Open for Explanations

I thought I’d post something non-controversial this time, and perhaps something we can all put our heads together to try and explain. I love browsing for the latest polls indicating political or religious beliefs, and I came across something I still can’t quite wrap my head around.

According to this poll,

“14% of Americans that do not believe in God self-identify as Christian”.

I was curious as to what some of my fellow Catholics might see as the explanation for this.  Is it a cultural identity thing? A case of deep, twisted confusion? At least 1% of them that maybe have some ingenious way of explaining it – perhaps they follow Jefferson’s Jesus? All of the above? None of the above?

Let the comments roll.

10 Responses to Open for Explanations

  1. e. says:

    I’m sure an entry that virtually wrestles with the present gnosticism of modern society and the secular world at large is hardly controversial. at all.

  2. John Henry says:

    My guess is Christianity is a cultural heritage for many of these people, and they are reluctant to let go of the label Christian, even if they’ve long since rejected what it describes.

  3. Joe Hargrave says:


    I just meant that it isn’t something we have to fight over. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  4. Eric Brown says:

    They might like Christian morals, which really is a very relativist notion of love your enemies, forgive others, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, etc. However, the absence of God, doesn’t make you hold to closely to these standards, so it’s very lax and non-demanding. In other words, you can love how it sounds and live it out how you choose. It’s a non-binding Christianity that I think is entirely, yes, cultural.

  5. Eric Brown says:

    Actually, I think a lot of Christians who believe in God hold to the view I just described.

  6. JACK says:

    I’m not sure of the explanation but apparently it’s obvious in real life, not just the poll numbers. My (non-Catholic) wife routinely asks me why Catholics continue to get married, baptized, etc., in the Church if they aren’t going to attend Mass and don’t believe in the Church teachings. She dreads the Holidays (Easter and Christmas) because of what she calls the TAYs (Twice a year). I don’t have a good answer for her.

  7. Joe Hargrave says:


    On that note, I want to mention that the survey indicates that 5% of that 14% identify as Catholics.

    I know some young couples who are like the people you describe – married in the Church and all that, but never go to Mass. The thing is, I think they would still say that they believe in some kind of God.

  8. Mike Petrik says:

    It goes something like this: Christ taught love. I agree with that. I’m a Christian.

  9. One of the reason there is a “twice a year” Catholicism is that this is how Catholics, for centuries, were able to get to Mass. The tradition extends long beyond modern times; there was a time when one hardly could get to a Mass (if not living in a city) but once a year. That is why one had an obligation for going to confession and mass once a year — because that was about as much as one could get to it. Now in our modern era, where people have more mobility, that underside of Catholic tradition remains.

  10. I broadly agree with Mike… too many people (including Christians) reduce Christianity to moralism, which allows them to dispense with other “ancillary” aspects of the faith.

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