Twelve Steps to ‘Convert an Atheist’ (or Many ways to Waste your Breath)!

Thanks to the lovely and always charming, Derek Colonduno (Skepticality), for posting this as even though it has been ages (2 kids under 3, degree course involvement with local labour party and Avon route keeps me busy…I need longer days) since my last post, it irked me enough to reply in blog form.   I’ll comment on each section/step individually as it’s too much of an irk to be tackled in one fell swoop.

Here goes…

“1. Know your own reasons for doing this. Are you trying to convert them because their atheism makes you uncomfortable with your own faith or makes you angry? Consider how important your religion is to you.

For starters, be honest.  The author feels threatened by atheists and atheism.  The fact that they know we are mostly happy and healthy without the need to subscribe to superstition flies in the face of all they have been told to believe (and being told what to believe is what organised religion is hinged on) and it frightens them that they might be wrong.  The rational course of action is to examine your own beliefs against reality and change your mind.  The ‘Christian’ thing to do is to try to convert the heretic.

“2. Imagine how they feel about their beliefs. They likely hold their beliefs as settled and true to them, so pressuring towards conversion is an act of disrespect. You cannot force belief in God on anyone. If they are interested in talking about the Gospel, then do it. However, don’t take every opportunity to inject your beliefs in detail. It becomes quickly annoying and counterproductive,”

Atheism is not a belief it’s a LACK of beliefs.  I can’t speak for everyone but my moral compass is based on my understanding of right and wrong, but I don’t have emotional feelings about my ‘beliefs’ one way or another.  I DO have strong feelings about people and issues.  If something changes my mind about something then so much the better but having ‘feelings about our own beliefs’ stagnates and inhibits our own understanding of the world.  In short, it’s dangerous to place emotional attachment on them.

“3. Show genuine interest. If your only interest is in converting them, you are not likely to get a warm audience. If you are going to convince them of anything one on one, you have to first take a genuine interest in that person’s point of view. If you find yourself pushing to talk more than patiently listening, this is probably not the case.”

Showing ‘genuine interest’ is not the same as having genuine interest.  If it were genuine, you would not be trying to convert us but learn from us.  You’re so convinced that there is nothing we could teach people, while trying to so hard to feign an interest that you are hoodwinking yourself into compliance with your own superstition and prejudice against any and all differing ‘beliefs’.  I suggest you read ‘Speaker for the Dead‘ by Orson Scott Card.  You might learn something.

“4. Pray to God in private. Christians believe that it is up to God, ultimately, to convince people to follow him (John 6:44, 16:13). The Bible also says that a Christian is supposed to “pray in the closet” (Matthew 6:5-6). This means that you’re not supposed to pray in public to impress someone. If God is going to answer your prayer and convince the atheist, then he would do so whether the atheist hears it or not. Most atheists have been prayed at by many people. They tend to find it extremely annoying and presumptuous. In fact, ending a failed attempt to conversion by saying “I will pray for you” is often seen as an ugly attempt to get a last dig in. That only hurts your goals.”

That means DO NOT SHOVE YOUR RELIGION UNDER EVERYONE’S NOSE AND WAVE IT AROUND FOR ALL TO SEE.  Even your own book is telling you to leave people alone.  It’s telling you that their beliefs are their business and to try to impose your own on others is hypocrisy.

“5. Do your homework. If you are a Christian and you believe that the Bible is the direct word of God, then have you read most of the Bible and the Gospels? If not, you may find the person you are trying to convert is better versed in the Bible than you. Remember that atheists live in a world that is mostly religious. They’ve had to defend their beliefs much more than a Christian who lives in a mostly Christian society would. So, they’re generally good at it. Do not accuse them of being unwilling to learn if they opt to not listen to you. It might be that they know many philosophical arguments on religion.”

We’ve done ours and if you don’t know what’s in that hateful book you are trying to sell to us, then you have no business trying to sell it.  Whether converts from religion, or brought up in secular homes (like me), we have managed to resist the onslaught of persistent attempts to deprive us of our willingness to reason (not ability as we all have it, it’s whether we chose to or know how to use it that make the difference). How?  By knowing more about the snake-oil being peddled at our doors than the people making the pitch.  We generally do have other arguments about religion.  Free-thinking and reason are not issues of learning platitudes by rote the way Sunday-schoolers are drilled (brainwashed).  Out of the whole post, this paragraph brings the statement “Don’t even bother” screaming into the foreground.

“6. Understand their arguments. If you’re going to present an argument for your beliefs, skim over what atheists have said about such arguments in the past. This may show interest and respect for the other person’s thoughts and time. You might try resources like the atheism FAQ or Positive Atheism, but don’t take it too literally. It’s an entirely different “world view” perspective.”

It would be a first, but if the proselytiser actually bothered to ‘understand our arguments’ they would probably end up being an atheist too.  The websites are both good places to start, but also try Al Stefanelli over at FreeThought Blogs. Let me reiterate one little point: Atheism is not a ‘world-view, perspective’, (that’s a tautology by the way) philosophy or anything other than a lack of belief in gods.  It doesn’t imply any kind of political association or anything else of that kind.  Please stop trying to tell us what we believe and start listening to us.

“7. Research how atheists experience conversion. What arguments have they heard (and dismissed)? What tactics have been used before (and failed)?”

If they failed to be converted, it’s not really conversion then, is it?  Come on, you must have heard the lot by now.  It’s getting kind of boring having to answer the same mis-information and nonsensical questions over and over.  I might have more fun beating my head to a bloody pulp against a brick wall.

“8. Show by conduct how Christianity has impacted your own life in a positive way. Remember: “People don’t light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to everyone.”(Matthew 5:15-16). Quoting the Bible at every possible opportunity may be a bit much, yet saying “I thank God for… (something that goes your way)” should be fine. However, explain that:

  • “All good things come from God.” Some atheists will wonder why God bothers tobless you with a parking space, help your football team win or set a twenty-dollar bill in your path when people starve to death every day–be realistic of how that seems to them! Also, the atheist will generally not just accept that “God did X” just because you say so. The atheist has a naturalistic view of the world and generally may come up with answers other than “God did it,”, although you believe God can and does control your daily pathway.
    • You and I are the hands of God, and He expects us to give water, other help and good things to those in need.
    • It may also be useful to tell your friend about people you’ve met at church. When listing their good qualities, include that they are “religious” as a very far side note. Their religious fervor is not going to impress the atheist.”
Instant fail. Ideas without evidence = fantasy, and anecdotes are not evidence.  For the love of mercy!  Why can’t people get out of the bible format (hearsay and rumour) mind-set?  Don’t expect us to accept ‘personal comfort’ as a good reason to convert to a system of belief which denigrates and demotes women to second (if that) class citizens, openly supports racism, genocide, and slavery, and says that homosexuals should be killed, instructs rape victims to be sold to their abusers and disobedient children should be beaten with sticks, all with a nice fat (posthumous) reward of perpetual servitude for going along with it.  And this gives you ‘comfort’?  Please!
“9. Be honest if feel your Christianity is being mocked. Give respect to the atheist, but also insist on respect for yourself. Discussion need not turn to angry, harsh argument or put downs. Don’t accept something said in a mean spirit without letting the person know how it makes you feel. However, realize that while you deserve respect, your ideas should stand on their own merit. Don’t be thin skinned when your beliefs are challenged. Also, what you might think is mocking you, may have a serious point that can be explicitly addressed. Don’t just assume that the mocking is out of a mean spirited motive. Before reacting, make sure you understand the point made and keep a “cool” (compassionate) attitude.”
What they really mean is the same old tired ‘catch 22’ rubbish as the rest.  They mean that to resist the oppressor is oppression.  they mean that  any attempt to resist conversion is mean-spirited and discriminatory in itself.  Because they believe it is their ‘religious right’ to proselytise to the world, by resisting we are denying them those rights.  Hmm, yep it sounds very familiar.  ‘Ideas on their own merit‘ and without evidence are fantasies.  Answering a ‘point’ well while you quote passages and platitudes and wait for the ‘Gotcha’ moment, may sound like the mocking it well deserves but most of the time that feeling of being mocked is internal.  Your ability to reason is being given a chance to stretch its legs (so to speak) but your own indoctrination has its boot on its throat and is bellowing in its ear not to listen (“keep a “cool” (compassionate) attitude.”).
“10. Avoid the standard dismissive response: “Well, they are not true Christians,” when asked about prominent or pervasive offenders (often committed by politicians, evangelists, preachers, etc.) within the faith. This is called a fallacy of ambiguity, often referred to as the “No True Scotsman” fallacy and it will be broken apart within seconds of you uttering it. Avoid making excuses for such people, because these people are often responsible for discriminating against the rest of society for what they have done themselves. Never defend hypocrisy or pretend it doesn’t exist in your faith.”

Add to that the “Hitler (Catholic)/Stalin (Catholic)/Pol-Pot (Buddhist) was an Atheist” meme along with all the other rubbish about Mother Teresa (Money-spinner for the Vatican) being a hero.  We ALL know it isn’t true and before you try to convince us of the validity of your heroes try again with point 8.  The Bible is a manual on how to hate.  Defend that!

“11. Be ready to have your own faith challenged. You might get confronted with well formulated arguments. Many atheist who are interested in Christianity might be able to explain evolution, the big bang or other scientific theories in an easily understandable way. They might refer to solid scientific evidence and people who support these theories. Before starting a discussion, you must accept that this is a possibility.”

Not ‘might’, you will.  Most of us CAN explain evolution in succinct and understandable ways and are more than willing to help people who are looking for clarity or further reference points.  We ENCOURAGE inquiry.  These are scientific theories (NOT GUESSING, SO DON’T EVEN BLOODY START DOWN THAT TRACK) which are supported by peer reviews and hard evidence.  They are not trying to counter anything, merely explain how this fascinating world works.  Why don’t we ‘just believe’?  Why DO you?  

As if it wasn’t face-palmery of the first order to begin with!


“Find out why this particular atheist may feel the way he does. Has your friend always felt that there is no [caring] creator? Has something happened in their life, or do they feel that religious leaders are hypocritical? Whatever the reason is, you need to get to the core of their beliefs. Do not ask if he doesn’t believe because God made him mad. It’s a nonsensical question. You don’t disbelieve your neighbor exists if he makes you mad. Most often, atheists don’t believe because of rational reasoning and not emotional trauma, so don’t bring up emotional trauma or be prepared to lose credibility.”

Why am I an atheist? Because there is no evidence to the positive.  My extreme distaste for organised religion is a completely different beastie.  You lost credibility with your first ‘How To’ point but if you’re going to put your foot in it, you might as well do it properly, so carry on.

“An atheist will want definite evidence, not just a rehearsal of your faith. You’ll have to provide concrete facts and scientifically thought out arguments. Your beliefs based on faith, Christian love and joy of worship (all immaterial things) are not evidence to the unbeliever. In fact, a reliance on faith may be evidence to the atheist that you aren’t relying on facts.

  • He that comes looking for God must believe that He is and that He rewards those who seek Him early, not as game — for without faith it is impossible to please God… (Hebrews 11:6)[1]
Damn straight we require evidence and The Bible doesn’t count!

“Discuss that human brains work with faith, opinion and many other things than just intellectual/theoretical logic. If you do not know much about how the brain works, then avoid trying to be the expert. Atheists may be versed in their facts and opinions in such scientific areas. When things go beyond your capability to define it, then having faith in something larger than natural processes can bring you peace, but not for those who disagree.”

Wrong!  Never seen an MRI scan!?  The fact that I can answer this ridiculous post is proof that we can think (well some of us can) and that my brain is sending impulses all around my body allowing me to type on a machine designed by another remarkable brain.  Isn’t anatomy fascinating.  My advice; put DOWN the bible, go to a library, and borrow some real books.

“Discuss how the support of the church can help in one’s life. Discuss the good that your church has done recently, but don’t assume that the church is the only source of good works. Often, the atheist is already involved in charitable works that are non-sectarian.”

Help on condition is not help.  The church is, and always has been, a body of excess, extravagance, greed, hypocrisy, powermongering, warmongering and self-interest.  A few ‘good-works’ here and there are not going to cancel out its bloody and sordid history.

“Before you try to argue against scientific theories, such as evolution and the “Big Bang,” learn more about them. Gain perspective on them from places besides religious view points. Atheists may tend to be versed in their ideas of sciences, and may be put off by your bringing up what they may call stale, old arguments.

    • Realize that human theories are not evidence whether God exists or not. This includes arguments that require the person to accept your beliefs of how life came about, how “ideal” the Earth is, or how the Big Bang happened. They have already decided. The fact that we don’t know everything about the origins of life does not demonstrate to the “unbeliever” that God did it. Not listening to their views on “science” may cause the atheist to shut down to anything else you might say.”

Mostly they are not trying to be.  We have not ‘decided’.  You still mistake a hypothesis for a theory and fail to realise that a theory is about as certain as science ever gets until new evidence comes along and allows us to revise our theories.  We are not so arrogant to have decided that a 2000 yr old made-up (stolen from older civilisations to aid ‘credibility) story is the way the world got here.  Scientific enquiry is not a belief either, it’s a process and until you understand the difference, refrain from undertaking such discussions or, you know, writing lengthy online articles and pretending you know anything about the subject.

If you don’t know the answer to something, don’t simply say that God is responsible for it.”I don’t know” is many more times preferable to an atheist than what they perceive as crediting the creator.”

By George, he’s got it!

“Talk about the thousands of “precisely” balanced and regulated bio-chemical and electrical systems in the body. Evolution explains this, however, so be prepared.”

And he’s lost it.  No it doesn’t! Evolution explains how species evolve from one variant to another over time (often over-lapping because it’s not linear) by the slow process of natural selection.  The study of ANATOMY explains how the human body works (FACEPALM).

“Talk about how precisely designed the earth is

  • However, be prepared that “designed” necessitates allowing for a “designer,” the very one you’re trying to convince them of. It probably won’t work.”

Really don’t.  It’s not designed.  This one is a lemon and an over used and irritating one at that!

“Talk about the numerous instances of well-documented miracles, citing examples

  • Be prepared for the argument that what we call “miracles” are actually not impossible feats, just highly improbable. And these “miracles” happen with such rarity that they can be reasonably explained that even with the rarest of odds, rare odds happen'”

You are asking us to set aside our knowledge of the physical world, so (for example) we can accept that for a single moment, hundreds of years ago, those same physical laws were defied so that one person (without first-hand witnesses might I add) was cured of one illness? SHUT UP! I’m not even going to get into how actually long those odds actually are!  Oh and by the way, God can pinpoint one sickly individual and heal them, yet will wipe out whole populations in anger for ‘tolerating’ a few homosexuals and immodest women?  Ever think you might be projecting much?

“Counter their evidence. Their evidence is sometimes from atheistic scientists who portray their results in ways specifically conceived to disprove the existence of God, so use research from Christian scientists to rebuff their arguments.

  • Do not use obviously false evidence (e.g. irreducible complexity). These concepts are already popular and some atheist who is interested in honest discussions knows them and may dismiss them without listening.”

Again, what evidence?  Not the Bible, surely?  The Church?  You might as well cite Marvel as proof of Spiderman! If you have something pertinent to say and bring to the discussion, we will listen.  We are not trying to protect beliefs we ‘hold dear’.  Now read back to what I told you about science being a process!

“Use logic. Remember that some aspects of God and his existence cannot be explained logically, but the origin of life cannot be explained. The details of secularism may prompt the atheist to dismiss God, but remind him that, as Creator and the all knowing and on an altogether higher plane of understanding than man, that he is not bound by nature or man’s concepts of theories of time, space and cosmology. The totality of time and space is God’s lab — and He can control and

  • Provide arguments against the Big Bang theory Show the lack of logic of how trillions of genes simply appeared without a mother cell and no prior life.
  • The single cell is vastly interdependent, organized and not known by science to form except by a parent life form (mother nature is not a parent life form).”

So far you have shown little evidence of using ‘logic’.  Evolution does not try to explain the origin of life on this planet either.  Secularism means that no one religion has precedence over any others and has no bearing on the existence of God at all.  The rest is, to be frank, just bollocks. You have no evidence for proof against the Big Bang, simply because you cannot prove a negative.  Your argument rests on the idea that a being outside of time and space which has always been there and knows everything that will ever happen, magically ‘spoke’ the whole of time and space into existence from nothing specifically for one race of people.  And atheists are supposed to be arrogant for pointing out how illogical that is?

And there’s more helpful hints here…

Over Time

Give practical advice for their problems from the Holy Book, such as from the book of Proverbs. Keep in mind that this may not be affective since arguing from the Bible expects them to acknowledge it. Don’t forget to show them the Scripture itself; that way, he or she will know that it’s not your own thinking, but that you are presenting“God’s thinking”.

Not helpful.  The Bible is a manual of hatred and persecution and without extrinsic evidence is evidence of nothing but its own existence.

“Go slowly. Do not rush your friend until he is completely comfortable, accepts your inputs and thinks of you as a “real friend” who just happens to be religious.”

So trying to convert your friends by insidious trickery is acceptable to Christians?  I will be giving you an extremely wide birth.  To quote a Terry Pratchett line, I wouldn’t trust you with a bucket of  water if my knickers were on fire!

“Let them try to convert you. They are likely curious about your beliefs, especially if they weren’t raised as Christians. And if they feel comfortable with you, they will question and challenge you. Like a curious child, do you argue? Are you angry? Why? The less defensive you are, the more reasonable you seem. If you’re having fun, they will too.”

Not going to happen.  As atheists are not trying to win brownie points for the afterlife, neither are we trying to collect converts.  What most of us actually want is to be allowed to live our own lives without being vilified by politicians and the media, to have people trying to convert us at every turn, and to be safe from persecution by theists trying to force their ‘ideas’ into law.  Leave us alone!

“Invite the atheist to your place of worship. You shouldn’t outright ask them to attend Sunday church, but a church-funded charity or meeting would normally not be considered in connection with the church at all. Do this every so often and introduce your friend to other people who attend your church. Make your friend comfortable with the individuals who make up the church and religion.”

If the atheist in question has already let go of religion, they are unlikely to fall for that gambit.  I would rather spend more meaningful time with my family and doing something constructive and actually help my community for its own sake.  I don’t have to join the god-club to do it either.

“Wait. See if they develop any interest in attending your place of worship. You may ask them to attend church with you, but it would be best if they come along due to their own curiosity. Make them feel comfortable and in control. Don’t push too hard. The more they have to come to you, the more invested they will be in the result.”

Trickery again huh?  Don’t hold your breath.

“Be persistent. Display patience and forgiveness when challenged with new perspectives of beliefs. However, be understanding that your world view may be very foreign to the atheist.”

Reads as ‘be annoying as hell and don’t let up until they either convert or punch you in the face for being a dick, at which point you can tell of your experience of how angry atheists are“.  I think that about sums it up.

“If your friend feels comfortable with it, pray to the Father in Jesus name or pray to Jesus aloud. As your friend listens (or just allows you to pray) — pray that God will bless them and will draw closer. Remember, it is God who draws them in as they learn the Gospel, the Holy Spirit who cleanses them — and Jesus who saves by grace, through faith, not of yourself, not by working, so no one may boast; it is the gift of God… as you are created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God prepared for us to do…[2]

What was that earlier bit about ‘Praying in private’!?


This video shows you how to convert an atheist

These ‘Tips’ are just priceless.  It makes you wonder why they even bothered to write their post at all…


  • Remember that some atheists may have been raised in the Christian faith, but later chose not to remain a Christian. Therefore, do not assume that the atheist does not understand or know anything about Christianity. You may be interested in knowing that there is also acategory:Atheism at wikiHow.

Wise indeed.  Just because you are ignorant of science, do not assume we are ignorant of your religion or the tricks your recruiters use to increase numbers.

  • “If you live in a particularly Christian country, then you are almost certainly not the first Christian to try to convert any atheist you meet. Most attempts before you were likely pushy and/or formulaic. Learn to “be Christian” rather than “talk Christian”,

And still are if you are still trying to convert the atheists.  Pushy or not, attempts to convert us are flagrant abuses against our privacy and freedom to have no religion. GO AWAY.

  • “In 1 John 1:5 it says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”. We know that light is/transmits energy. God is all and in all, including in energy, as well as any existential reality.”

Bible-babble is not constructive. In fact that’s the most likely thing to provoke us into telling you to go forth and multiply.

  • It is possible your role in their eventual conversion is simply to serve as a counter-example to their incredulity/disbelief.
Ah so, this is the crux of it.  You believe that atheists are fools and that we must follow your example in embracing bronze-aged ignorance.  No thanks.  I’ll keep my rationality thanks.  It has served me very well so for.
  • Don’t recite memorized arguments. Conversion-by-pamphlet won’t work on those who have heard the same lines before.
Already covered this.
  • Do not assume that your friend actually believes in God deep inside. You have probably been told that atheists are angry at God or do not believe in him because they are disgusted by the things that are done in His name. This is not usually true. Atheists are people who have concluded that God probably does not exist. Assuming you know what, why or how they think or believe may insult them!
We really don’t.  Nor are we angry.  Check out this Podcast to see for yourselves.
  • “To help convert them, ask them to consider accepting absolutes like “good” and “evil.” They will have disbelief, doubts and questions, and so it may take months or years of kindness to reach them.”
The world does not work on absolutes.  No amount of wishing will change this.  Accept it!  Grow up!  Move on!
  • One way to encourage someone to believe in God is to spend a lot of time in nature and appreciate the beauty of it. For example, go outside in night and see the stars and moon. It’s hard to see such a majestic sight and not think who/what was the cause and made it all. Remember that athetists probably accept their cause without allowing for a Holy Spirit/God as “cause”.
I like nature.  You don’t have to believe in God to marvel at it or appreciate it.  The rest is just so asinine I refuse to justify it with an answer.
  • Do not just bring in the subject of the Ten Commandments and list them off one by one. If you wish to talk about morality with an atheist, be prepared to give real, non-religious reasons for why you think something is right or wrong.
After you have let go of your absolutism it would be an interesting discussion.  I doubt that you are capable though since you have repeatedly contradicted yourself in your own post, but such is the nature of Christianity.
  • Research the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It is used by the Islamic religion to argue that there is a God. Even if you are not Muslim it can still benefit you because some believe that it provides an argument about why there needs to be a God. Wikipedia has an excellent article on this subject.
It’s still based on religious scripture and therefore inadmissible as evidence of anything.
  • Listen carefully to the concerns and reservations of the unbeliever. Try to understand their stated reasons for not believing, then address each of those concerns directly. Emphasize verifiable truth over unverifiable dogma, and work together with them to discover what is actually true, with honesty and integrity. If you show an openness to understanding your friend’s beliefs and opinions, this will earn their respect.
Verifiable ‘truth’ requires solid evidence from outside the Bible.  There is none.
  • Persistently demonstrate a loving and Christlike example within your own life; some atheists are atheists because of their (many times justified) perception that Christians are hypocritical or evil. Remember that examples of hypocritical Christians can be found by the dozen, starting with Ted Haggard and ending with Catholic pedophiles. Explain that the reprobate Christian is not like all other Christians, but do know that there are counterarguments. Simultaneously, realize that there are many, many moral people who are agnostics and atheists – one does not need religion to have “decent” behavior.

Hypocrisy AND Trickery?  What was that earlier bit about the ‘no true Scotsman’ gambit?  I call you hypocrite, sir!

  • Show the practicality of Christianity through your own successes and friendships with Christians. If your friend truly sees that being a part of a church is like gaining dozens of new family members who each truly love and admires them, then they will know where to turn in hard times. However, note that atheists also tend to have families, friends and colleagues.
Pragmatism is more like it.  The need to belong to a group is very human, but you can be part of a group without the god-condition being anywhere near it.  I doubt those new ‘friends’ would be friendly for long if your atheist friend ever reverted so you can add bullying and clique-mentality to the list of why NOT to be a Christian.
  • These things take time and patience. Don’t try to rush your friend, no matter how much you want to.
It’s always about what the ‘Christian’ half of the friendship wants isn’t it?  What about respecting the other part for who they are and leaving them be.  Your attempts are making one thing very clear: that an atheist is not good enough to be your friend.  We can now add snobbery and selfishness to the list.
  • Never trick them. Never lie. When inviting an atheist to a Christian function, make sure they know exactly how overtly religious the event is. Is it just a social function, a church service, or is it a Bible reading?
And this whole post has been about what then?  Because I have pointed out at least three blatant endorsements of trickery.
  • Learn about geology and evolution and do not try to argue that observable physical reality is wrong. Most Christians accept that evolution is proven to be scientific fact, and realize that it does not conflict with faith.
Even the Vatican has accepted it.  It kind of does, considering that is based on EVIDENCE.
  • Do not avoid books written by atheists. They are not biased against God, but instead try simply to present factual accounts.”
A glimmer of sense in a fug of biases and prejudice does not redeem this article in the slightest. If anything it is yet another example of yet more religious intolerance levied against atheists.  How about ‘do not boycott charities run by atheists or businesses which promote gay rights’.  Or even better, ‘do not persecute atheists in general as they have every bit as much right to be open in their views as Christians and should not be made to fear losing their jobs/homes/lives, for the sake of being an atheist’.  When more moderate Christians stand up and speak against the wave of religious bigotry against a group of people they know mean them no harm, we Atheists might be less suspicious of friendly approaches being part of a cloaked attempt to convert us.  For now, as this article shows, our suspicions seem wholly justified.
And they have even issued ‘warnings’ about how you will be regarded as a pompous and asinine twit if you carry on in this way…


  • First and foremost, recognize again that there is a good chance you will fail to convert the Atheist in question. If you do fail, don’t be disheartened! You may either keep trying, or accept their beliefs and remain friends (or relatives). Try not to lose a friend you value over whether or not they believe in a God!
Yep, they are accepting that this pernicious behaviour will lose them friends and alienate family.
  • Insisting that someone worship in a religion is wrong and not effective. No matter what your religion, one should be clearly persuade, but not be treated cruelly or as if they are somehow “wrong”. *In some cultures, the act of converting or conversion could be either unethical, or – like in Saudi Arabia – usually illegal.

Again, leave us alone!

  • Consider how you would respond if someone was attempting to persuade you to change your beliefs. Be gentle in attempting to persuade an atheist, as their own beliefs are just as important and central to who they are as yours are to you.
Or how about respecting our rights and not trying to convert us…?

  • When talking about deeply-held beliefs, people can often get emotional or even angry. If possible, try to talk to them when they seem fairly open and when you are both in a good mood. Some atheists prefer written debates over oral ones. Try that if one or both of you always become overemotional.
Atheism is NOT a deeply held belief.  It is an absence of belief in gods.  It’s that specific. Don’t try to project your own ignorance and fear on to us.  Don’t tell us we ‘lack morals’.  Don’t tell us we are deficient.

  • Don’t make an attempt each and every time you get together. It becomes wearying for both of you, and your friend will begin to avoid you because people don’t like to be seen as “conversion projects.”

Such as your entire article has just done.  Hypocrisy aside, you clearly have no understanding of atheism or science, let alone how to how to be a real friend.


If your atheist ‘friend’ is being a true friend, accepting who you are for its own sake, and NOT trying to ‘convert you’, why not return the favour?  If you are trying to change who they are (for any reason) you are NOT being their friend and why be friends with someone you cannot accept?  If ‘our’ atheism is an issue for you, it is YOUR issue.  Get over it, STOP acting like a spoiled toddler at a birthday party and expecting everyone to play by your rules, and accept that while your faith is what gives you comfort you have no right to expect everyone else to swallow it.

Now I feel better and will get on with my course work.



34 thoughts on “Twelve Steps to ‘Convert an Atheist’ (or Many ways to Waste your Breath)!

  1. Having read through this thread again,I would like to give kudos to Karl Withakay. I am of the opinion that his comment was what we need to see more of.With so much content it would be silly to expect everyone agree on all points. The way manner in which any opinion is presented is the most important part. Don could take some lessons from Karl for sure.
    I am glad that don ignored my comments and I hope it taught him a lesson, it doesn’t always just go away if you ignore it.
    I would also like to apologize to Carol if any of my own comments seemed to be lashing out at her. That was not my intention, she also gave a good demonstration of what can come of back and forth dialogue.


  2. “You others are way over-reacting to a very simple point being made that makes perfect sense! ”
    I don’t recall anyone saying that our persistent little friend don was completely incorrect. Obviously lack and absence are two different words and some people have specific definitions for them, others do not. This is where don fails, not everyone uses the same specific definition. Don made his point, the author responded to it, others gave their thoughts and it should have been done with. A simple search of one of the words will result in the other appearing in some association. In fact,,,, and all use the word lack when defining absence. I really am sorry if Don can not see how interchangeable the two words seem to have become, to me it is obvious. A mature adult would have agreed to disagree. Instead don is hell bent on everyone doing it his way. That is where you probably got confused and assumed the argument was still about word use.
    The issue now seems to be don’s refusal to accept the fact not everyone thinks the same way as he does.He also alludes to christians using the word lack with the specific intent of insulting atheists and making them look pitiful. I do not agree. When someone says I lack beliefs, they are correct. If don feels like that statement is equal to people considering him pitiful then that is his problem.
    I think I can speak for the author of the blog as well as myself when I say the bigger problem is don’s refusal to behave respectfully and not force everyone to share his opinion. His manner is troll-like. Don claims his point is unarguable. To make such a claim speaks volumes on don’s lack of understanding about how others think.

    “Christopher Hitchens, in fact, made this very point in a talk at UC Berkeley a few years ago–to much applause.” Well applause is now an indication of……what? I can think of countless things that have received applause but that did not make me any more likely to agree. Watch the next republican debate and then come back to tell use what was said “to much applause” that way we will better understand where you are coming from don.
    It is pathetic you can’t leave this alone.


    • My point seems to have fallen on deaf ears considering that two comments ago I called Don up on and correcting his incorrect analysis of my post, and he did not respond to it, yet ironically, he seems to be proving my point on ‘conversion tactics’ so nicely. Added to this he’s now played the “I’m offended because people won’t just roll over and play ball” card too.


  3. Carol Davis says:

    I totally understanding Don’s point. As I was reading it, I thought, “Oh wow…that is true”! To lack something definitely says to me that I should probably want it, or at the very least should think I need it. The rest of the comments did nothing to persuade me other wise. Maybe I’m too simple minded, but there I bet there are a lot of us out there who would say…Yes, to “lack” something is way worse than just to have the “absence” of something. You others are way over-reacting to a very simple point being made that makes perfect sense!

    One more thing…please, please, please don’t lump all of us Christians into one group. None of us should make blanket statements about any one group of people. I wish we could come up with another name for us Moderate Christians out there.

    From a theist mother of an atheist who is trying hard to understand.


    • Don says:

      Thanks, Carol. You’re right to recognize the distinction. It may be a small distinction, but it’s nonetheless clear and significant–as many people elsewhere have agreed. After all, the essential task of a definition is to be precise, and “absence” is unarguably the more precise word to use in this context. “Lack” is a subtle pejorative. Christopher Hitchens, in fact, made this very point in a talk at UC Berkeley a few years ago–to much applause.


    • Again, this is missing the point of the actual post.

      You clearly find a lack of belief in un-proven (an in many cases, discredited) distasteful and negative and are therefore you are projecting your emotional reactions onto your definition regardless that we have already established that ‘lack’ and ‘absence’ are used to define each other. It is you who are thinking in terms of better or worse. Again, If you had read the post, I am sure you would have realised that I am by no means ‘lumping you all together’ (you know in the way atheists are lumped together and portrayed as morally corrupt and untrustworthy: and that’s putting it mildly). If you want to understand that badly, try to stop thinking your child is broken or incomplete for not sharing your own beliefs, and start listening to them. Don’t even try to ‘bring them back’ because all you are doing is destroying your child’s trust in you.

      You and Don have both failed to focus on the real content of the post (when Don did he missed the point by miles). When you both both have something more pertinent (that means you need to STAY ON TOPIC) to bring to the discussion I might take you more seriously. If neither of you have anything to say which is relevant to the subject of my post, please start your own blog about the use of English (UK English too) and discuss it there (feel free to link back to this post): I am sure you will have plenty of followers.

      Do not hijack this comment thread. I find this persistent nit-picking over a trivial matter which has nothing to do with the subject of my post, extremely rude.


      • Don says:

        Carol and I have not “failed” to focus on the post’s content. We both came here BECAUSE of its content. And after praising that content, I had a small point to make, one that’s certainly relevant when we’re discussing atheism–what it is and what it isn’t–with theists. What’s more, Carol got it. That’s a good thing. That point was enlightening for her. So the original post and the comments have been helpful, and I’m glad for that. Every discussion as broad as this one will have its tangents, naturally. Often they enlarge beneficially on the dialogue, as this one has.

        Let me explain. I came here out of curiosity, because I’d come across the original Wikihow post on an atheist community site, where several of us discussed its tone and intentions. One person wrote, ‎”‘You’ll have to provide concrete facts and scientifically thought out arguments.’ Good luck with that! The very definition of faith is belief WITHOUT facts or evidence. If the religious had either, they wouldn’t need faith, they would have actual knowledge.’

        Someone else wrote, “It sounds like the author of this guide has gotten his or her ass thoroughly kicked while attempting to ‘convert an atheist.’ I love all the caveats about being countered with logical arguments and evidence. The last step should have been ‘Listen carefully to what the atheist says because it might make more sense than the faith that you have.'”

        Another person said, “If an actual Christian did all those things, honestly and sincerely, they would lose their religion. :-),” and in reply someone said, “I think that’s the point. I don’t see where any of the 141 editors of this wiki post claim to be Christian,” to which the first person said, “Yeah, it doesn’t read like a Christian wrote it. Somebody is doing this tongue in cheek.”

        So the question was raised as to the Wikihow post’s sincerity, and someone posted a link to your blog, Anna, saying “It’s from the heart in my view. Here’s a set of brutal if inarticulate counterarguments.” (I don’t agree with the “inarticulate” part, by the way.) To which I wrote, “Right. To me this stout rebuttal points up the original’s amusing sincerity.” The truth is I was glad to read your efforts–as I said–and as a helpful aside I tried to make a simple and apt point about the most accurate definition of “atheism,” but you would not accept the point. OK, but I still do not understand why all this has irritated you so much. Your discussion has not been “hijacked.” Any rudeness here is rudeness you have generated yourself, Anna. That’s something to think about. In fact, the tangential discussion has been profitable in its small way, although the anger and name-calling have been unfortunate. I agree that this dispute has run its course. And I’m sorry for the hard feelings.


        • Don, the majority of people reading this post are not English students/professors. The words ‘lack’ and absence have reciprocal meanings so either is correct in this instance.

          However tangential this subject might be, it is impolite to dominate the comment thread of someone’s blog with comments which are so divorced from the original subject. The use of language is not the subject of my post or my blog. I have already explained quite succinctly in my first reply why I deliberately used the word lack and how you cannot have less than no belief in something. Active disbelief -a deficit if you will – is an entirely different issue to having a mere lack of belief. Your personal definition is coloured by your own objections and propensity to project your own feelings on to others. That is not my issue. I don’t claim to be representative of anyone any more than you represent me, so please allow me to write my blog how I see fit. I chose my wording carefully and when I use a word I know exactly why I am using it. Your attempts to push, cajole and bully me into changing my wording to something which makes you (personally) feel ‘more comfortable’, and your high-handed response to my resistance to those changes is the rudeness I am talking about!

          It is hard enough work for us to be constantly battling against theists who don’t understand history, the law, the US constitution, the Bill of Rights/Human Rights Act 1945 etc, who are seeking to impose their ideology on everyone -by force if they have to – and who are actively proposing legislation which will deprive atheists of basic human rights. To then find ourselves up against apologists (some who aren’t even willing to be openly atheist for obvious reasons), or those in ‘our own camp’ who have not got a blog or website and are not taking any form of active stand, yet will feel perfectly at liberty to police other blogs and the forums for grammar and spelling ‘errors’ is more than a slap in the face. Bear in mind that that some of us on the Atheist blog circuit have had to go through some real persecution and harassment due to our LACK of belief and yet we are still outspoken in our defence of SECULAR rights and freedom.


      • Carol Davis says:

        “If you want to understand that badly, try to stop thinking your child is broken or incomplete for not sharing your own beliefs, and start listening to them. Don’t even try to ‘bring them back’ because all you are doing is destroying your child’s trust in you.”

        How did you get that I am doing any of what you just mentioned? My saying that I was trying to understand? I don’t see my child as broken or incomplete for not sharing my belief. I am not trying to bring him back, and I am certain he would tell you that nothing I’ve done since he told his father & me this has destroyed his trust in either of us. Unlike you, he welcomes dialog with me and my husband about what has brought him to this unbelief in our God and what he was taught as a child. Hold on now…..we realize that our children at some point in their lives (just as we did) have to make up their own minds, they have to examine for themselves what they have been taught and decide for themselves if they really believe it or not. He has done that and come to the conclusion that he needs evidence, he needs proof. We are reading the books he has sent to us, we are listening to the pod casts, we are watching Christopher Hitchens, all because we are trying not to do what the person who wrote “12 steps…” did. Coming to your blog was another step, I thought in trying to do the right thing, not the wrong thing concerning our son. However, for me, you have put atheists in a really bad light. You are an angry person and I cannot see myself sitting down and talking to you in any kind of rational way about our differences and why we each believe or don’t believe what we do. Don was nothing but polite to you right down to the last sentence in his last comment. You were the opposite with him. Him I could see myself talking to and having a rational conversation with and maybe really getting some good insight from, insight that I desire. You on the other hand have totally blown it with one of “us” who was trying to understand or learn (if you like that better) why someone chooses not to believe in God. That is all that is going on here.


        • Don says:

          Carol, to me your attempts to understand your son’s reasons for rejecting theistic belief are nothing but commendable. And also loving, I have no doubt. In Anna’s defense (not that she needs defending), like too many outspoken atheists, I imagine she has been on the receiving end of a lot of abuse, contempt, and prejudicial treatment, and she has seen hateful attitudes aimed at others who have no belief in gods. I have, too. After a while, that sort of thing hardens a person. But that experience in no way excuses her irrational (and mean-spirited) reaction to your comment about your son. She has apparently made assumptions about your position as a mother and cast you in the position of many believing parents who react badly to a child’s declared atheism. Many atheists may become angry when they’re defending their attitudes and convictions, but not all of us are reflexive and irrational in our anger. For an excellent and pointed discussion of this matter, I would encourage you to read Greta Christina’s essay, “Atheists and Anger”:

          For broader discussions of nonbelief and how and why many people reject “faith,” you might read BREAKING THE SPELL, by Daniel Dennett, and THE GOD DELUSION, by Richard Dawkins. For more direct discussion with reasoning, generous atheists, you might consider investigating Atheist Universe, a thoughtful, wide-ranging Web site devoted to all sorts of matters. Atheists can often be disputatious, as your visit here may suggest. But the AU site, in general, is polite and friendly. You could go there and introduce yourself. Tell them I sent you. Adriana, Neal, and Michel will be helpful in answering any questions you may have, I’m sure.


        • As far as I am concerned, my objection has been the blatant and obvious hijacking of the comments thread with a subject that has nothing to do with my post. Now I’m being painted as close-minded, unwelcoming to dialogue and rude. You claim Don was polite to me despite regardless of numerous comments, his hammering away at a ‘point’ and repeating already refuted answers so I would change my wording to suit his ‘feelings’? That is not polite ‘discourse’. If I was to be over sensitive about the issue I could have claimed that he was saying my writing was sloppy and lazy (hinting that I was not fit to do so) due to my refusal to be ‘precise’. I have already included in the comments the reason why I felt that the comment thread had been hi-jacked by a triviality and why it has been such an irritation.

          In Your initial post, you were not clear that you had been doing the reasoning, you merely latched onto the ‘point’ that had already been dealt with and finished with ‘trying to understand’. I apologise for snapping and applaud you for being open and reading what your son sends you. If only more would do the same. Speaking from my own point of view, my parents are both Atheists but my dad was brought up Methodist. Religion was never in the forefront of family life and it was not until I was about 11-15 that I started thinking about it. I needed some answers and my parents never stopped me from looking into it. I was getting questions from neighbours kids about why I didn’t go to church, and school teachers and students alike were asking why I was not getting involved with various activities and why I did not bow my head for the assembly prayer (Thanks to the dreadful Thatcher woman, UK schools, by law, HAVE to observe a daily act of Christian worship). My school had a weekly hymn practice too! I did not get involved because it did not represent me or any of the other and numerous religions in the school. I was not a Christian and it made me feel hypocritical to take part.

          My choice to not take part in religious activities had other consequences. When it became clear to others I was not religious, people stopped talking to me, even people who had been my friends for years: have you ever heard the phrase ‘being sent to Coventry’? By the time I was 15 I had been excluded from various school clubs, including, Chorus (school choir) Drama Club and Jazz band as well as other activities such as sports days (Not that I was too disappointed about sports days as I hated PE and I got to sit in the library all day). I was not active or outspoken about my non-belief I just refused to be a hypocrite and liar by pretending I believed something I knew I did not. That was enough to merit being ostracised and sneered at. When people did speak to me it was to either castigate me for being deficient, sub-human or otherwise unworthy of life (I was beaten up twice), or to ‘convert’ me. Even the Muslim kids were having a crack at it! The kids who identified with me as non-religious were just as unwelcoming because my refusal to ‘just blend in’ brought unfriendly attention to them. My experience with organised religion has not been positive and pretty much made my life a misery from the age of 12 to 19 when I left school. In my case it is a lack of belief, there is no evidence to justify any.

          When people have gone through these experiences, and worse, and are taking the time to make things better for everyone by doing their bit to raise awareness, I’m sure you can understand why having one word out of a post of thousands being jumped on and the rest of the post being ignored is not only rude but extremely frustrating. ‘Non-belief’, ‘lack of belief’, or ‘absence of belief’ are the same thing. Neither description is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the others, atheists are not ‘deficient’ or short of anything, and my definition of atheism is generally sufficient for most of atheists. The tide of discrimination against non-believers is getting stronger and we do not need to be fighting with our own about differing views on the use of certain words. It’s not relevant and it’s not helpful.” I’m not representative of all atheists. You beg me not to ‘generalise’ and lump all Christians together? I don’t. I understand there are distinctions and yet I am somehow meant to represent the world’s atheists to you? Please don’t take this the wrong way but atheism is the ‘default setting if you will. Religious belief, like everything else is learned, not innate.


  4. Don do you realize at this point you are just making your self look silly and stupid? I really, truly don’t give a shit about how you think absence and lack have a different meaning to most others because it’s simply not true. I have already made this point and supported it.
    Please don’t get thing twisted, my ‘squawking’ is over your inability to stop being a condescending moronic troll-like prick. How many times does a girl have to tell you to go fuck yourself before you quit askin’ her to the prom?
    I never said definitions don’t matter,quite the contrary. What I did say is your definition can be whatever you wish it to be BUT what matters is that others use the SAME definition. I never mentioned the use or definition of the word atheism so in the future please try to focus on the topic at hand.
    Now don’t you have a blog to start? I suggest you get to it who knows the harm being caused to others at this very moment due to the fact they think absence and lack have similar definitions. I am just about brought to tears at the the thought of it. I must close now to find a tissue. If only I knew what caused more sorrow the misuse of the word lack or the suffering caused to others by every breath you take. BTW Don= worse troll ever… Next time, at least try!


  5. “That’s why in this case it’s more precise, especially when it’s being used to define an outlook or an attitude. I’m surprised that a person who aspires to write would take such a numb position with respect to a matter of word choice that is plainly beyond argument.”
    –The thing you fail to understand despite the fact it has been pointed out to you more than once is…Very few (and I mean very) give a shit. If Anna’s post was directed towards a specific group such as English Professors, who could appreciate the fine points, that would be one thing. What you have managed to do is take a very well written piece and turn it into a grammar lesson. There were so many different aspects to this article I find it rather sad you would focus on the difference between the words absence and lack. If the use of those words is such a big issue to you I suggest you write a blog about it. Champion the cause and educate the world!! Then when you can’t think of anything to say in a comment you can bring up this topic again and maybe someone will care, maybe. Good luck. Be sure to post a link to the blog when it’s done. I am already overcome with excitement in anticipation of what is sure to be an incredibly informative masterpiece.


    • Don says:

      I was glad to see the Anna’s strong rebuttals to an over-earnest attempt to get Christians to take atheists seriously. And I said so. I had a small point to make about word choice, and I said so. Definitions matter, however, no question. But no big deal. All the same, whether anyone gives a shit is nothing for you to pronounce on, because you’re clueless–even though YOU obviously give a shit, because here you are squawking about it.

      In fact, the question of how we ought to define “atheism” has come up repeatedly in recent years on many blogs and Web sites where such questions are discussed–such as Atheist Nexus, Think Atheist, Atheist Universe, Why Evolution Is True, Pharyngula, Butterflies and Wheels, Greta Christina’s site, Russell Blackford’s site, the Richard Dawkins Foundation, the Friendly Atheist, and many more. Christopher Hitchens mentioned it specifically in a talk at UC Berkeley a few years ago. The use of “lack” in the standard dictionary definition of “atheism” is widely recognized and condemned as evidence of unconscious prejudice. It’s just wrong. That is the plain truth. A number of atheists remain unaware of the problem, though, and clearly you’re one of them. Again, no big deal. But your contemptuous dismissal of the matter only emphasizes your lack of understanding.


      • You have just proven that you have completely missed my point (my writing seems to have been perfectly clear enough for everyone else):

        “I was glad to see the Anna’s strong rebuttals to an over-earnest attempt to get Christians to take atheists seriously.”

        The original post (which I incidentally linked back to twice) was not ‘an over-earnest attempt to get Christians to take atheists more seriously’, it was a step by step guide to how to convert an atheist to Christianity. If you had actually referred to my source or even read my post properly (not only did link back but I copied and pasted the original text and set it in a different colour, as I always do with direct quotes) that would have been clear. Judging by your last comment, you did neither but to clarify this for you, my clear ‘rebuttals’ were detailing exactly how and why none of those ‘steps’ would ever work on anyone with even an ounce of rationality.

        You claim to be a teacher yet you seem utterly incapable of accurate or truly critical analysis of sources. I’m also a history student at degree level so don’t even start on trying to ‘teach’ me to read…my grades are telling me I am doing very well without your input and if I was a student of yours, I would be asking for my money back.


  6. Seems as if someone lacks the ability to understand his point lacks sustenance. The word ‘absence’ is more positive or precise hmm?
    Ask any child in school if they consider absence to be ‘negative’ or do they consider it ‘precise’.
    FYI Synonyms for absence are- need, lack, needfulness, want.
    I guess we need to also convince people to change their definitions for some words as well as their beliefs?
    I understand some people have hang-ups on the usage of certain words but please keep in mind most people are not that anal about it. Most people you present the absence/lack argument to are going to walk away murmuring “what’s the damn difference? ” Then when they go look up the words on line you are going to look foolish because they are used to define each other.
    Can we move on to the next pointless point please?


      • Don says:

        “There isn’t a difference. That’s why I felt there was nothing wrong with my use of the word ‘lack’.”

        Come on, Anna, of course there’s a difference. It’s silly to claim there isn’t. Language, to its great usefulness, has its subtleties. Foremost among them is connotation. That’s all I’ve been trying to explain. “Lack” delivers the unmissable–and primary–connotation of deficiency, as any good dictionary will confirm. It implies a judgment. “Absence” does not; it’s neutral in connotation. That’s why in this case it’s more precise, especially when it’s being used to define an outlook or an attitude. I’m surprised that a person who aspires to write would take such a numb position with respect to a matter of word choice that is plainly beyond argument.


  7. Don says:

    Not to belabor a small point, Anna, but you’re mistaken to claim that “A lack of something does not imply a negative [quality].” It surely does. Of course, as you say, “lack” can have several connotations, but a thesaurus is not the place to go for the word’s definition. According to “Webster’s Third Unabridged,” the primary meaning of “lack” is “the fact or state of being wanting or deficient. Inadequate or missing supply. Deficiency, failure, want.” And that is exactly the sense that the phrase “a lack of belief in gods” suggests. To say that someone lacks morals or lacks talent is to say more than morals or talent is absent. The use of “lack” plainly implies a deficiency. It embodies a judgment. “Absence,” instead, is precise. I certainly agree with you about fighting “to educate people” about atheism. One small way to do that is to correct people’s misconceptions. This is one one them: Atheists do not “lack” a belief in gods. Rather, we are free of that belief.


  8. Don says:

    Anna, thanks for taking the time to offer some reasoned rebuttals to these blinkered strategies. Well done. Yet I have one quibble. You write, “Atheism is not a belief it’s a LACK of beliefs.”

    Let me point out that it’s a mistake for us to define atheism as a “lack of belief in gods.” Why? Because that is the theists’ definition of the word. Many dictionaries offer this definition, I know–but dictionaries are largely written by theists who fail to recognize their implicit bias. The word “lack” carries the clear connotation of deficiency, the sense that what is lacking is something to be desired. By definition, to lack something is to be in want of whatever one lacks. Atheists know that belief in god is nothing to be desired. So it’s nothing that we lack.

    The better and more accurate definition is: “the absence of [belief in] gods.” It’s from the Greek; “a” meaning “not” or “without,” and “theism” meaning [belief in] gods.

    As George Smith has written:

    “Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief. One who does not believe in the existence of a god or supernatural being is properly designated as an atheist. Atheism is sometimes defined as ‘the belief that there is no God of any kind,’ or the claim that a god cannot exist. While these are categories of atheism, they do not exhaust the meaning of atheism–and are somewhat misleading with respect to the basic nature of atheism. Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief: it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist, rather he does not believe in the existence of a god.”

    “Atheism: The Case Against God” (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1989)

    It may seem a small point, but it’s a point worth making, because on its face, to refer to atheism as “a lack of belief” is a condescending insult. It says, “Poor dears, you’re incomplete; you’re missing something that more sensible people like us are grateful to possess: belief.”


    • Hmm not convinced by “atheism as a “lack of belief in gods.” Why? Because that is the theists’ definition of the word.”

      To be honest, I’ve had more experience of being ‘told’ that my atheism is a ‘Belief in the lack of gods’, rather than the other way around thus implying a positive disbelief. A lack of something does not imply a negative quantity: you cannot have less than no belief in something. That is the mistake THEISTS continue to make and rather than being forced to change how we describe ourselves due to the wilful ignorance of others, we should fight tooth and nail to educate people. If you want to describe yourself as the more vehement brand of atheist (anti-theist), that is entirely up to you.

      I’m not going to get into an argument over semantics, but will instead point you in the direction of your nearest thesaurus. My own Penguin edition (2001, ed.7, p.3) has ‘lack’ clearly printed under ‘absence’; along with ‘want’, ‘need’, and ‘deficiency’.


  9. Barry Johnstone says:

    I can only agree with you! I know many people, some theist, some atheist, and a proportion of these people have become friends – because of mutual trust, respect whatever – because in the end, it’s about people (some atheist, some theist), much more than religion! I think people are an end, and that religion is only one of many ways to that end. My world-view comes through the spectacles of atheist reasoning, and my morality (all morality is subjective!) is the result of experience! In other words, my atheism is my philosophical position – it is NOT belief!


  10. Very nicely done.

    Just a few notes of my own here and there:

    “If God is going to answer your prayer and convince the atheist, then he would do so whether the atheist hears it or not”

    Wow, is there free will (thus absolving god of the responsibility for creating evil) or not? The thought that a person might be damned to hell because not enough Christians petitioned god to convert them is absurd at best.

    “Many atheist who are interested in Christianity might be able to explain evolution, the big bang or other scientific theories in an easily understandable way”

    Is the author taking the position that science and religion are NOT compatible? As a side note, the author seems to imply all Christians reject evolution and the big bang, which would be news to the Vatican.

    “Do not use obviously false evidence”

    Yes, make sure that the false evidence you use is not obviously so.

    The author also fails to understand that benefits (individual or group social) from a belief in a god or practice of a religion are not the same thing as proof there is a god or logical reasons to believe in a god.

    Considering they brought up the cosmological argument, I’m surprised they didn’t tack on the ontological argument and Pascal’s wager while they were at it.


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