How to Talk to a Christian About Atheism

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:12
The best talking points & tactics for a productive chat about religionReligious belief is deeply personal and rooted in both how we are raised and our emotions. Many turn to Christianity to make sense of the world, but in some cases, you...
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Religious belief is deeply personal and rooted in both how we are raised and our emotions. Many turn to Christianity to make sense of the world, but in some cases, you may think their beliefs are damaging for them, yourself, or society. To have a conversation about atheism with a Christian, stay calm and frame the debate as a chance to discuss different beliefs (rather than as an attempt to convert them). We’ll show you how to do just that in this article, plus highlight various talking points you might make or encounter along the way.

Things You Should Know

  • Familiarize yourself with the Bible (including controversial or seemingly immoral verses) and Christian beliefs to understand where believers are coming from.
  • In conversation, remain gentle and open-minded. Ask thoughtful, respectful questions and use “I” statements to present your beliefs without attacking theirs.
  • If the conversation goes nowhere, use your life as an atheist as an example that a belief in God isn’t necessary to be moral, happy, loved, and fulfilled.
Part 1
Part 1 of 2:

Finding Talking Points about Atheism & Christianity

  1. Step 1 Educate yourself on atheism, Christianity, and religious history.
    Learn about both atheist and Christian beliefs, in addition to other religious belief systems. Common core morals and values run parallel through many belief systems, allowing for common grounds for discussion in all religions.
    • For example, both atheists and Christians believe in being fair, not harming others, and following a moral compass.[1]
    • Atheism is defined as simply a lack of belief in God (or gods generally). It is not a belief system, religion, or a strong, affirmative position that there is “no God.”[2]
    • Christianity is defined as a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who is believed to be the son of God. It is the world’s biggest religion.[3]
    • There are many resources online that can teach you about religious systems. Try listening to podcasts on religion or taking a free online course like those offered by Open Culture.
  2. Step 2 Read the Bible...
    Read the Bible to learn where Christian beliefs come from. About three quarters of Christians in America believe the Bible is the word of God, and nearly half of them believe reading the Bible is essential to being a Christian.[4] Understanding the root of your friend’s beliefs helps build a bridge between your two belief systems.
    • Many embrace Christianity because of what the Bible says or what they were taught growing up (not because of logic or observation). You often can't use logic to persuade someone out of a position that they didn't use logic to get into.
    • The Bible is regarded as one of the most influential sources on literature in Western culture. It is a great read for narrative merit alone.[5]
  3. Step 3 Find Bible verses that seem morally wrong by today’s standards.
    Christians may say they live by the Bible, but there are some messages or Biblical stories that go largely ignored because they’re uncomfortable to embrace in modern society. Asking a Christian their thoughts on these passages may spark some intellectual curiosity that leads them to reconsider their beliefs. For example:
    • Peter 2:18 says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.”
      • This passage implies that fear of a master and acceptance of punishment are good things, which seems immoral. Similarly, other Bible passages condone slavery while Christians today condemn it, which seems contradictory to accepting the Bible as a moral guide.
    • Leviticus 21:18-19 says, “For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch.”
      • These verses teach that only men in perfect physical health are allowed to worship, which contradicts the modern Christian attitude of acceptance.
  4. Step 4 Learn common arguments leveled by Christians (and theists in general).
    Even though it’s not possible to prepare for every possible argument, get familiar with some of the more common talking points in Christian apologetics (intellectual defenses of Christian beliefs).
    • These include arguments like the fine-tuned universe, which argues that our universe supports life so well and works in such a precise way that it must have been intelligently designed. This argument directly challenges our science-based understanding of the origins of the universe.[6]
    • Some may also argue that atheism is “unscientific” because of the belief that in the beginning, non-matter created matter. They may say that this has never been observed, tested, or repeated; therefore, an ultimate creator is needed to fix this “dilemma.”
    • Pascal’s Wager is the suggestion that one should live their life under the assumption that God does exist, given that the stakes are skewed. If God does not exist, your life simply ends. However, if God does exist, how you behaved in life determines whether you will enter Heaven or Hell. This argument, though steeped in logic, raises questions of honesty, morality, and the extent of God's powers.[7]
  5. Step 5 Examine the myths, urban legends, and superstitions you may believe in.
    Learn why people believe stories backed by (sometimes unverifiable) anecdotal evidence. Understanding why beliefs catch on will better prepare you for counter-arguments (and may show you why you believe what you do).
    • Urban myths, like Bloody Mary, have no proof or scientific basis and are believed to be untrue. However, the myth is still passed around because the idea is alluring and fun.
    • Legends often stem from real life events or people that actually existed, but the truth has become exaggerated or twisted over time. Bloody Mary, for example, may stem from Mary Worth, a woman hanged for witchcraft, or Queen Mary I of England, who was known for her ruthlessness. [8]
  6. Step 6 Study basic physics and biology.
    Some pro-Christianity arguments stem from misinterpretations or misinformation about physics or biology. Understanding the core of these subjects helps you challenge unscientific arguments and assumptions.
    • For example, evolution is a contentious subject between some Christians and atheists. While it’s accepted as scientific fact, some Christians avoid or attack it because they feel it undermines the Biblical creation story.[9]
    • Keep in mind that citing peer-reviewed scientific publications in all of your discussions may come off as overbearing and harm your argument.
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Part 2
Part 2 of 2:

Conversing with Christians about Atheism

  1. Step 1 Let your Christian friend initiate the conversation.
    This sidesteps any feelings that you may be attacking their belief system with an agenda to convert them. Remain calm, firm, and reasonable. A common stereotype of atheists is that they are angry and hostile.[10]
    • Explain why you are an atheist and what that means to you. The goal of the conversation is to wipe away preconceived notions about one another’s beliefs.
    • For example, you could say, “I believe that people have the ability to identify and choose right from wrong by experiencing life on their own.”
    • You might also say, “People are wildly complex and interesting. I believe they can make mistakes, but also learn from them, without needing to be policed by a higher power.”
    • Use “I” statements like these to avoid putting words or beliefs into a Christian’s mouth or sounding like you’re attacking them.[11]
  2. Step 2 Ask questions about your Christian friend’s beliefs.
    Why do they hold a particular belief? Sometimes pointing out a single fallacy every now and then is sufficient. Ask them to explain something about their religion you don't understand to help you to think about deeper meaning.
    • You might ask your friend, “How can God allow some in the world to starve and others to eat?”
    • Or, “I’m interested in what Christians think of the fact that the Bible was written by several individuals. Is it difficult to trust in so many differing accounts?”
    • Suggest your friend start questioning everyday occurrences. Asking questions can become a habit that helps change their thinking.[12]
  3. Step 3 Point out logical explanations for things that happen.
    If they bring up their belief that God had a hand in a positive event in their life, it’s OK to point out other factors that helped them, such as their own actions or a professional's skills. Know that they'll likely integrate this into their own position, saying that these resources and acts of free will on their part were part of God's greater plan.
    • For example, getting into college might feel like a divine gift, but it was an individual's hard work that paved the way. You might tell them, “Congratulations! All of that studying really paid off.”
  4. Step 4 Be careful not to present logical fallacies.
    A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning that undermines or contradicts the logic of your argument.[13] Both sides of any debate will often propose incorrect arguments and rely on rhetoric without even noticing.
    • For example, an atheist may say, “There is no proof that God exists.” However, this puts the burden on others to prove what is scientifically unprovable.[14] A Christian may respond with, “There’s also no proof God doesn’t exist.”
    • A common fallacy in debate is circular reasoning, which begins and ends an argument with the same idea. A Christian may say, “The Bible makes no false claims; whatever the Bible says is true; thus, the Bible contains only truth.” The second and third portions of the argument are the same concept, and thus, not an argument of merit.[15]
  5. Step 5 Socialize with them in a group setting.
    Spend a day with an eclectic group of friends that come from all walks of life. Exposure to others’ views and philosophies helps all of us expand our thinking. While your Christian friend may not change their beliefs right away, they may grow more comfortable and tolerant of other belief systems or ways of life over time.
    • Avoid activities that might make your friends of particular faiths uncomfortable, such as wild parties, violent movies, or drinking alcohol to excess.
    • Things like board games, shopping, or hiking are excellent activities that everyone can enjoy.
  6. Step 6 Give your friend practical, non-religious advice for their problems.
    Use personal experience to offer authenticity. If your friend shares some wisdom from the Bible, quote similar wisdom from another belief system or a wise historical individual as a counterexample.
    • For example, if your Christian friend is falling behind at school, you might say “Have you looked into study groups? I joined one with my classmates and we ended up finishing the homework in half the time.”
    • Or, “When I feel down, I always think about this great Buddhist quote: ‘You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere.’”
  7. Step 7 Keep the conversation civil and back away if it gets too heated.
    Do not let differences and debate cause the end of a friendship. Know when to drop the conversation. Talk about your feelings behind your thoughts to create a more peaceful and constructive atmosphere. Show your friend that you’re coming from a place of caring, rather than just looking to win an argument[16]
    • Speak calmly. A raised voice indicates or leads to anger, which can throw the discussion off track. If your friend raises their voice, ease off of the conversation.
    • Keep the argument on track. If the conversation turns to other issues, such as personal attacks or insults, it’s time to move on.
    • If your friend becomes upset or hurt, back away and apologize. Even if you feel you’re in the right, hurting their feelings was not the intent of the conversation.
    • Avoid physical violence. A discussion that turns physical is no longer a discussion. If you or your friend start getting pushy, end the conversation and put some space between the two of you for the time being.
  8. Step 8 Stay open-minded...
    Stay open-minded if the conversation goes nowhere. Listen and understand the Christian’s point of view. If their faith brings them peace and fulfillment, accept that fact. Don’t damage or take away another’s sense of peace.[17]
    • Ultimately, if their Christian beliefs help them lead a moral life and their thoughts and actions aren’t hurting you, then it’s OK to drop the argument and let them live their life (just as you’d like them to let you live yours).
  9. Step 9 Live your best life as an atheist as an example.
    Most Christians can’t be persuaded to abandon their religion with words alone. Once you’ve said all you can say, simply exist as an atheist and show them how it does not make you angry, bitter, immoral, directionless, or “lost.” If they can see that not believing in a God doesn’t ruin your life, they may become more open-minded.
    • Show them you’re a moral, productive member of society by volunteering, helping others, having meaningful and loving relationships, and finding community in places outside church.
    • Point out some of the positive and altruistic organizations run by atheists, such as the American Humanist Association.
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  • Religion is a very personal and controversial subject. Conversations trying to persuade or convert someone may turn into larger arguments or conflicts.
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  • Religious debate can be trying on even the best of friendships and a firm foundation to stand on could make all the difference if the outcome is not positive.
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