Late January this year, one of my students in my Bible study group invited a few of his friends from the Catholic Church. They wanted to experience a Bible study with Protestants, but most importantly, they attended because they felt their faith was shaken. After Bible study, one of them opened up and asked me if it was true that all Catholics are Atheists. She said that she was attacked by some people in school who told her blatantly that Catholics do not really believe in God and are Atheists. Of course, it is not true, but to calm them down, I had to take them through the differences between the two groups. So, Catholics vs. Atheists, how are they different?
Catholics believe in God and the Holy Trinity, while Atheists do not believe in either God or the Holy Trinity. Also, Catholics believe in the second coming of Christ and final Judgment, while Atheists believe that there is no final judgment and that once you die, nothing else happens. However, they both belong to communities and celebrate special holidays.
Join me in this article as I write about the differences and similarities between Catholics and Atheists. I will also include what Catholics think about Atheists. Read on to find out more.
Catholics vs. Atheists: Difference in the definition
Catholics are a group of believers that form part of the Christian religion in their Catholicism denomination that believes in the Holy Trinity, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Just like other Christians, Catholics believe that God made the world and created everything, and He gave up His own son, Jesus, to die for the sake of humanity and resurrected to reunite us with God. Catholics also are a group of people who believe in eternal life and final Judgment and follow the teachings in the New Testament.
On the other hand, Atheists are people who do not believe in any gods. Contrary to the popular opinion that atheists do not believe that any gods exist, American Atheism defines Atheism as a nonreligious and nonbelief system that does not conform to any beliefs about any supreme beings. Therefore, they imply that any person who claims to be a cultural Catholic, free thinker, and humanist but does not truly believe in any gods is an atheist.
However, according to research by Charlesworth, the contemporary and trending type of Atheism utterly opposes theism and does not believe in theism. Therefore, according to the definition, Atheists are people who do not believe in theism and have some sort of pugnacity towards all religions.
What’s the Difference between Catholics and Atheists?
Code that guides their behavior
Catholics believe in the Ten Commandments, and it guides their behavior, values, and conduct.
Atheists believe in rationalism. They are rational about what is right and what is wrong.
Prayer and Rituals
Catholics believe in prayer like the Lord’s prayer and that prayer can affect outcomes.
Atheists are more practical about things. Rationality, diligence, patience, and honesty in research are the things that affect outcomes.
Catholics believe in three sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
Atheists believe in three rites of Initiation; Postdoc, Publication, and Professorship.
Catholics have the Apostles’ Creed that States key things, including;
They believe in God, the creator of all things.
They believe in Jesus Christ, who came to die for our sins and was resurrected. He will come back for the final Judgment.
They also believe in the Holy Spirit.
Atheists have their Atheist Creed parallel to the Apostles’ Creed. It states key things like:
They believe no other divinities or realities and that only Cosmos exists.
They do not believe in death and resurrection.
They do not believe in salvation and final Judgment.
Differences in the beliefs between Catholics and Atheists
Catholics believe in the Ten Commandments, while Atheists believe in rationalism (rational project)
Catholics behave per the Ten Commandments that God gave Christians to follow and live according to them. In the book of Exodus 20:2-17, the Ten Commandments that Catholics follow are written; they shape their behaviors, values, and attitudes. On the other hand, atheists do not have any commandments but are guided by rational projects. Rationality requires a lot of mental focus on subjects like science; therefore, Atheists also have a hard time committing to it.
Catholics believe prayer can work things out, while Atheists believe more practically
Like other Christians, Catholics pray to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to heal, get forgiveness, ask for blessings, and thank God. Atheists are more practical and are inclined towards doing what is rationally right, diligently research, patient experiments, and honest results. Although this is not solely connected to Atheists, the research considers their dedication to such practical ways of life to what Catholics do—pray and conduct Christian ritual services.
Catholics believe in the Apostles Creed, while Atheists believe in their Atheists Creed
Catholics believe in their Apostles Creed, which starts by stating that they believe in God, who created heaven and earth, all visible and invisible things. On the other hand, Atheists follow their Atheist Creed, which was informed by the works of Hume, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, which starts by stating that they believe in no other divinities or realities and that only the Cosmos existed, exists and will exist.
Belief in Life after Death
While the Catholics believe that Jesus, the son of God, came and died for our sins and was resurrected, the Atheist creed is parallel. They state in their Creed that there is nothing like life after death or resurrection; life is just life with no other meaning.
In addition, the Catholics’ Apostles’ Creed says they believe Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. On the other hand, Atheists state in their Creed that they do not believe in any final judgment and that there is no final salvation.
What are the similarities between Catholics and Atheists?
Both Catholics and Atheists follow their creeds, respectively
Catholics have the Apostles Creed that they recite and follow by heart. In the same way, Atheists have the Atheist creed that guides them.
They both have communities
Both Catholics and Atheists belong to communities. Catholics belong to their Universal community of Catholics and local-level Catholics who attend mass together. Similarly, Atheists belong to small groups that can be equated to communities like the New Atheists. Although they do not have formal leadership structures, they still feel a sense of belonging through following forefront Atheists on social media and blogs. For example, Atheists like Dawkins formed a group of Atheist Biologists and led the group.
They both celebrate holidays that are special to their respective Communities
Catholics celebrate special holidays like the birth of Christ on Christmas Day on 25th December. Atheists celebrate and still petition for the right to celebrate internationally, International Blasphemy Rights Day on 30th September.
They Both care about Children and their Education
Both Catholics and Atheists care about how their children are educated. Catholics encourage that children should go to school and get quality education. In the same way, Atheists who believe in intelligibility support and push for children to access quality education.
What do Catholics think of Atheists?
Catholics think Atheists reject God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. They consider this a mortal sin and conclude that Atheists might go to hell for it. However, Pope Francis recently said that nonbelievers can be saved because of the good that they do This implies that a group of Catholics who agree with what the Pope says do not find Atheism a sin. However, Pope’s opinion is contradicted by Vatican’s clarification that Atheists are sinners.
Is it possible to be a Catholic atheist?
From many opinions of Catholics, you cannot be a Catholic Atheist because when you are a Catholic, you attend mass. When you attend mass, there are instances when you recite the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed; in other words, you profess to be a believer of God. This contradicts Atheism, which does not support the belief in God. However, there is a rise in the popularity of Catholic Atheists, who practice all catholic culture but do not believe in God. However, there is no clear ground on the Catholic Atheist issue.
Does the Catholic Church accept atheists?
According to Pope Francis’ perspective, we can say that Catholics accept Atheists. Atheists also observe morality and do good to other people. According to Pope, they have a chance to go to heaven because of the good they do. However, it’s controversial because they reject God and do not even believe in heaven, yet Catholics still accept them. It could be because, as Christians, we learn not to reject people.
Can a Catholic convert to Atheism?
Yes, a Catholic can convert to Atheism because a believer can be influenced to stop believing in God. Most Atheists use rational explanations to sway believers and make them lose their belief in God. In fact, most Atheists are raised in religion, like Christianity, and end up being Atheists after growing up. It is up to you to grow strong in faith so that their opinions do not sway you.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.