Apathy is the state of being disinterested or having little concern about something. An apathetic church thinks topics such as God and religion are irrelevant, meaningless, or disinteresting. This refers more to attitude than to any actual set of beliefs, but it can be useful to summarize how a great many people think—or don’t think—about God.
Some people have clear, strongly held opinions about religion and spirituality. Belief in a single, active deity is called theism. The idea of a single, uninvolved deity is labeled deism. When a person positively states, “There is no God,” that is an expression of atheism. When a person says, “I’m not sure if I believe in God,” that’s agnosticism. And when a person just doesn’t care, one way or the other, that’s apatheism. Those who rarely think about God or have no interest in spiritual matters can be described as apatheists.
Since apatheism reflects a lack of interest, few people will apply that label to themselves. Most who actively think that God and religion are irrelevant would label themselves as atheists or agnostics. That being said, it would be fair to say that apatheism is one of the most common attitudes in modern culture.
The person who says, “I’m a Christian,” but whose life is totally inconsistent with biblical standards and who gives no thought to God in daily life is more apatheist than anything else. Such persons might say they care about God, and they might even think they do. But, in practice, they’re exhibiting a lack of interest.
Truth be told, most people in Western cultures could be described as apatheists. When times are hard, or when pressed to discuss the topic, they’ll express some kind of belief in God. That belief is not imaginary—such persons do, in fact, have some kind of opinion about God. But, in practice, neither God nor spirituality often enters their thinking. Most people are not actively opposed to God or confidently rejecting Him; they are simply numb to the idea.
Even those seemingly “involved” in Christian faith can, in fact, be apatheists. It’s been said that the belief system of most Western Christians is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism; a Christian-flavored version of apatheism.
Hebrews 2:1 commands the believer to “pay attention” to avoid “drifting” from the truth. A harsher warning comes in Hebrews 5:11–14, where those who are lazy about faith are called out. Faith, in a sense, is similar to a muscle: it must be used to stay strong. When faith is ignored, it also weakens.
While apatheism is not an “official” worldview, it is an important concept. God and salvation are thoughts that just “don’t occur” to most people in modern Western culture. The primary symptom of apatheism is ignorance, which can be challenged by lovingly explaining the truth and giving others a chance to respond to the gospel.
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Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. For information, visit Fellowship’s website, www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com.