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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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What GC is going through is called ‘wrestling with’ all that was taught from the time that blessed water went over his ‘wittle’ head and he was just gurgling and cooing. GC doesn’t mention what makes him a bit indifferent to RELIGION (the faith in prACTice) but the MARK or presence of God (Jesus Christ) is always part of our SOUL (soul: intellect, how we think, memory, keeping in mind the ways of Godliness as raised up, and ‘free will’ aligned to doing what is Go(o)d)
As the cliche goes: we may ‘at various stages of life’ WONDER (PONDER) the MYSTERY OF GOD (unseen) and the idea of HEAVEN, eternal life, angels, saints. GOD is mystery… and always will be. What GC is struggling with IS FAITH! We all do, being of flesh and living in the material world… where that other spirit is roaming (and these days with a vengeance.) It is when doubts come, ONE NEEDS TO MOVE not away from those ‘ACTS OF FAITH’ . . . doing AS HE SAID TO DO (take and eat and pray with others of various stages of Faith) If the Christian girlfriend is not of the Christian faith of Catholic practice, BE CAREFUL of what her faith in prACTice is about. Everyone is considered part of GOD’S ONE FAMILY who are baptized, but not everyone understands the FULLNESS of FAITH. (ONE, HOLY, APOSTOLIC, ‘CHURCH’ aka ‘BODY OF CHRIST.’) If this girl is speaking of Catholics not being Christian (she is teaching falsely) A Christian is one who is baptized, and ‘WORKS OUT SALVATION’ by adhering to THE WORD (Jesus Christ) Being Christian is not just a ‘smiley nice’ demeanor to ‘be loved.’ and ‘popular.’ A Christian of Catholic faith practice perseveres in that which was learned… CONTINUES with the ‘taking and eating’ AND PUTTING GOD FIRST. (there might be the
struggle if one is just getting started in ‘the world’ that speaks of EVERYTHING BUT (as GC spoke)
The Sacraments Sanctify AKA purge us of all that is NOT God’s way. Makes us HOLY. It is a slow transformation from ‘flesh’ to that GLORIFIED Spirit of our Savior. Don’t move from it. A thousand
difficulties is not doubt. STAY THE COURSE!! it is a LIFETIME TRANSFORMATION!! Slow and steady.
LOVE without commitment at altar before God and witnesses, abortion if it suits ‘the lifestyle of the world’ MAKE MONEY FIRST, is the message of ‘the world. BE POPULAR … offend no one. Just be nice. And yes, those NICE smiley people can appear to have it all together… and they don’t go to church. They have big wages, nice cars, homes, impressive ‘important’ jobs, speak with fast (and forked) tongue . . . ie flip flopping one day to the next. PERSEVERE in what got you to the present good life and thoughts. (raised a Catholic) If you can state the right and wrong actions of life… you BELIEVE IN WHAT IS OF GO(O)D. if you believe in OBJECTIVE GOOD you believe in GOD. So, CONTINUE ON in how raised and ASK GOD to INCREASE YOUR FAITH in HIM. (beware GOD will increase faith, perhaps with calling you to give up NOT the church filled with His grace, but give up those worldly ideas competing for your loyalty) If you ‘stand against’ the ideas of ‘the world’ . . . don’t expect to be ‘popular.’ Say yes to all the things you know ARE GOOD, and show the world you ACT in FAITH by ‘taking and eating’ the blessed bread or Real Presence. (EVEN as some, maybe that nice Christian girlfriend) says SUCH ACTS of FAITH do nothing.) CONTINUE what was learned, and HE will increase your FAITH IN GOD.
GOD is a spirit of OTHER CENTERED GOOD. Before there can be love aka ‘respect’ for self and neighbor
there must be a LOVE of GOD. (Respect for God) Basic Sunday School: GOD is love, God is good.
Catechism: We are to LOVE GOD, then love neighbor AS we love ourselves.
If the understanding of God (spirit of good) is not there ‘WHOLLY’ (Holy aka PURE love, which with humanity is a process of getting to WHOLENESS of love for God and other) Then there is a muddiness
to knowledge of how to love aka respect neighbor and self. Because of perseverance in ACTS OF
FAITH as Christ said to do (obedience) Mystery it is but that GOD unseen brings us to knowledge
understanding counsel and wisdom OF GOD and His ways… along with the FORTITUDE, PIETY, AND
‘FEAR’ (RESPECT) to living HIS WAY ‘in the world’ . . . resulting in growth of the ‘fruit’ of Christ’s spirit
which is MORAL VIRTUE.
KEEP THE FAITH IN THOSE SANCTIFYING SACRAMENTS. Catholics are ‘In the world but NOT of the
ways and ideas of this material world.