Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to persuade an atheist

WikiHow has a lot of different how to lists on their site. But when I saw one titled 'How to persuade an atheist to become a Christian', you know it caught me eye. But it also left me wondering what advice it contained. So lets take a look.
First, they don't have your concept of salvation, as "to be saved from The Law of Sin and Death", or that "all have sinned and deserve judgment".
Actually, we usually do have a good understanding. We just don't believe it. Most atheists were once
Christians, or have been surrounded by Christianity our whole lives. The idea that we don't have the same concept of salvation, reduces to the claim that we don't believe simply because we don't know about salvation. The problem isn't that I don't know about salvation, it's that I've not seen the slightest evidence that the claim of salvation is in any way true.
You might get confronted with well-formulated factual arguments. Many atheists who are interested in Christianity will be able to explain Evolution, the Big Bang or other scientific theories in their stories and opinions. They might refer to certain scientific evidence and people to support these theories. Before starting a discussion, you must expect that they have a non-religious orthodoxy with their evidence aligned in their favor, as they see it, regarding origins from the vacuum of space, universe and life from a black hole, from nothing but (mindless) energy changing to matter by no plan, yet results so astonishing, with no design
True, most atheists do know their science. Something that the author of this how to doesn't know if they think  'universe and life from a black hole' has anything to do with the Big Bang... Also, the results we see are not quite so astonishing without design if you actually know the science at play.
Understand that the Bible presents "infallible" logic in Genesis 1, by presenting creation in several phases, clearly, understandable as simple to complex! Science has not added so very much to the ancient understandings in the Biblical revelation of simple to complex creation, except science is struggling for a cause of this creation.
Huh... How is the Bible infallible and how has science added little when science has shown that Biblical creation is just plain incorrect. Six days is nowhere near enough time, no Big Bang, light created before light sources, many parts of creation made in very much the wrong order (land plants before sea life, plants before Sun). Not to mention that the order of creation in Genesis 2 also seams to contradict the order in Genesis 1.
Verify that the Bible is scientifically correct every time it mentions science, even though it isn't a science text. In perspective, 3000 years ago, before Greek geometry or Arabic algebra, the writer of the oldest Bible texts said correctly, before science existed, that the universe was dark and void "in the beginning" (Genesis 1). The Bible prophet Isaiah stated that the Earth was round 2500 years before Columbus sailed westward, for the East Indies, speaking of "the circle of the Earth"
Actually, the Bible gets it's science wrong quite a bit...

•It says that bats are birds.
•Calls a whale a fish.
•It makes a mess of creation.
•It says that stars are small lights in the sky that can fall to the ground rather than that massive spheres of plasma light-years away that they are.
•It talks about insects having four legs rather than six.
•Claims Pi = 3.
•There is no firmament.
•There was no global flood.

Those are but a few examples, but the Bible is hardly a guide for science. Maybe you can find a few vague statements that can be made to fit, but that doesn't make it a reliable science text by any stretch. And so what if the Bible refers to the 'circle of the Earth' in the poetic way that is does? Circle does not necessarily mean sphere after-all. But it wouldn't really matter if that was what they meant. The possibility of a spherical earth dates back to the 4th century BCE. In the 2nd century BCE Eratosthenes ran an experiment where he not only showed the Earth to be round, but calculated a pretty accurate measurement of the Earths circumference as well. But the Bible wasn't compiled as we know it today until about 382CE. But why an I sitting here expecting the author of this list to know any history if they still believe the old myth that Columbus was setting sail to prove the Earth was round...
Be prepared to have a genuine conversation with them. Show interest in what they are saying. If you are going to convince him or her 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 much more than patiently listening, this is probably not the case. Keep in mind that it should not be harsh argument, not a lecture on Christianity, nor going directly at them (not a war).
I can get behind this one, even if I've met plenty of Christians that don't follow this example.
Be knowledgeable about Christianity. If you are a Christian and you believe that the Bible is the direct word of God, then have you read most of it and the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? 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 may have hardened their beliefs more than a Christian who lives in a mostly Christian society.
 Yes, while Christians might have read some of the Bible most atheists have read more. I've read all of it in fact. Studies have also shown that atheists actually tend to know religion more than the religious actually do. So believers should be prepared to learn something if they plan to try and convert an atheist.

But what the hell does that last sentence mean?  'Remember that atheists live in a world that is mostly religious. They may have hardened their beliefs more than a Christian who lives in a mostly Christian society.' Why the distinction between religious and Christian? Also, atheists don't tend to 'harden' their beliefs. We simply ask for proof, and it has yet to be given. Meanwhile, I find that believers tend to be more 'hardened' in their beliefs when they tell me there is no chance they could be wrong or that nothing could ever make them change their mind.
Familiarize yourself with some atheist arguments. If you're going to present an argument for your beliefs, research how Christians answer what atheists have said about your arguments in the past. This will help meet the interest in the other person's thoughts and time. You might see some atheist opinion, and hardened views online.
They aren't hardened views! We just want proof, or at the very least a logical explanation.  While the idea of looking up atheist arguments is a good idea, I don't see how looking up Christian answers to those arguments will help any since they are always lacking the evidence and logic we require.
Have an open discussion. Be open and honest at all times. You could end up doing irreparable damage to your friendship if you let emotions underneath the conversation direct the conversation. It should always be civil, positive and cordial. Never cut them off, accuse them of lying or say malicious things to make a point.
 Sounds good to me.
Establish a common language. You will not convince an atheist that your belief has merit, if you use assumptions that the atheist does not agree are valid. You have to establish a common definition for terms and try to play with semantics to gloss over a point. When you have a discussion, it is best to speak the same language. This means that you will have to back up and use secular reasoning to establish your theological ideas.
Another decent point. You have no idea how many times I've talked with a believer that didn't understand the scientific meaning of 'theory' or assumed that it was fine to expect me to agree that unsubstantiated Biblical concepts should simply be accepted without any proof (threatening Hell or sin are pointless if you can't actually show they exist).
Ask why your friend is Atheist. Has your friend always felt that there is no (caring) creator? Has something happened to cause this person pain in life, or feel that religious leaders are hypocritical? Or does he or she simply choose to base a belief system on scientific proof? Whatever the reason is, you need to get to the core of your friend's beliefs.
Fair enough, even if the majority of the reasons they give are not ones that typically lead to atheism. The most common would be closer to the science reason they gave. We want proof, or have seen no reason to believe in God. Others may simply say that religion just doesn't make any logical sense.
 Quoting the Bible at every possible opportunity isn't counterproductive and saying "I thank God for [something]" is fine. Remember, an atheist does not agree, by default, that the Bible is a valid source of information. You will have to establish that, first.
Quoting the Bible left and right can be annoying depending on the tone. But they are right, I have no reason to believe the Bible until it is shown to be factually true about it's chief message. But this is something that has never been done...
Explain why Christianity helps people to live better lives. 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, devout, etc. Their religious fervor is going to impress an atheist.
Too bad that religion has also led people to do terrible things or lead lesser lives as well.While the believer wants to focus on the good points, that's only half the story. Also, the good of religion can easily be had with many different religions or no religion at all.
Create reasons for your faith that have everything to do with personal experience. An atheist may 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, God's love and joy of worship (all immaterial things) are not evidence to the unbeliever. In fact, a reliance on faith is evidence that you aren't relying on facts. However, this will work in your favor as faith is, by its nature, non-corporeal (not material matters).
What a waste of time. How is reliance on testimony that can't be backed up or verified an efficient use of anyone's time. If you rely on personal experience, all you will be doing is showing the atheist that you have no factual basis for your belief.
Use logic and research to your advantage.
Good luck with that! I'd love to see how a Christian can use logic to prove an illogical premise or research to prove events that were never recorded in history...
Realize that scientific theories are not evidence whether God exists or not.
Ah, but science has disproven certain 'acts of God', which brings the reliability of the Bible  very much into question.
Not listening to their views on science may cause an atheist to shut down to anything else you might say.
True, if the believer is just going to ignore everything I say, what's the point of continuing the conversation?
Be prepared to use reliable counter evidence. Their evidence is from respected scientists who portray their results in ways specifically conceived to disprove the existence of God, so use research from Christian "scientists" to rebut their arguments.
This is a joke, right? We don't sift through evidence that confirms what we already believe... that's what Christians do (though 'evidence' takes on a much more loose definition at that point). We follow that evidence where it leads. We have a question and see what the evidence tells us and then form an opinion. But this list would suggest that we start with the opinion and then plug in evidence that we like and then discard the rest. If this claim was true, then the whole fact that we say that evidence will change our mind wouldn't make any sense. So they are either failing to understand what is going on here or are openly calling us liars.

But on the Christian 'scientist' bit... Don't, just don't. Citing someone that hides behind a title while offering up bad science or unsubstantiated claims will not help your argument any. Actually, it may shatter any facade of credibility that he believer has left.
If you don't know the answer to something, simply say that God is responsible for it. "I don't know" is many more times preferable than crediting the creator.
Which is it? 'God did it' and 'I don't know' are two very different answers. The former is no more than an argument from ignorance, while the latter is honest and accurate.
Give practical advice from the Holy Book, such as from the book of Proverbs. Keep in mind that this may not be effective since arguing from the Bible expects him or her to acknowledge it. Don't forget to point out the Scripture itself; that way, he or she will know that it's not your own thinking.
What about the ridiculous advice and commands in the Bible? You can't just pick and choose what
you like and forget the rest. Sure, telling me to love my neighbor is all well and good, but that doesn't get rid of God ordering that a rape victim must marry their rapist. And as the author said, the atheist likely doesn't accept the Bible as true. So what is the point of this? Did I miss the bullet point that proves that the Bible is true?
Go slowly. Do not rush your friend until he is completely comfortable, accepts your inputs, and thinks of you as a "real friend" who happens to be religious.
That sounds nice enough, as long as you really are just that. But if the believer is just trying to weasel their way in just for the purpose of this conversion attempt, than that is just contemptible, dishonest and deceptive.
Let your friend try to convert you. He or she is likely curious about your beliefs, especially if they were raised as Christians. And if this person feels comfortable with you, this will lead to questioning and challenging 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, the other person will, too. Just don't give in. After their arguments about any advantages of being atheist, say that their arguments are perfectly good points, but not enough to convert you to atheism.
Wow... So much for any possibility there was sincerity in the author's actions! They compare an atheist asking questions to a curious child. Talk about condescending. Then they suggest faking interest and to not give in to the atheist arguments no matter what. What if the arguments are convincing? What if they show that the Christian's claims are incorrect? If the goal here isn't convincing someone honestly toward the truth, than there are no good intentions involved. This list becomes instructions for a deceptive and dishonest recruitment drive and nothing more.
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 be a more neutral place. If you invite an atheist to a religious function, tell him or her that it is a religious function. Don't try to trick someone into attending by pretending that it is not. Do this every so often and introduce your friend to other people who attend your church. Make him or her comfortable with the individuals who make up the church and religion.
When I was a believer I attended church plenty. And since I lost faith, I've been invited to church as well. Sometimes I accept, other times I decline. The closeness of the relationship and details of the function are the factors that I use to decide whether to attend or not. But what is the point of this exercise? Most atheist have been to church. Attending a service has never shaken my non-belief any, so this just seems futile.
Wait. See if this person develops any interest in attending your place of worship.
Um... Unless they are attending out of friendly courtesy because they think this fake friendship is real, they likely won't. But there's another thing to consider. Attending service does not mean they are a believer. There are atheists that are married to Christians who attend service as a family, yet retain their lack of belief.
Be persistent. Display patience and forgiveness when presented with new perspectives of beliefs. However, be understanding that your world view may not be foreign to an atheist.
So, basically pester them then? What could go wrong?
Even if your friend feels uncomfortable 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 your friend and draw closer. Remember, it is God's work to draw people 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..
Oh, and don't forget to be annoying about it! Look, I don't care if people pray for me. I don't care if they pray at all. But this sounds like it's just getting desperate. Additionally, if God draws people in as they learn the gospel, why is it that atheists tend to know it better that Christians and still don't
Don't try to prove the unprovable. A lot of atheistic arguments seem to be about creation and evolution, involving theories which nobody can prove because people were not around at the time to witness these things.
And the Christian  wasn't there when God supposedly created the universe or when Jesus supposedly rose from the dead. Here's the thing... You can prove that something happened without having to be present. The way you do that is through evidence. If you have the right evidence and enough of it, you can prove that something happened in the past. Evolution and the Big Bang have that evidence. The claims of Christianity do not.
Focus instead on what is known. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence about Jesus Christ:
Focus on what is known? Great idea! But evidence about Jesus? They do know that there isn't any, right?
From eyewitnesses who knew him (see the New Testament for these)
That's not evidence. The Bible makes the claim, it can't be used as the proof as well. The Bible no more proves Jesus than the comics prove the amazing Spider-Man.
From prophecies made hundreds of years before Christ about his life, ministry and death which are detailed throughout the Old Testament
A few problems here...

•Again, you can't use the Bible to prove the Bible.
•A book fulfilling the prophesies of the previous book isn't impressive at all. Ever hear of a sequel?
•The prophesies are vague.
•When the Christian Bible was put together they changed the order of the Jewish books to make them look more like they where pointing to Christ when they originally weren't.
From archaeology
There is no archeological evidence for Jesus though. They mention the Dead Sea scrolls. But they at best offer vague prophesy. They also claim the existence of non-Christian writing about Jesus during his lifetime. I googled for this supposed evidence as they suggested, but the results remained the same. There simply isn't contemporaneous evidence for Jesus' existence. And even if there was, it wouldn't necessarily prove he was the son of God.
There is no Roman historical document denying that the Romans had crucified Jesus
Well fancy that! There also is no Roman historical document denying that they had crucified Elvis Presley either. At least we know what really happened to him, right!
From your own experience or the experiences of people you know well
Sorry, but that's not evidence. For every Christian that makes these claims, there is a Muslim, Hindu, or Native American making an identical claim.
Explain how all these things bear witness of His reality and His mission as our Saviour. Research these things well, underlining pertinent verses in your scriptures so you can refer to them again, and writing down details and sources of the other evidences you find so that you can remind yourself of them and share copies of what you have written down with others. There is so much evidence that you will need to write it down rather than rely on just your memory!
And these are likely the things that science actually explains much better if I am to rely on what Christians tend to rely on with regard to this type of evidence. It all boils down to God of the gaps
and argument from ignorance.
Use examples of other people who were atheists or who needed proof about Christianity
So the Christian should find it compelling when I share stories of  Christians that became atheists then?
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.
What part of following a deceptive to do list that tells you to be persistent isn't formulaic or pushy?
Some atheists are atheists because of their (many times justified) perception that Christians are hypocritical or evil.
Actually, very few atheist are atheists solely for such reasons.
In 1 John 1:5, it says, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all". We know that darkness is the absence of light. Light often represents understanding, and darkness is lack of it. Light also is and transmits energy. God is all and in all, including in knowledge and energy, as well as any existential reality.
And Lucifer means 'light bearer'. So Does Satan bring about God, or are they one and the same?
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.
Unless you actually understand nature and science. Additionally, in my experience, atheists tend to appreciate and enjoy nature more than believers. Also, understanding this science can enhance your awe and appreciation of nature. I know that I love nature more than when I believed. Also, there's the fact that atheists are more likely to be conservationists than Christians are.
Never trick someone. Never lie.
Then why does this list suggest pretending to listen and pretending to be a good friend?
Do not assume that your friend actually believes in God. 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. Atheists are people who have concluded that Gods do not exist.
Almost! Not all atheists are totally convinced there is no God. Actually, most aren't. Atheism is more accurately described as a lack of belief in God, rather than active denial.
Avoid books written by atheists. They are biased against God, but instead try simply to present factual accounts.
Yeah, you wouldn't want to accidentally deconvert yourself or anything... Wait, they say that atheist books are biased against God, and instead present factual accounts. That would mean that the facts are also 'biased' against God. Sorry but if the facts are against you, you don't have much hope of converting an atheist.

Brain Hulk

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