If atheists claim: “Hell is a lie - stolen from the Pagans” then it’s redundant to answer at all, for atheists lack basic knowledge about belief, and use any answer for their as they think funny game called „Let’s refute Christian beliefs and insult God and Christians“.
Convinced atheists can therefore never be real friends, nor even loose conversation-partners in Christian terms.
Let’s talk to them about weather, residing, food or pets. Christian contents they can’t understand, because hell holds their ears and minds, and strongly temps them to make belief and God a laugh. But Gal 6,7 - Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked! Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return!
He who says „hell is an invention of the Church“ call Jesus a liar, for it was Jesus who warned Himself about hell in very many verses! How on earth could any-one who names God a liar, be a friend of mine?! Never! Let’s mention just these out of very many;
In Luke 8,31 The demons begged Jesus: “If you make us leave these men, please do not send us back to hell, but please send us into that herd of pigs., for hell is even for us unbearable!
In Mt 10,28 Jesus says: The only one you should fear, is the one who can destroy the body and the soul in hell.
Yes, I too got a lot of acquaintances I often talk to about all sorts of things, but not about belief any longer, for some time ago they showed disinterest in God as described, instead use religious talk for denying God. Let’s be friendly to them, for God asked „love your enemies“. I do, but never call them friends - as they definitely are not! He who denies God, can’t be my friend.
Christ too mixed up with disbelievers, tax-collectors, atheists. He was named therefore by Pharisees a drunkard, friend of tax collectors and sinners. Mt 11,19 continues: But wisdom is proved to be right by the things it does!
Christ in His infinite divine wisdom of course knew in whom of these sinners His persuasiveness would bring fruit, and with whom not. He of course could have forced any sinner to believe, but God never does. Belief is a thing we got to ask God for. And when we got it, we have to decide to whom it’s useful to talk in terms of belief, and to whom we rather restrict on terms like weather etc, for he will use our talk for further blaspheming, which we must avoid!
„Friend“ however, is a merit I’d not waist on inconvincible atheists and blasphemers. He who hates God, can never be a friend of mine.