A Non-believer or a Dis-believer

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mannoushka

Senior Member
Iran/Persian
I'm looking for the noun that best points to the (religious) person who is a confirmed believer, but who nevertheless has grown to disbelieve the official teachings/dogma. To try to make it a bit clearer, I could imagine a Christian who firmly holds on to the membership of the church and who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, but who can accept as fact neither the story about the birth of Jesus nor His Resurrection. Is there such a word? (I don't expect one could use the word 'disbeliever', though this comes pretty close in meaning to the signification I have in mind.)

Thank you All!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No, 'disbeliever' is not used in this way. Also, 'non-believer' and 'unbeliever' usually mean an atheist or agnostic, rather than the sense you want. I would suggest 'doubter'. Others might have better ideas.
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Well, if it was the middle ages, a heretic/heathen/atheist would fit nicely. I'm tempted to say an atheist in denial.
    I suppose the proper term would be a dissenter?
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I'm looking for the noun that best points to the (religious) person who is a confirmed believer, but who nevertheless has grown to disbelieve the official teachings/dogma. To try to make it a bit clearer, I could imagine a Christian who firmly holds on to the membership of the church and who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, but who can accept as fact neither the story about the birth of Jesus nor His Resurrection. Is there such a word? (I don't expect one could use the word 'disbeliever', though this comes pretty close in meaning to the signification I have in mind.)

    Thank you All!
    The only word I can think of that really fits is heretic, which of course carries a negative connotation. There is also the adjective heterodox, so that Sir Isaac Newton, for example, who did not accept the doctrine of the Trinity, could be described as a heterodox member of the Church of England. But heterodox (which is also a noun, although the Oxford English Dictionary labels the noun as rare) seems to carry a negative connotation as well. For that particular heresy there are other terms, so that Newton is instead called a (secret) unitarian (not affiliated with Unitarian churches, however) or an (a secret) Arianist (after Arius, who also did not accept the Trinity).
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I was thinking of "heretic" too - since a heretic doesn't disbelieve everything, just doesn't believe in the same way that the accepted "standard" religion does.

    That said, I think that the original question isn't clear enough. I find it paradoxical to say either

    "a confirmed believer, but who nevertheless has grown to disbelieve the official teachings/dogma" (so a confirmed believer in what exactly?)

    or

    "a Christian who firmly holds on to the membership of the church and who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, but who can accept as fact neither the story about the birth of Jesus nor His Resurrection" - what do you mean by believes in the Lord Jesus Christ then? I don't think there's much doubt that this person existed - so the most atheist of atheists wouldn't deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed - so if you don't believe the associated dogma about who and what he was what do you mean by believe in him? Also, I'm not aware of a church which would let you be a member if you didn't believe those two things so I'm not sure of what you mean by "firmly holds on to the membership".
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Yeah, I thought that as well, but decided not to say anything. A belief that 'Jesus was a real person and he had some pretty neat ideas, but he wasn't the son of God and he didn't die for our sins' is not really a religious belief at all, let alone a Christian one. This view is found amongst Jews, Muslims, atheists and all sorts of people who have nothing to do with Christianity. Which is why I said 'atheist in denial' - the belief system of the person described seems to have rejected everything that makes their religion religious. If the person still believes in a god, but not miracles, then I would say they are a deist and are no sort of Christian at all.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I think that official religious bodies might regard these people as "heretics", a term that carries with it a condemnation of these people.

    Religious people who have questions about certain established beliefs have been called "dissenters", as suggested above, or "nonconformists". These are more neutral terms, ones that such people might use to describe themselves.

    I don't know about the issue that Timpeac raises, as to whether such people are allowed maintain a membership in an established church. I do know that specific churches are very accepting of a variety of positions on questions of doctrine; others are not. I would suppose that a nonconformist would be more likely to be such a member. I associate a stronger position with "dissenter".
     

    Berkely64

    New Member
    English-US
    I was raised a Catholic but now reject the teachings of that church. I consider myself to be a deist, since I do accept that there is a Superior Intelligence at work. The Catholics would call me a "fallen-away" Catholic. The word "skeptic" might also be useful.

    I also find your example to be confusing.....
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm conscious of dipping my toe into waters I really shouldn't be anywhere near, but it seems to me that the sort of person described in post 1 might have much in common with the stance taken by the then Bishop of Woolwich, John Robinson, in his 1963 book Honest to God. So I'm just wondering whether "liberal" or "radical" might be added to the list of words already suggested?


    EDIT: I spent so long typing this that I hadn't seen Bobbum's input!
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I think the example given clouds the issue for the reasons given by timpeac in post #5.

    I have heard people say things like "I am a Catholic, but I do not subscribe to all the doctrines of the Church." Is that the kind of thing you are talking about? I am not sure there really is a word to describe it.
     

    Llohr

    Member
    English - American Midwest
    Apostate is a word which specifically means "Someone who has forsaken his or her religion/group/etc." I.e., One who once believed, but no longer does.

    Not necessarily in line with someone who still considers him or herself a member of the church which he or she now doubts, but a useful word nonetheless.

    In truth, you could accurately describe a person who believes in God, and perhaps the basic tenets of his or her religion, but doubts the validity of the "historical" particulars, rituals, and/or regulations taught therein as a Deist.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Just some more options:

    unorthodox Christian
    non-traditional Christian

    From the description given, it sounds like a person who doesn't not accept the literalness of the virgin birth of Jesus or his resurrection. Liberal Christian is the other term that comes to mind.

    Bobbum's 'freethinker' doesn't work for me because the term is often associated with agnosticism or even atheism. I associate Cagey's suggestions of 'non-conformist' or 'dissenter' with the 19th century. As someone who interacts a lot with Christian communities, I can say that these are not terms I hear today. I also don't hear heretic much except in a metaphorical manner. You're more likely to hear that someone has wavered from the path, isn't a committed Christian and similar.
     
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