Encouraging, Living, Reaching


Talking to Atheists

Talking to Atheists
Jul 29 Tags: atheism | 4 Responses Print Save as PDF

There are endless reasons for choosing atheism, but I have found that atheists fall into three major categories: the intellectual atheists, the offended atheists and the cultural atheists.

One simple way to strike up a conversation is to simply ask “So what do you think about spiritual stuff?” This can be done during a conversation that involves death or spirituality. If the person responds “I’m an atheist,” you can ask, “So why don’t you believe in God?” That will usually give you an indicator as to what type of atheist they are and whether or not they are interested in continuing the conversation.

The intellectual atheist

These folks usually come off as confident and informed about why they don’t believe. They often view Christians as uniformed and unintelligent. These types of atheists often picked up their unbelief in university. But the truth is, they are usually misinformed. With this group it is important to have good questions, good answers and be very gracious.

John Lennox has done a great job of this in his debates with Richard Dawkins. I recommend watching one of their debates to see how Lennox does this. You can view one at https://vimeo.com/130616490 There are a lot of great resources to help you get informed. One book I suggest is Why I am a Christian available for $11.99 at http://shop.gospelfolio.com/Why-I-Am-A-Christian-Leading-Thinkers-Explain-Why-They-Believe/productinfo/X-2104/

The offended atheist

When asked why they don’t believe in God, this type of atheist may retort with a variety of reasons, but the emotion in which they respond will be the indicator that there is a deeper reason. This person needs unconditional love, patience and someone who is willing to listen.

Offended atheists are often offended for good reason. I’ve talked to some that have been abused by religious authority figures or seen their children die of horrific diseases. Reasoning with these people often comes off as giving pat answers to their hurt.

After you have shown real compassion and been praying for them, let them know that God cares about their hurt and that the things that hurt them hurt God too. Pointing them to the cross, you can let them know that God understands suffering and betrayal.

The cultural atheist

Cultural atheists have been raised in irreligious environments and have simply accepted the worldview that they were taught. They often view religion as outdated if they think about it at all. They are often uninformed about what they believe.

Asking good questions and presenting the gospel is very important. Ask them why they don’t believe in God and what do they mean when they say things like “I believe in science” or “the Bible is full of contradictions.”

Conclusion

All these groups need love, prayer and good questions. The love will show them that Christians really do care and God cares too. The prayer will be to call God to work on their souls. The questions will encourage them to think about the unbelief they have accepted, which they often try not to think about (Romans 1:18).

Mike Donahue

Mike lives in Prattville, Alabama with his wife Danielle and three little children, where he works as a high school English teacher. They attend Central Bible Chapel, just outside of Montgomery. Mike is particularly interested in evangelism. He spent two years with the Good News on the Move team and he and his wife spent two summers with the Cross Canada Cruisers. Mike enjoys speaking to youth and people of all ages about the good news.

4 Responses to Talking to Atheists

  1. Leonard VandenBerg

    I think there’s a fourth group of atheists: The ones with a bad conscience. They know that if they accept the reality of the existence of God, they’re in big trouble.

  2. Jeff C

    That is very funny!! I am an atheist and often try to have friendly conversations with Christians. Many, many do not want to have the conversation and are offended. They are often woefully uninformed about the Bible, their denomination’s beliefs, the history of Christianity and religions in general, and evolution.

    There is the caring, thinking atheist too. You seem to have left us out. Why is that?

    • Corey

      There are two parts of your little article that really, really gripe me. The whole thing is lined with misinformation, but these two specifically-

      “After you have shown real compassion and been praying for them, let them know that God cares about their hurt and that the things that hurt them hurt God too. Pointing them to the cross, you can let them know that God understands suffering and betrayal.”

      This is ALWAYS a laughable excuse. Betrayal? Bruno, that was betrayal. Since, in your religion, god is all knowing and created the universe, he would have known this was happened at the moment he came into existence (You know, spontaneously, like you think the Big Bang Theory means.)
      But more than that, the sacrifice. WHAT SACRIFICE? If you know you are going to get killed, and also that you will come back to life in 3 days and become KING OF THE UNIVERSE, there’s not much sacrifice. It’s a minor inconvenience. People CRY over this on Easter. It’s like feeling bad because a CEO’s chef went on strike so he had to go out to eat for a few days.

      Second thing that bugs me is

      “Cultural atheists have been raised in irreligious environments and have simply accepted the worldview that they were taught. They often view religion as outdated if they think about it at all. They are often uninformed about what they believe.
      Asking good questions and presenting the gospel is very important. Ask them why they don’t believe in God and what do they mean when they say things like “I believe in science” or “the Bible is full of contradictions.””

      This ENTIRE ARGUMENT could be flipped back around at religious people. You were raise in a religious household and you simply hold onto your world view and choose not to really think about it at all. Yes, it is outdated. Also, what questions do you intend to ask these people? Most of them are more informed than you (atheists tend to WANT their child to learn about religion, all religions, and in detail to prepare them for what they will inevitably face in life in terms of persecution, being looked down on by some of their peers, not having much of a say in politics, etc.)
      And what arguments are you going to present in the face of these contradictions? Have you cracked the code? Do you know if god can create a rock too heavy for even him to lift? god in and of himself is a contradiction. The EXISTENCE of a being of that stature makes no sense and, most importantly, is entirely unneeded.

      And for reference, I was raise in a christian baptist household, I was never abused by a religious figure, and started questioning religion around 18 years old, and after 5 years of careful, meticulous research I began my deconversion at at 23.

      • Mike Donahue

        Jeff C. – Thanks for your thoughts. I am flattered that you read my little post and felt compelled to reply. I’m sorry that you haven’t had many experiences of meeting Christians who want to have friendly conversations. I hope I can change that for you, you can find me on Facebook – Mike Donahue. I agree that many Christians are uninformed, but I have also met many atheists who are equally uninformed. That being the case, I don’t think the understanding of adherents is a good way to judge whether something is true or not. If we did that with science, almost no one would believe in quantum physics – not that understanding the gospel is anywhere near that difficult.

        Corey – Thank you for your response. I read it wondering why you are so angry at God? Do you feel like you were betrayed by God? Did being raised in a Baptist household tick you off? Sorry to get so personal, but if believing in God is as ridiculous as believing in Santa Clause, why does it gripe you so much? I know a lot of people who stopped believing in Santa, but I don’t think any of them are as angry as you are about being duped into believing in him.

        The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was a real sacrifice because He actually experienced the wrath of God on the cross. When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) He was actually experiencing the wrath of almighty God. Saying that just because He knew He would rise again means that He didn’t experience that wrath is like saying that a slave who is about to be whipped is not going to experience any pain because he knows he will survive.

        It’s true that many people believe things because of the environment they are brought up in, and as you pointed out that is the case for many Christians. I’m not sure how this is a “contradiction,” as you called it? I recently talked to an atheist who was the president of the “Free Thinkers Society” at our local university. He brought up a verse in the Bible and told me it was in “second Matthew.” He also told me he had been raised an atheist. Seems like his parents hadn’t done a very good job preparing him for dealing with faith-heads. Should his ignorance of the Bible be used as evidence that Christianity is true and atheism isn’t? I don’t think so, he just happened to be uninformed. It would be better to weigh ones opinion about what is truth against the evidence, rather than what some people happen to believe.

        And the rock argument… really? God, by definition, is outside of time, space, and matter. After all, He created them. It is impossible that God could make a physical object that He couldn’t move. He also cannot make married bachelors or square circles. He cannot contradict Himself. He also made your heart, and if you harden it, He can’t lift it up to Heaven.

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