Catholic and Protestant

Hi! Is it possible to say the following sentences?

-We are both Catholics./ We are both Protestants.
-We are all Catholics./ We are all Protestants.

  • We became Catholics. / We became Protestants.
    -We remained Catholics. / We remained Protestants.

-We are both Catholic./ We are both Protestant.
-We are all Catholic./ We are all Protestant.
-We became Catholic./ We became Protestant.
-We remained Catholic./ We remained Protestant.

I wonder if ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’ are all ‘adjectives’ in the latter-half cases. In these cases, you don’t have to worry about the number of ‘nouns’: a Catholic or Catholics, a Protestant or Protestants.

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There are examples with both the noun and the adjective online. I was wondering whether the two forms are both possible.

The following sentences occurred to me:
I became a Catholic.
You became a Catholic.
Each of us is a Catholic.
Both of us are Catholics.
We are both Catholics.

グレアム・グリーン(Graham Greene)がカソリックの作家として有名でしたが、日本の作家でも、遠藤周作(Shūsaku Endō)という人は、カソリックでした。
“Most of his[Endo’s] characters struggle with complex moral dilemmas, and their choices often produce mixed or tragic results. His work may often be compared to that of Graham Greene. In fact, Greene himself labeled Endō one of the finest writers currently alive at the time.”


Yes, both are possible.


So, do all my examples sound OK?

I always use the singular, but after a bit of googling I’ve come to the conclusion that it changes by region.

In my mind, there is a bit of a negative, pejorative, aspect to the plural.

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I don’t know if you can say ‘We each became a Catholic.’
When you say ‘we’, the existence of ‘they’ is sometimes presupposed. Is this related to your negative feelings about the plural forms: Catholics and Protestants?

I live in a town where there is animosity between Catholics and Protestants, but I was surprised David has negative connotations with the plural of the words. They are neutral terms to me in either singular or plural. I can’t think of any examples where I would feel differently about a word from the singular to the plural.

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All you sentences are correct.

  • “Catholic” and “Protestant” may be nouns (and so can be singular or plural) or adjectives (as in “the Catholic Church”)

  • “We each became …” describes the actions of two individuals. The action in each case was to “become A Catholic”.

  • “We each became a Catholic” is more correct.

  • Alternatively, you could say “We became Catholics”.

  • I imagine “We became Catholic” is as correct as saying “We became Muslim”, though it just sounds odd :wink:

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The noun and adjective forms are seemingly interchangeable in terms of being or becoming a denomination or denominational, although ‘remained’ seems to go best with the adjective form (Catholic/Protestant).
Here is a dialogue, using examples of each:

  • What denomination are you?
  • I’m a Catholic.
  • I’m Catholic, too.
  • Both of you are Catholic?
  • Yes, we are both Catholics. I think everyone here is Catholic.
  • Yeah, pretty much all of us are Catholics.
  • Yeah, we’re all Catholic. Except Peter over there, he’s a Protestant.
  • Peter is Protestant?
  • Yeah, you didn’t know that? His parents are non-religious, but after he started going to church with friends, he became a Protestant. He and his best friend, they both became Protestants.
  • I met his wife, though. I know she is Catholic.
  • That’s right. When they got married, she remained Catholic, and he remained Protestant.
  • That’s like my family. When we came here, we remained Catholic. But my cousin’s family… well, here she is now, she can tell you.
  • Hello.
  • Hello.
  • So your cousin was telling me… when you came here, you were Catholic, too?
  • Yes, it’s true. When my family came here, we were all Catholic. Just about everyone here today is Catholic. But when I got married, and my older sister got married, we became Protestants.
  • Oh, so you both became Protestant.
  • Well, yes, each of us became a Protestant, but we also have two younger sisters who got married and they remained Catholic.
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Thank you for your dialogue, brucenator! I have found few examples with the noun after remain, I guess the adjective works better after that verb.

I have another question about “atheist” and “Buddhist”. I was told that “atheist” is essentially used as a noun.Some argue that the adjective (as in"I am atheist") does not sound natural and could be confused with “I am a theist” when pronounced. However, there seems to be disagreement among native speakers.
As far as “Buddhist” is concerned, is it more similar to “Catholic” and “Protestant” or to “atheist”?

Atheist, agnostic, buddhist, hindu etc. all operate as nouns or adjectives in the same way as Protestant and Catholic. I would not use the word “became” as frequently as in the above examples. Changing one’s religion is usually a conscious choice, and “became” suggests a more passive process. The verb to use is “to convert”. For example, “He was protestant but when he married a catholic girl he converted.”. Or “After living in India for 5 years she converted to Hinduism”.

In contrast to what others have said, there is no negative connotation to the plural, and “We became Catholic” does sound perfectly natural.


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Sorry for the double post, but I thought I would quickly add something.

It is very unlikely that “I am atheist” would be confused with “I am a theist”, even though they sound very similar. Simply because virtually no one says the latter, “I believe in God” would be the much more usual phrase. “Theist” does have a more specific meaning, but is a more technical term used in philosophy or theology. If someone did say “I am a theist” it would almost certainly be made clear from context that they did not say “atheist”.

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Whereas ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant’ can serve as adjectives or nouns, ‘atheist’ is a noun. The adjective form is ‘atheistic.’ So it would be more proper to say, “I am an atheist,” rather than “I am atheist,” although both forms are used. It is not unheard of for someone to use ‘atheist’ as if it were an adjective. For example:
Theism is a position of belief: a belief system, based on faith, in a creator god that intervenes in nature and sustains a personal relationship with its creatures. Atheism is a position of disbelief, based on lack of credible evidence. If you are not convinced that a god – that is, a magical, anthropomorphic immortal – really exists, then you are atheist. Contrary to popular opinion, that does not mean that you are taking a position of knowledge: there is no god; but rather reason: I have found no credible evidence to convince me to believe your claim that a god exists.

I agree with neofight78 that it would be highly unlikely that “I am atheist” would be confused with “I am a theist,” not only because of context or usage, but because with ‘atheist’ the stress is on the A: 'a the ist; whereas with “a theist,” the stress is on the THE: 'the ist. In other words, both ‘atheist’ and ‘theist’ have stress on the first syllable.

Just like ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant,’ ‘Buddhist’ can serve as either an adjective or a noun, so you may hear, “I am Buddhist” or “I am a Buddhist.” Same goes for agnostic: “I am agnostic” or “I am an agnostic.”

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I’m afraid I can’t agree with that definition. In common parlance an atheist is one who does not believe in God, which is the opposite of someone who does. Normally in this context God is a monotheistic concept. That is all there is to it.

Any questions of who needs to prove what to whom or otherwise, or distinguishing between belief and disbelief, is straying into the realm of debate about God and his existence or lack thereof (and of course how one might define said God). Also many people’s opinion on both “sides” are not based on any considerations of proof or evidence at all, by which I mean they approach the question from a different angle if at all.

I am neither agreeing or disagreeing with brucenator’s opinions, rather I am pointing out that he is redefining “atheist” to suit a particular point of view, thereby entering into the realm of debate about the subject and is outside the scope of any everyday definition of the word “atheist”.

Good point about stress though!

Edit: Ah just re-read your post and realised you were quoting an example of someone using atheist as an adjective. The fact that the quote was a definition confused me!

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An atheist is a person who does not believe (i.e. is not convinced) that a god or gods exists. This includes, but is not limited to, the concept of a monotheistic male God with a capital G, or some interpretation thereof. The definition of “god” that all religions share is some sort of immortal being that has human characteristics and magical powers. So I think the statement: “If you are not convinced that a god – that is, a magical, anthropomorphic immortal – really exists, then you are atheist” is as straightforward a definition of ‘atheist’ as you can get. If anything, it is clarifying, not ‘redefining’ atheist. It is not limiting the definition to “one who does not believe in God,” implying not only belief in a particular God, but reflecting a particular mindset, which is clear when you say “God and ‘his’ existence.” Think about it.

I agree that when you get into the realm of who needs to prove what to whom, or what constitutes evidence, or that the only god that really counts is a monotheistic God and “his” (male) existence, or from what angle a person approaches belief or non-belief, that that is straying into the realm of debate.

Perhaps it is the description of what the position of atheism is based on – around which the example is framed – with which you disagree. But I think the sentence which actually defines ‘atheist’ is clear and straightforward. Theism asks the question, “Do you believe (are you convinced) that a god (or gods) really exists?” If you are not convinced that a god really exists, then you are an atheist. How is that “redefining ‘atheist’ to suit a particular point of view”?