What does it mean to be a ‘christian’ or ‘atheist’ ?


Picture of a Danisc village church

Danish church
Odden Kirke

Photo of Mikal Hertig

Mikael Hertig, M of Sc. Pol


Af Mikael Hertig

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Some investigations tell that Scandinavians do not really believe in Jesus Christ. Even those people who consider themselves believers do not believe in the same sense as  assumed by the scientist. According to this any person might produce a high or a low score in a multiple choice questionnaire. By answering questions as: “Was Jesus really God’s son?” or “Do you think you will live after your death?”  as  assumed you  can maximize or minimize your  christianity score.

There seems to be many ways to God. And we do not really agree on  so much. I am sure that many Christians in United States will consider me  Christian at all.

In God we trust

In God we trust

On the other hand, I am personally a little sceptical about the mixture of God and Mammon so according to this view I see some difficulties in serving both Lords at the same time.

The real point is that we cannot agree on a comprehensive definition of ‘belief’.  So I will just show my points of view. As I am just a simple and fragile person it might look as a try to produce some sort of a definition; however, this is  not the point. I will try to pinpoint what I see as charactistics.

My father Henrik Hertig wrote a book, “Mythology of the Antique”. He wrote in the introduction: [Hertig H, Antikkens Mytologi, Haase, 1961 p.9]

” “Myth” is a Greek word; it means  ‘story”.  In particular it is connected to the legends, Greeks  as other peoples have told about the ancient times trying to explain where the world and the humans comes from, where we go after death, and why life behaves as it does.”

Thus, when trying to approach the sense of ‘religion’ or ‘belief’ I will connect to mythology. By doing so, emphasis is not concentrated on the topic of ‘existence in reality’.  The usage of an mythological approach to religion is that it is intimately connected to culture .  One might then ask whether we hereby ignore the common idea that belief normally is considered as an individual’s state of mind?  The answer of course seems to me to be: Of course, it is not.  The belief is conceptions in human  minds. However, they are values shared in a society and may in this way be seen as a cultural phenomena, an aspect of values in a given society.

This leads to a  challenging assertion . To me, the idea of ‘atheism’ seems contradictory. Any person believes in something. She or he will share some values in groups in the society in which she or he lives. When the atheist says: “I believe in science” he assumes that a christian should not believe in scientific knowledge. According to me this is purely false. I have never been introduced to a choice of statements between a scientific evidence and a christian one. The reason is quite simple: Christians do not necessarily state anything about the physical day – to – day world’s conditions contradicting scientific knowledge.

By assuming something about the Danish protestant’s belief (angels, resurrection, ascension). the atheists claim typically that the christian believer has to believe in a palpable way. This has to do with the atheist’s self-perception. If he cannot see himself contrary to the christian (or another cultural belief he tries to reject) his identity is threatened.

In Danish context, the socialist left wing is characterized by an atheistic culture. This stems from Karl Marx’s  postulate  “Religion is opium for the people”.

Normally such themes might inspire to  reflections and discussions. Until this day, this has been fruitless.

Danish Atheists are trying to establish institutions with ceremonies. Weddings, funerals, baptism. Maybe they call it no-weddings. no- funerals, no -confirmation. Why?  If they reject ceremonies they could obstain. But they do not. To me, this leads to a simple conclusion: They are believers considering normal christian faith disbelief. They are not atheists but believers rejecting traditional christianity without being able to identify their belief.


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