Top 10 Tips For Reaching Out To Atheists

Last week I lambasted Rabbi Adam Jacobs who wrote an “open letter to the atheist community”.  As someone else has astutely observed, the rabbi’s letter was practically a model for how not to address serious atheists.  In hopes for better future discussions between believers and non-believers, I decided to give some advice to believers who would like to reach out to us in the future, whether publicly or personally.  In some cases I will use examples that assume the reader is a Christian since I live in America and in America seemingly 99.99% of would-be proselytizers are Christians of some sort.  But most of the principles will be valuable to Muslims and those rare proselytizing Jews too.

I completely understand if you do not want this advice or refuse to abide by it.  I am fine with you not even trying to reach out to me.  But if you would really like to try to reach out to atheists for some reason, I think I can speak for a lot of atheists when I offer these tips for how to make us like you and not be as insulted and unimpressed as many of us were by the Rabbi Jacobs’s letter.

1. Do not “share the Gospel” with us.

I know, I know, you’re really worried we’re going to roast in hell and it’s really urgent to make sure we have heard about Jesus before that happens.  But here’s what you can do instead: pretend that we actually know all about the Gospel and that we are not just confused about what Christianity teaches.  Because, and I know this may come as a shock:  Assuming we come from a country where the dominant religion is Christianity, we actually have heard the Gospel. Many, many times.  And (sit down for this one) the odds are pretty good that we once believed it too.  Some of us even know the Bible better than many of you do.

The odds are that most atheists you encounter were raised as Christians. And even if we were not, you can bet good money that someone somewhere along the way has told us all about how Jesus died for our sins.  We get it.  We do not need to hear it again from you and you do not have a way of saying it that’s going to bowl us over with its genius.  (Yes, that includes Pascal’s Wager, we have heard that one too, thanks!)

2. Do not lie.

I know, this one sounds vaguely familiar but you cannot quite place where you have heard it.  Let me put it a way that might ring a clearer bell:  THOU SHALT NOT LIE, EVEN TO ATHEISTS.

Try to persuade us, if you like, but do not try to manipulate us in any way whatsoever.  Either reason with us like adults and equals or leave us alone.  Do not befriend us with ulterior motives of saving us when you do not really like us, do not try to subvert our reason by appealing to our hopes and fears, do not threaten us with damnation, etc.  Do not claim that you have no intentions of changing our minds when you do have intentions of changing our minds.  Do not claim not to judge us when you in fact do judge us.  Do not make arguments that you already know can be reasonably refuted. Do not raise evidence you know is misleading.  And do not try to appeal to our emotions where your reasons fail since doing so is underhanded and dishonest.

If you cannot persuade us with reason to believe, then you have no reason to believe and we will have no reason to believe.  If you cannot persuade us with the truth, then you do not believe the truth and those who are interested in the truth will not believe you.

3. Do not assume you are either morally better, spiritually more attuned, or happier than we are simply because you belong to your faith.

The trope that without God people are miserable and lost but with God they are happy and live lives of purpose is propaganda.  Religious people have highs and lows and so do irreligious people.  That’s called normal human psychology.  If an atheist has a sour personality, it is quite likely no more or less because of her atheism than a sour religious person’s disposition is Jesus’s fault.  People’s personalities are much deeper than their beliefs on the question of divine beings.  And atheists’ troubles are not just signs we need Jesus.  We will not appreciate it if you trivialize our complicated problems by treating them like they can be magically cured with the panacea of Christ.

Do not assume that the only way to be spiritually serious and feel emotionally secure is to be within the faith.  You may not believe that it is possible outside the faith, but many of us are living proof it is.  Especially if you thought we were spiritually deep before we left the faith, don’t condescend to us by treating us as though we must have suddenly turned shallow, confused, or anguished the moment we left the fold.  We didn’t.  Expand your mind to appreciate how people outside the faith can and do find meaning too, even if you think our views are somehow mistaken.

Also, on this score, do not assume that only you have beliefs you care about and that we are empty vessels just waiting for some substance from you. Some Christians think that atheists’ values are somehow transient or secondary to their own such that they can force us to go to church or talk to us like we could put aside our views on religion easily to accommodate them. That’s not always true and it is demeaning to be treated like our values are irrelevant or unserious.

Relatedly, it makes a big difference if you try to understand why atheists are interested in forming a community among ourselves for our own sake, rather than (a) assume that we do this only to attack you, (b) assume that what we are doing is trivial or unnecessary, or (c) try to score some cheap and meaningless rhetorical point by claiming that somehow our organizing proves we are just as guilty of all the well documented vices of institutionalized religion as your own faith is.

4. If you decide to debate us about God and employ a strategy to convince us, stick with the topic you raise and address our counter-arguments without constantly changing the subject.

One of the most frustrating things theists do is avoid addressing our arguments by just offering a new argument on a different tact.  If you feel like your argument was refuted then either find another counter-argument on the same point or at least be big enough to admit outright that you lost that point and will abandon using that argument in the future before trying out another one.

In particular, make up your mind whether you believe there is evidence for God and say what you think about that.  If you think there is evidence then stand up for the evidence.  If you don’t, then don’t use it just to try to persuade us.  Nothing is more maddening than when religious people offer reasons for belief as though they really want to consider evidence but then run straight for the cover of faith as soon as their evidence is shown to be shoddy.  Make up your mind.

Do you believe only on faith?  Then do not give a pretense of offering reasons that even you do not really believe are decisively persuasive.  When you offer reasons and then abandon them at the first sign of trouble and claim that faith is the solution, it gives the impression you were insincere in offering all those reasons in the first place.  Figure out what you believe by reason and what by faith ahead of time and be consistent.  Or, at least, acknowledge if our arguments have forced you to change your mind.

5. Do not try to offer us reasons to change our minds while refusing to open your own mind.

If you are committed on principle to never changing your mind, then do not try to change our minds.  It is unfair to be closed minded while demanding others open their minds.  If you won’t seriously consider the possibility you are wrong or open yourself to seriously considering the evidence we offer, then be honest about that fact and do not give the false pretense of listening to us.  “Let your ‘yea’ be yea and your ‘nay’ be nay.”  Either listen to us critically and introspectively or do not listen at all. Do not patronize us.

A religious friend once provoked me repeatedly to justify why I did not believe and to just come back to the faith already.  When I finally took the bait and laid out a torrent of reasons for disbelief she pleaded she needed time to think about this.  I insisted as she studied she consider atheistic resources and not just Christian ones.  She said she would but refused to change her mind.  I told her not to bother then making a pretense of studying if she was just going to close her mind.  Same advice goes to everyone: an open book is wasted on a closed mind.

6. Do not try to tell us what we really must think about ethics or metaphysics or assume you know what any given atheist thinks about these issues.

Ask atheists how we go about atheistically solving philosophical problems that you think can only be solved theologically before you presume to tell us we cannot even begin to address them.  To do otherwise is combative, willful ignorance.  There are numerous brilliant insights into ethics, spirituality, metaphysics, etc. which make either no reference at all to a divine lawgiver or which include reference to God in only a non-essential way.  If you are genuinely interested in questions of philosophy and are interested in what reason can add to what you know about these matters, then you can have productive discussions with atheists that may even generate agreements on many matters and establish valuable common ground between you and us.

Even about issues far flung from religion, find areas of philosophical commonality and debate topics with us which both you and we find interesting and open for free investigation.  I had a philosopher friend who was deeply religious and whose metaphysics was wildly different than my own.  We talked for endless hours about numerous philosophical questions without our differences in either religion or metaphysics coming between us in any crucial way.  Even where we talked about metaphysical questions on which our pre-existing views had definite bearing, we engaged in such an open minded way that we found many points of agreement and places where we could persuade each other. There is much more to philosophy than God: explore it vigorously and with an open mind and should you ever come back to the topic of God you may find your discussions bear far better fruit.

7. Do not scold us for abandoning the faith.

Those of us who were once your devout religious brethren did not seek to betray you.  You may feel betrayed, but it wasn’t personal, so don’t take out your frustration and confusion on us.  We are not traitors, we are people who have followed our intellectual consciences and often this has involved great personal cost and involved a long, torturous spiritual and intellectual process.  That’s not to say we wish we were back in the fold “if only we could believe”.  Some of us feel that way but many of us have moved well beyond that and are comfortable outside the faith.

8. Explicitly embrace political secularism.

Reassure us that you do not want to impose your religion on us using the government but that you honor the freedom of conscience as the precondition of all sincere and healthy belief, including religious belief.  Join us in common cause to keep the government from enjoining its citizens to pray, from teaching religious theories in science classrooms instead of science, from dictating people’s private sexual morality, from discriminating against homosexuals in employment, marriage, or any other civil rights, and from subsidizing churches that have ulterior motives of exploiting these government resources to ultimately aid religious proselytization.

If we do not think you are so interested in forcing your beliefs on us that you would use even the law to do so if only you could, then we will be much more receptive to you and trusting of you.

9. Do not change your evidence criteria in self-serving ways.

Religious apologists have a terrible habit of shifting goal posts.  They will tell us (quite dubiously) in one breath that some event or phenomenon is “unexplained”, but then in the next breath declare with conviction that this same mystery is “clearly understandable as a miracle” or “clearly evidence of God”.  Something’s being simply unexplained (assuming what you claim has no explanation even is unexplained) does not prove that it is also a miracle which you can completely explain!  Neither is something’s inexplicability evidently explainable as the work of the very specific God who allegedly did various things recorded in the Old Testament and then incarnated one of His three persons in human form and died as a sacrifice to appease Himself in the form of another of His persons.

Unexplained phenomena are unexplained:  they are not opportunities to make stuff up with no standards of proof required.  And similarly, do not hold atheists to the standard of “certainty” and insist that we abandon our atheism if we cannot be 100% certain there is no God while you yourself claim that the barest possibility that there might be a God is sufficient basis to rationally believe in God.  Or do not tell us that the preponderance of evidence we see against the existence of God is not enough to rationally be an atheist but the deliberate abandonment of evidential reasoning for the sake of faith is good enough justification for you to be a believer. This is transparently, prejudicial, double standard thinking that we will not be persuaded by.  It is not a sign that you reason in good faith.

If you require atheists to be certain in order to call ourselves atheists, then require certainty of yourself before calling yourself a theist.  If you want us to accept that there are some phenomenon are unexplained by science since there is not a conclusive scientific explanation already at hand, then do not claim that that same phenomenon is explained by the existence of God unless there is a conclusive proof at hand that the phenomenon can only be explained by God.  If you choose to believe things without evidence, then do not blame us for believing things for which we have evidence but not certainty.

10. Turn the other cheek by being a good sport about criticism and jokes about your religion (even unfair forms).

Do you know when a Christian instantly loses all credibility? It is when they say something like this, “Our enemies assume that just because we are Christians we are going to turn the other cheek, but at some point we have a right to stand up for our beliefs!” Really, any obnoxious, antagonistic, pugilistic behavior in defense of your supposed Christianity convinces people you have none.

First of all, many atheists do not expect you to actually live up to Jesus’s words on this one since Christians who actually do it are really, really rare, so we are not thinking you have been so longsuffering all along and only now must have been really and rightly offended.  Secondly, when you say something like that it translates to us as, “We are only going to be Christians in the ways that are convenient to us and ignore the parts that involve actually leading by an impressively difficult, self-sacrificial, disciplined moral example!” Thirdly, this is often said by petty people who have not even actually been attacked but merely been confronted with the unashamed existence of atheists or liberals and have such a deep persecution complex that they feel outright oppressed.  Fourthly, those people, Christian or otherwise, who really do know how to take criticisms and even unfair attacks with neither grievance, false piety, nor retaliation really do win respect.

Your Thoughts?

And for my top ten tips for atheists reaching out to religious believers, read the following posts:

1. Don’t Call Religious Believers Stupid.

2. Make Believers Stay on Topic During Debates.

3. Don’t Tell Religious Believers What They “Really Believe”.

4. Clarify What Kinds of Evidence Warrant What Kinds of Beliefs.

5. Help Break The Spell Of Religious Reverence.

6. Don’t Demonize Religious People’s Motives, Focus On Their Objective Harms.

7. Take Philosophy Seriously.

8. Both Refute The Best Counter-Arguments You Can Think Of And Create Gestalt Shifts.

9. Be Unapologetic, Rigorous, Patient, And Gracious With Religious Believers.

10. Love Religious People.

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • David Elkins

    First time to the site and would like to hear your story about why you are an atheists. You say most atheists were raised christian, is that the same for you?

    • Daniel Fincke

      A somewhat philosophically abstract and slightly poetic account of my deconversion is in my post Apostasy As A Religious Act: Why A Camel Hammers The Idols Of Faith.

      I should probably write out a proper account of my deconversion in more specific terms. But suffice it to say for now, as personalizing as the psychological details may be, I left for intellectual reasons.

      I had studied enough philosophy and theology to be just unable to accept the implausible claims to special revelation. And, morally, I realized that it was irresponsible to base beliefs on what could not be defended rationally. I loved being a Christian and felt like I was losing my entire identity, alienating everyone close to me, and losing my sense that all my prior accomplishments had any worth (aimed as they were at spreading the Gospel). It was depressing, frustrating, and alienating, but I had to do it for the sake of my intellectual conscience. I just could not believe it.

      Some more biographical details, for what they worth can also be found in the “Welcome and Introduction” page linked to from the top banner of this website. Some day I will lay out a fuller account of my whole deconversion (and intellectual progress since then).

  • David Elkins

    I’ll take a look. I’m more curious of the why people choose a different path once they have been a christian. Seems like it’s either to much theolgy for some and others have a horrible experience. Was it something like a final straw for you or a slow build up that made you loose faith in God? Were your parents christians and do they still believe? I hope you don’t mind me asking and you don’t have answer.

    • Daniel Fincke

      I’ll take a look. I’m more curious of the why people choose a different path once they have been a christian. Seems like it’s either to much theolgy for some and others have a horrible experience. Was it something like a final straw for you or a slow build up that made you loose faith in God? Were your parents christians and do they still believe? I hope you don’t mind me asking and you don’t have answer.

      I do not mind the question about why I left but I find it irritating (and probably should have mentioned this in the post) that you do not take me at my word that I just came to believe it was false. I’m not good at believing things I think are false.

      That’s not “too much theology” or a “horrible experience” in the sense that “too much theology” made me illicitly treat things “too abstractly and not enough with my heart” or something. I think it is immoral to believe just whatever your heart desires (http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2009/08/29/disambiguating-faith-heart-over-reason/). And, no, it does not take a horrible experience to convince everyone that something is false.

      And the assumption many believers make (possibly including you, but I do not know for sure based on what you have said) that only non-logical, emotional inferences from a bad experience with a particular Christian or church to disbelief makes sense of apostasy, is obnoxious, condescending, and an attempt to insulate the believer from having to take seriously the possibility the apostate has discovered a fatal flaw in the faith.

      And also, I should note, NOT every bad experience with the faith is an irrational reason to leave it either. The faith makes astounding promises to divinely transform lives and offer God’s love and protection. Rotten, corrupt religious people and institutions are legitimate, logical falsifications of those bogus, over-inflated promises.

  • http://crommunist.wordpress.com Crommunist

    Just a fantastic article. Really enjoyed it. “An open book is wasted on a closed mind” – an absolutely brilliant phrase. Is it your own?

    Someone needs to nail this to a church door in Wittenberg (which apparently never actually happened, but it makes for good copy).

    • Daniel Fincke

      Thanks, Crommunist, I believe that line is mine in that I think I don’t ever remember any one else saying it. But, it is so hard to be original, that one can never be sure.

    • Raymond

      Similar to it in the movie Avatar, it is hard to fill a cup that is already full. Or as I used to say, your mind is a terribly wasted thing, to Xians who were closed minded, but said I was closed minded.

  • Mary Young

    As a Christian, I think that my own advice would be this: DO NOT TRY TO MAKE LOGICAL ARGUMENTS TO PROVE SOMETHING WHICH YOU ADMIT IS AN ILLOGICAL MYSTERY.

    While I respect the INTRAfaith tradition of systematic theology and harmonizing beliefs with certain philosophical terms or principles, I still firmly hold that you can – in no way – prove God’s existence. Trying to use these “philoshophical” or “rational” arguments to prove God’s existence does two things: deceives yourself and makes you look like a fool to the atheist who is listening to you.

    I have often had my own, serious faith struggles over this issue. I think that I am by nature rational and that I like things to be proven and I have wrestled, and sometimes still do, greatly with the fact that there is no sufficient logical way to prove God’s existence. Still, many of my attempts to leave my faith behind didn’t work. There could be any number of psychological reasons for it, but the fact remained that I was not as happy and fulfilled when I wasn’t practicing Catholicism as when I was. When I read theological texts for my classes, I could not help but think of them as a Christian and to read them as if they were, in some major or minor way, God’s revelation. So I had to do two things. First, was accept that there is no logical argument for God’s existence. There are 7,000 reasons I’m a Catholic – not a single one of them is because it’s the logical choice. I think within Theology itself there are better and worse arguments for certain issues, but they are always issues that have as their point of departure faith. Second, I needed to accept that “The Church” is not coterminous with “The Kingdom of God” and it is run by human beings. Therefore it can be and has been in the past a source of evil in the world. Trying to defend the Inquisition is not faith-giving, it’s self-deceiving and it’s stupid. Talking about the subordinated role of women in the Church as “traditional” or “revealed” is – again – really stupid and only distances you from the truth. And if you think God is the embodiment of truth, it only distances you from God.

    If you are going to define the Trinity as a “mystery” then don’t try to convince a non-believer of its validity through logic. If you are going to say that it’s impossible ever to understand God, stop trying to make other people understand God with bad “rational” arguments.

    Trying to convince an atheist of God’s existence with logic is a losing argument 100% of the time (unless the atheist is really stupid then you might win the argument). If you really want to reach out to atheists maybe for the sake of converting them or maybe for the sake of making Christianity look good, heed Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, using words if necessary.”

  • Brian Henning

    Very interesting post, Dan.

  • http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com James Gray

    The only google results for “An open book is wasted on a closed mind” in quotation marks is from Camels with Hammers.

  • jayloo

    I searched an+open+book+is+wasted+on+a+closed+mind and found a site titled Still More Bit Parts at whatevermary.com, which has exceeded its bandwidth limit, quoted by Google as “An open book is never read by a closed-minded person. … Maddorhorn and then when it’s over you realize you wasted all that time in line for a minute and a …”

    This is a very interesting article. I’m agnostic but don’t necessarily think that there is some sort of godhead out there directing things. Sort of pagan, sort of agnostic. I found comfort in certain aspects of a non-defined paganism but felt like I was just attending a different kind of church when I went to Wiccan festivals.

  • http://crommunist.wordpress.com Crommunist

    Re-reading, I would suggest the addition of “define what you mean by God” to the list. Yes, that makes it an awkward 11 rather than a nice, even 10, but this is the first problem I have when talking about religion to anyone. This whole practice of “well maybe God is just another word for the physical constants of the universe” drives me positively batty. Tell me what you mean by the word “God” and then I can explain to you why I don’t believe in it.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Excellent point and one I am always at pains to make to people. It really is the most glaring omission from the list! Particularly what is crucial to me is that people not attempt the easy bait and switch of getting us to acknowledge that some sort of deist entity is not logically impossible and then taking this as concession that the personal, divinely intervening God of their faith is not only the slightest bit plausible but likely, when the two propositions are enormously different.

  • David Elkins

    Crommunist what is your story? Have you always been an atheists?

    • http://crommunist.wordpress.com Crommunist

      No I have not always been atheist. My story is written here and here.

  • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

    Dan,
    If you don’t mind, I’m reposting this on my site. I’m going to include #11. It is especially pertinent to a few conversations I have been having lately.
    I’d like to offer #12- Do not hold my belief to a standard that you do not hold yours to.
    Check out this post. The 3 questions that Dixon asks are designed to hold atheism to a standard of evidence he clearly does not hold Christianity to. If you want to be taken seriously, the standards you place on evidence should at least be equal.

  • Daniel Fincke

    No problem, George, just as long as there are links and attributions, I’m honored.

  • Jonathan Williams

    Thanks Dan, I’m using many of these same tips for the many fundamentalists that claim me a heretic!

  • Dan

    Thanks for this helpful contribution to dialog between atheists and Christians. That said (and I’m asking this for genuine input, not to be argumentative), do Christians have an equal right to detail for atheists how to talk to them? In point #10, you seem to assert that the atheist’s right to express self and to demand how to be treated is greater than the Christian’s right to the same things.

    Overall I think I’m about 90% in agreement with what you say here, because it’s all about respect. It’s just that #10, presumably unintentionally, suggests that the respect need not flow mutually. (Just as #6 suggests that it can.)

    • Daniel Fincke

      No, I phrase the issue as a matter of appealing to the Christians’ own standards to say (a) it is a matter of living up to your own supposed ideals and (b) it is an effective means of getting atheists to respect you, be comfortable with you, and even find you impressive.

      But it is not only a Christian value or a Christian standard. The truly powerful are not thin-skinned and can take some rough treatment without whining and can disassociate themselves from their ideas and their identities enough to laugh at them or to see them attacked even in harsh ways at times without completely losing it.

      We all need a sense of humor, a thick skin, and to be as genuinely magnanimous as possible. These are general virtues which are preconditions of true respect. Humorless, thin-skinned, pusillanimous people try to silence other people and call other people deferring to them in that way “respect” when it’s really a form of patronization or (in some cases) a conscience-violating fear.

      We should only allow ourselves to get up in arms, no matter who we are, is when we have to deal with genuine bigotry and degradation. There are some contexts in which both atheists and religious people need to take stands against bigotry against them (though in America, it’s nothing like what people suffer from racism, homophobia, or, even, misogyny). Being respectable and having dignity does require pushing back hard against the sorts of low-ball attempts to coerce silence, marginalize, or make people into second-hand citizens.

      But it does not require pettiness and that’s what I was attacking there and phrasing in terms of how Christians can both be better Christians and more effective for reaching out to atheists. If the context wasn’t a how to guide for Christians, I could say, it’s also a way for atheists to be better people and also to earn respect themselves.

  • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

    hahaha, it’s really funny that you immediately got comments from a guy breaking the rules you just stated. That’s awesome.

  • http://www.prayerkingdom.wordpress.com K Zhang

    I have this friend, who is an atheist. He studied the Jehovah’s Witness (which I don’t belong to) and told me he thinks that “one must do good works to be in heaven”. He thinks he knows all about Christianity (much better than me) but he’s got the concept of forgiveness confused.

    How do I then share the Gospel with him?

    • Doug Kirk

      K Zhang,

      Well for starters I’d suggest studying up on the JWs, then I’d suggest reading up on the differences between other various Christian denominations. There are plenty of sects that do require good works for eternal life.

      But the real biggie, the one I suggest to every Christian I’ve ever met who asks how to persuade an atheist that god exists, is to show him your evidence. And not in a “stories from a book” way or a “this touched my heart” way, but the real, solid physical evidence that you have that convinced you that god exists and is real and is the specific god that you believe in. And make sure the evidence has no other reasonable explanations, this must be the direct evidence that lead you to be a Christian. If your evidence is the gospels, make sure you can back up any challenges that they were just made up stories. Have links to the physical and historical evidence showing the life of Jesus occurred exactly as the gospel dictates and that the miracles certainly happened.

      If you can’t do that, or you don’t have any evidence (in which case I would suggest you go find some), I would suggest not trying to convert her/him. I would argue that to assert a truth about the universe without evidence behind it in the hopes of making other people believe it is at best intellectually dishonest, and at worst immoral.

  • Doug Hayden

    One possible (and much delayed) suggestion on #8, in the “from dictating people’s private sexual morality,” section.

    I’d change it to “dictating Consenting Adults’ private sexual morality”, just so nobody could pull out the pedophilia or bestiality cards (dishonestly) against this VERY well done post.

  • Brooke B.

    Hmmm, I found this article very interesting. Some of it I am still trying to wrap my head around. As a Christian, I just wanted to gather more wisdom on how an atheist thinks, even asking a very close and very dedicated atheist friend of mine just how he thinks because I thought it would be valuable in my walk with God. That was actually the first conversation we’ve ever had on the topic of religion and non-religion which I began with questions because I was curious.(We haven’t had a philosophical discussion nor one on religion before or after that time). I can’t say I agree with everything, but I think I can walk away from this article with more insight and wisdom in approaching atheists. Logic and philosophy are conversational topics I enjoy and I truly look forward to having an intelligent and insightful conversation with my friends now. Gosh! I don’t think I can contain this excitement :)

    I do have a question.

    My past experiences with atheists haven’t been very positive, so I’m a bit nervous about having a discussion. You said that a good way to have a discussion is to keep our minds open to what you have to say. I can agree with you on that point, but sometimes it takes time to listen to what someone has to say and to understand it. Is it okay to assume that an atheist will be patient and understanding, or is that something that should be established before the conversation starts? I know I personally like to take time to research and really think about something I don’t understand. I wouldn’t be comfortable talking to an atheist who was very abrasive or condescending. I know not all atheists are like that, but that’s just a random thought on my mind.

    Another, more personal question. Feel free to choose not to answer, I understand.

    What was your relationship with Jesus like before you were an atheist? Was there one?

    Other than that, I have enjoyed this website. I think it’s kind of funny (in a nice way) that I feel much closer to God now and I feel happy. :) Now…I have to find a way to subscribe to this bloggist…

    • Max M.

      “Is it okay to assume that an atheist will be patient and understanding, or is that something that should be established before the conversation starts?”

      Brooke, I think one misconception about atheists and atheism is that we all have some sort of agreement or creed or something that aligns us all into a group- fact of the matter is, there isn’t anything that universally binds us together but for our disbelief. We range in mentality from those of us like Dr. Daniel Fincke, to Hitchens, to the jerk at the end of the hall who drinks every night. We all have reached this point in our lives through different means and passages, and so it’s generally not good to assume a response one way or another.

      Whether or not a given atheist will be respectful or open-minded can probably be assessed in the first 5 minutes of discussion. I would recommend not even really starting on them about religion, but more just asking them a question about their beliefs, and following up with asking why. If they start with “There ain’t no god what’s your problem,” chances are, they aren’t worth your time. I’ve found that a lot of what determines the direction of a conversation is how you first approach it.

  • http://nailtothedoor.com Dan Martin

    Love, love, love this, Daniel! Will be sharing with my friends and followers on FB. Thank you!

    You may be interested in this post I wrote to Christians about how it may be our character and behavior, and also the superstructure we’ve built on top of our faith, which drives some away. Not that there aren’t plenty of *other* good reasons to be atheist or agnostic, but that I’ve observed many who reject God are actually rejecting Christians, Muslims, etc. more than they are rejecting the diety. Anyway, take a look if you like. Based on this post of yours, I’m sure I’d enjoy chatting more.

    http://nailtothedoor.com/better-off-drowned-who-are-you-driving-from-jesus/

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  • Consonant

    I have struggled as well, however illogical it all seems I believe that is the attraction. I would not believe if it were all so simple. I will have been here, if I make it, a mere cluster of years in a span of infinity, not enough time to trump really anything I learn religious or otherwise. This is where faith and surrender become apparent, to try and justify something without having full knowledge of it is a decision made everyday in the small and great. It takes faith to NOT believe as well, and a lot of it, doubt is a great chasm to ponder. I feel that perhaps the hang up on the minutia of, “how is this” or “I know that” can cloud the answers. If Christians had the answers I believe they would offer them up, but as scary as it sounds, most of us do not, which leads us to the ultimate realization that it is truly the choice of an individual, and to try and “convince” or “contrive” is really not serving anyone, I agree. Therefore I will not try to convince anyone but encourage, good on you for searching out the truth, and facts, in this way you are inadvertently seeking God as he asks us to “Love God with our minds” Mark 12:30. Thank you for your perspective(s) I have much to learn!


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