An atheist is a Christian when they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, at which point, they cease to be atheist.
Most socially safe and advanced societies in our world are mostly secular and scientifically literate countries compared to religiously influenced ones. Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Japan, etc. The overlapping “good” of humanity is just from being human in a society. There are no “christian” virtues that every other successful society had not already figured out and implemented. There are many christian and religious tenants that these secular societies have thrown to the wayside such as slavery, treating women as second class citizens, eating pork, accepting all people regardless of sexual identity and practice, etc.
But as to “when is an atheist a christian”, that’s up to the christian to put that label on the atheist, since atheists would never identify themselves based on another religious groups’ identity. That’s like asking, when is a christian a muslim? A christian would never identify as a muslim, but a muslim could identify a christian as a muslim. There are atheists that identify as culturally part of a religious group though, like cultural jews. They are atheists but still keep the cultural practices of the jewish community.
I wouldn’t say “worthless”;
Their good actions will count for God, and weight in their favour at the moment of their deaths.
BUT it will count for nothing IF they deny God in his face, along with his mercy.
Rejecting God’s mercy is the only unforgivable sin.
I would just add “and is baptized.”
But yeah, reducing Christianity to simply its morality/ethics misses the point and empties it of its transcendence.
As the Scriptures say, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” That being said, doing good to one’s neighbor can be itself a participation in grace that helps put one on the path towards faith and salvation, as Pope Francis taught in his first encyclical, speaking about unbelievers:
To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith…Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.
A Christian is a follower of Christ and strive to be obedient to His teachings, all of them. If you volunteer at the local food bank but get drunk every Friday night after partying hard, you’re not following Christ. By the way, using public transit or having someone else drive doesn’t make the sin of drunkenness less sinful! Sadly, some actually believe they can fool God.
A person also has to acknowledge Christ is the Saviour. Many Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs live similar lives as faithful Christians but they aren’t Christians. How does one follow Christ if they don’t acknowledge Him? You can’t. Following requires intent. Anything else is coincidental.
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