Arguing with an Atheist

I have a friend who is an Atheist Buddhist and is very interested in science. He keeps wanting to argue with me about my faith, seemingly to disprove it. The last time we got into an online debate it went on for days. I realised that it was painful and in many ways pointless.

Last week he sent me a message challenging creation, quoting Thic Nhat Hahn as saying that there was no such thing as creation, only manifestation.

I decided not to get into the debate with him, simply because I feel that it would be a complete waste of time and energy. Have I let God down by not debating, or have I followed Scripture by ‘shaking the dust off of my sandals’ and walking away?

I just get the sense that he has a huge need to be ‘right’.

I too am so tired of long and useless discussions, I wonder how I did at 20 :slight_smile:

I have some Catholic but rebellious friends, and I cannot stay a couple of hours every time to say that St. John Paul II was not a fascist, or that Pope Francis has no intention of revolutionizing moral theology, or that the Gospel does not say, not at all “Do as you please, the important thing is to have fun”.

So I make hints, short interventions, a little longer when they comment on my topics, but not very long, never.

And otherwise I am with them in all the normal things in life, most of the time with humor.

That’s the strange thing…I just thanked him for sharing with me and went on quickly to enquire of his health and his family. He hasn’t replied to me since!

Like you, at 60 I just feel that life’s too short. Maybe in your twenties it’s worth debating because you are still forming your views, but later in life I think most of us have made our choices and live by them. Apparently only 4% of Catholics became so after the age of 25!

I’d rather spend my time reaching out to believers who are in true need.


Is not a scientist.

Also, is your friend a cradle Buddhist or a disaffected middle class American ?

That’s is t

I would say he’s a rational scientist who needs ‘proof’ of everything. I’m learning too that he seems to have a passionate need to discredit Christianity.

I just feel that it’s a waste of my time entering into a debate with him.

I agree.
I think your strategy of not taking his bait and simply making other friendly conversation is a good strategy.
If he truly has some “passionate need to discredit Christianity” he will either feel like he won the argument, or he will be frustrated that you refuse to argue with him any more; either way he will leave you alone.

Unfortunately, people like him do not seem to have the social skills to understand when they are being rude and/or annoying to others. He doesn’t have to accept your faith, but constantly trying to start arguments over it when you don’t enjoy arguing back, is disrespectful and rude.


Is he actually a scientist with a science degree?

I kinda doubt it if he’s talking the language of “manifestations”.

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Have you asked him directly: why do you hate Christianity so much?

I figured you have, but sometimes people will be caught off guard if you just get the main observation on the table in the first 5 seconds. Might make him speak to what actually happened to him to have these feelings. There is definitely something under the surface, most people don’t feel a need to adamantly disprove religion unless they have some sort of motive.

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Yes, you have. Some people really don’t debate with an open mind. It sounds like there is no getting through to your friend.

I don’t know how good of a friend he is to you, but it’s time to just let it go if you two have nothing in common except “arguing.” Life is too short for that. You know the truth, you don’t have to spend time proving it. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks for that…that’s just how I feel, there are too many people out there crying out for God’s love to waste time with someone who turns his back on it.

But I will still keep in touch and hold him in my prayers.


I have been in the same situation before. And I told the atheist: logically, if the end for everyone is nothing after death, it follows that the atheist should not care what others believe or do, the end is the same. To this point, no argument could be made by him and he left me alone.


When it comes to Atheists remind them that if they want to discredit Christianity they need to discredit the resurrection. Watch “The Case For Christ”. If you haven’t already. Also, dont forget to put the burden of proof on them. You should only devote as much energy into it as you desire. If all you have energy for is to share a link to a video or an article then do it. Let him exhaust himself if that is what he wants. I also recommend watching the debates of William Lane Craig. He is a master philosopher and logician who debates atheists all the time. Last but not least be at peace! if he asks you why you arent putting as much effort into it say you have been too busy being happy and praying, say you will pray for him. that will drive him nuts.

I like that.

At some level, perhaps creation is manifestation. It is said that God exists (I am), and elsewhere that God is existence itself. Therefore everything else that exists is a manifestation of God.

Your friend’s error is to say that creation and manifestation are mutually exclusive, when they are the same.

(I hope I have not written heresy here!)

I’m not a trained philosopher so I can’t speak to heresy or anything like that, but it strikes me that the precise definition of what you mean by “manifestation” may matter.

Because it may make a difference between an effectively pantheistic belief, versus a totally different kind of mental framework altogether.

The language I’ve always heard is that creation “participates” in God… while still being separate from God and not just an extension of Him.

I struggle to wrap my head around it myself but those who try to help me are correct to point out that my struggle is related to trying to picture God spatially (e.g. as a ‘ball’) as part of trying to understand how anything created can be separate from Him.

So I understand that for now I don’t understand, haha. But what you’ve said here strikes me as something that those who do understand what I don’t, might point to and say: “Ah. Define ‘manifestation’ and are you trying to imagine God spatially?”

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Yes, I maybe have to think about the definition of manifestation or manifest.

In CAF’s Philosophy subforum, I wouldn’t even touch this, but since this is the Casual Discussion category, it’s okay if I make a fool of myself. :grin:

If manifest means to show, demonstrate, or give expression, then I’m guessing that creation ex nihilo is a manifestation of God.

Not trying to imagine God spatially, but rather God as Love.

Maybe I’ve got it wrong, but manifestation suggests to me that something changed form rather than was created out of nothing. Here’s the full text

“To create seems to mean that from nothing you suddenly have something. I prefer the use of the expression “manifestation” to the word “creation.” Look deeply, and you can understand creation in terms of manifestation. Just as we can understand a cloud as a manifestation of something that has always been there, and rain as the end of the cloud manifestation, we can understand human beings, and even everything around us, as a manifestation that has come from somewhere and will go nowhere. Manifestation is not the opposite of destruction. It simply changes form. Understanding our lives and the cosmos as a manifestation can bring us tremendous peace. If you are grieving over the loss of a loved one, this is an invitation to look deeply and to heal your pain. There are theologians who have said that God is the ground of being, but what being? It is not the being that is opposed to non-being. If it is the notion of being as opposed to non-being, then that is not God. God transcends all notions, including the notions of creation and destruction. If you look deeply at the notion of creation with the insight of manifestation in mind, you will discover the depth of the teaching on creation. You will discover that nothing is born and nothing dies. There is only manifestation."

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

What do you both think?

arguing with atheists is a waste of time. they are a non-prophet organization

Yea let me argue with a rock…

And get a better response

On my first reading of it, it looks about the same as materialism. Toward the end, where he mentions God, I’m getting the impression of pantheism. Could this make sense to an atheist?

Out of respect for the author, I would like to make sense of this essay, and so I’ll sleep on it and take another look at it tomorrow.

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