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“Ask a Priest: Am I Still Considered Christian If I’m Agnostic?”
Q: I was raised Catholic, but I don’t exactly believe in God. Maybe I fall under the agnostic category. Yet, I still think there is a lot of value in the Bible. Although it may not be scientifically true, I think there is truth in it regarding how people should behave. So, I live like a Christian in my actions as in how we are supposed to treat others and go about relationships. I believe in modesty for both men and women, being monogamous, not having children out of wedlock, and I’m saving myself for marriage. So, I would like to know I’m still considered Christian because I act as if I was and I value the religious teachings despite not exactly having a firm belief in God and not going to church. Also, I know that Christians aren’t supposed to marry nonbelievers, so if I’m not considered a Christian, can I convert if I wanted to marry a Christian girl? There’s a girl that I’ve been interested in who is Christian, and I’ve been hesitant to approach her in regard to starting a relationship because of my uncertainty regarding God. I wouldn’t want to waste her time or my own. So, I am still considered a Christian? If not, is there anything I can do, like converting, if I did want to marry a Christian girl? – G.C.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You say that you were raised Catholic. That implies that you were baptized Catholic. If that is the case, you are considered a Catholic (that is, a Christian) by the Church, though a non-practicing Catholic.
It is good that you are trying to live Christian values. In one sense you are probably closer to belief in God than you think.
For only God gives sense to moral norms. Without him to give a metaphysical basis to morality, there is ultimately no real reason to follow moral norms.
Or let’s put it this way: We have an innate sense of good and evil. We aren’t indifferent to the moral behavior of ourselves or those around us. We don’t, for instance, think of volunteers at the local soup kitchen as being on the same moral level as drug dealers or ISIS members. Where does this moral sense come from? It comes from God.
As to whether you should date this young woman, that is a prudential decision for you and her to make. I’m sure you will want to be open with her about your beliefs.
It seems as though you are on a spiritual journey. Your position isn’t frozen. You might consider yourself to be agnostic today, but that doesn’t seem to satisfy you. You already take some Christian norms of behavior more seriously than a lot of people do – and that is a sign of God’s grace at work.
And who knows? Perhaps this young woman will help you along that journey … which could lead to a recommitment to your Catholic roots.
In the meantime, it would be good to follow the Christian values you admire so much. It might help to read a bit of the Bible each day, especially the Gospels. Get to know the person of Jesus Christ.
For further reading you might consider the Youth Catechism, the Surprised by Truth series by Patrick Madrid, The Case for Jesus and Theology and Sanity. For heavier reading you might turn to John Henry Newman’s Grammar of Ascent.
I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.
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