many of them believe that non Christians are going to hell.  But I've found a wonderful UU church and am making friends in that community and learning to feel more comfortable with what I don't believe and have found a spiritually safe place to make the journey to find out what I do believe.


mommy to Christopher 2/29/08
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