Christian atheism is a theological position in which the belief in the God of Christianity is rejected or absent but the moral teachings of Jesus are followed.
Christian atheism is related to Jesusism, the Christian theological-philosophical movement named for its understanding of Jesus as a simple teacher of morals, in direct contrast to traditional Christianity, which claims that Jesus is divine.
Thomas Ogletree, Frederick Marquand Professor of Ethics and Religious Studies at Yale Divinity School, lists these four common beliefs
- The assertion of the unreality of God for our age, including the understandings of God which have been a part of traditional Christian theology
- The insistence upon coming to grips with contemporary culture as a necessary feature of responsible theological work
- Varying degrees and forms of alienation from the church as it is now constituted
- Recognition of the centrality of the person of Jesus in theological reflection
According to Paul van Buren, a Death of God theologian, the word God itself is “either meaningless or misleading”. He contends that it is impossible to think about God. Van Buren says that
“we cannot identify anything which will count for or against the truth of our statements concerning ‘God'”.
The inference from these claims to the “either meaningless or misleading” conclusion is implicitly premised on the verificationist theory of meaning. Most Christian atheists believe that God never existed, but there are a few who believe in the death of God literally. Thomas J. J. Altizer is a well-known Christian atheist who is known for his literal approach to the death of God. He often speaks of God’s death as a redemptive event. In his book The Gospel of Christian Atheism he speaks of how
“every man today who is open to experience knows that God is absent, but only the Christian knows that God is dead, that the death of God is a final and irrevocable event, and that God’s death has actualized in our history a new and liberated humanity”.