Christian Atheist

Christian Atheist

Belonging without Believing

Christian Atheists don't believe in God but miss him: especially the transcendent beauty of his music, language, ethics, and community.


"In this fascinating and thoughtful book, Brian Mountford explores the borderland where Christians and atheists gaze at each other with expressions ranging from the hostile and scornful to the friendly and sympathetic" PHILIP PULLMAN

Christian Atheist examines the growing religious phenomenon of those who are drawn to Christianity without accepting its metaphysical claims or dogma. Throughout the history of the Church there have been many people like this who have sat differently to the central creedal claims, but in the contemporary God Delusion culture, more are coming out to claim acceptance for their views.

The key to the book is a set of interviews with people who fall broadly into the Christian Atheist category; some are more agnostic and less sceptical than others, but what they have in common is the rejection of traditional belief in God, counterbalanced by an admiration for the aesthetic genius of Christianity (leading to a sense of deeper value), the Christian moral compass, and in some cases the community aspect of Christian life.

As one of his interviewees points out, you can’t have Christian atheism without mainstream, traditional Christianity, so Brian Mountford sets their comments within a broader discussion of the issues: God, aesthetics, orthodoxy, doubt and belief, ethics and communal values.

His purpose is threefold:

to validate and affirm the Christian atheist position within the broad spectrum of Christianity

to say to the Church, you ignore this phenomenon at your peril

to show that the distinction between atheist and religious adherent is rarely black and white, and that the ground between the two is a fertile source of meaning and value.



Highly recommended ~ Odyssey

In a fascinating book, Canon Brian Mountford speaks to 12 people about the way they value Christian ideals while having doubts about major Christian issues. ~ Oxford Today

If you recognise that you can be an"a-theist" - rejecting the supernatural claims about God as set out in dogman and creed - but still maintain a cultural affinity to the Christian faith and tradition, then this book provides an excellent exploration of the borderland between Christian orthodoxy and atheism,.  ~ Leonora Jagessar-Visser't Hooft, REFORM

Christian Atheist, is absolutely brilliant. Such a timely and essential topic, handled with such insight, erudition and humor. It manages to be both quite simple and very sophisticated. If more people,both clergy and lay, were as strightforward and generous as Brian Mountford, perhaps the Church would be more attractive to more people. [This book is] a truly significant contribution to the ongoing dialogue about what organized religion means today and where it might be headed.

~ Christopher Rivers, MA USA

Well worth reading. ~ Philip Feakin, Sofia

The subject matter of  this book adds some welcome texture to an important topic. ~ Richard Cheetham, Church Times

This important book by one of Oxford’s outstanding church leaders takes us into a debate that never goes away: about the nature of religious belief, conflicting viewpoints of science and belief, the origins of faith and the guidance it can offer to moral behaviour and comfortable and civilised living together.  

Canon Mountford has positioned himself to take advantage of the opportunities his unusual job has offered him: as a don, he writes with perception and verve about poetry, music and theatre, but he caters for town and gown, tourist and connoisseur, believer and non-believer. Beauty, the numinous, and mystery matter, but so do accessibility, common sense, and inclusiveness. Combining all this in a short book is what he manages to achieve here.

~ Richard Wilson, Oxford Times

Absolutely fascinating and must speak for many millions of imbetweeners. Many congratulations for such a lucid grappling of a knotty subject.  

~ Joanna Gibbon, Head of Finance, Lindsell Marketing

I congratulate you on 'Christian Atheist'. It will be of great interest to a vast number of people, and I would not be surprised if you have a best-seller on your hands.

~ Derek Marcuss, Australia

The spectrum of ways of believing in God from at one end the literalistic acceptance of some of the biblical explanations of how God works to at the other end something like Christian Atheism is an interesting and important one to recognise. I wonder where you stand on that spectrum. It is a question worth pondering.

~ Revd Robert Reiss, Canon of Westminster

Mr Mountford wants to stay engaged in the conversation of faith and this is what makes his book so interesting and pertinent in the current cultural situation we find ourselves in Britain today.  Anyone who wants to engage seriously in the work of apologetics or simply to understand where 'Christian atheists' are coming from should read this book.

~ Eliazabeth Hoare, Church Times

Philip Pullman, author of Northern Nights coined the phrase 'Christian Atheist' when taking part in a public discussion on the release of the film The Golden Compass based on his book. His critics had claimed that both the book and the film were anti-God and anti-religious but Pullman retorted that he was not only a Christian Atheist but also a Church of England Atheist, a Common Prayer Atheist ,and for good measure, a King James Bible Atheist. He clearly meant that although he valued the cultural heritage of Christianity through art, language, music and morality he did not actually believe in God.
In discussions with twelve people who echo Pullman’s view, the author has explored the idea of Christian atheists, these ranged from a businessman, a philosopher, a scientist, and author (Pullman himself) and a teacher of English amongst others.
The result is a new view of Christianity with insights into Aesthetics, Doctrine and the meaning of doubt within and without the Church which the church cannot afford to ignore.


~ George Taylor, GoodBookStall

In his fascinating and thought-provoking new book Mountford discovers a fertile and creative source of meaning and value in the ground between the atheist and the religious adherent.

~ Living Spirituality News

Brian Mountford is vicar at the University Church in Oxford and a well-seasoned traveller in this territory. Starting with Julian Barnes' now famous comment that 'I don't believe in God, but I miss him', Mountford analyses those 'who are drawn to the religious ethics, language, art and community [of religion] but cannot accept the metaphysical claims or dogma.' ~ Stuart Hannabus, Network (Women, Word, Spirit)

In this fascinating and thoughtful book, Brian Mountford explores the borderland where Christians and atheists gaze at each other with expressions ranging from the hostile and scornful to the friendly and sympathetic. In some ways it is the most interesting place in contemporary religion. Mountford has an extensive knowledge of this borderland, and in the interviews and reflections in this book he explores it in the company of some eloquent and thoughtful contemporaries. ~ PHILIP PULLMAN, author and self-confessed Christian Atheist

Brian Mountford
Brian Mountford Brian Mountford MBE is a Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford and a free lance writer and speaker. Until 2016 he was the Vicar of the univer...
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