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.
“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 About.com 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.”
“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.”
“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)“
“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…
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…“
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.
- Don’t recite memorized arguments. Conversion-by-pamphlet won’t work on those who have heard the same lines before.
- 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!
- “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.”
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- These things take time and patience. Don’t try to rush your friend, no matter how much you want to.
- 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?
- 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.
- Do not avoid books written by atheists. They are not biased against God, but instead try simply to present factual accounts.”
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.