Help with an athiest

Hi, I have an old friend from the military days that I’m chatting with online. Years ago his wife left him and he has a grown daughter that he loves very much. But he’s a very depressed person and has had previous suicidal bouts as recent as last year. He’s very intelligent and claims to have investigated “every” religion and he’s decided that atheism is for him. His fall back is that he’s a good and moral person (though Godless) and is certain only evil people go to hell. He sites people who go to church on Sunday yet sin all week as being worse than him… Anyway, he asked me a question this morning that I’m pretty sure is a trap: “the bible says to gather with other believers and rejoice. But what about those who abhor organized religion and prefer to worship alone. Are they not, too, sinning?”

My answer would tend to be this: If they obey God’s commandments (including Jesus’ eleventh commandment to love one another as I have loved you), have faith that Jesus is your savior, have a relationship with God (Pray) then my guess is you’ll be OK…

THanks for any input… He threw a ton of questions at me so I’ll put more on here. Thanks for the help

Just for clarity, does he believe there IS a hell, and that a person needs to be moral to avoid it, or is he giving that response because you (or someone else) suggested he is bound for Hell because of his lack of belief.

I guess I am asking if this is a real discussion or more of a philosophical argument.

Sometimes people just try to end an annoying discussion by conceding a point. Like a non religious person saying “I’m good so I’m not going to hell” to quiet a person who keeps threatening them with hell, hoping that will shut them up.

For many atheists, they don’t believe in hell, so telling them they are going there is meaningless, it would be like threatening to send someone to Jupiter if they don’t do a certain thing. It’s not happening, so they don’t find it worth talking about.

If someone told you that this or that deity that you don’t believe in is going to punish you, you would unlikely lose any sleep over it.

In other words, his belief is based in good part on how others act?

How flawed.

His attitude is that when we die that is it… Nothing… But on the off chance he’s wrong he’s assuming this God of mercy will accept a man who is nice to others and is generally a good and honest citizen…

Thank your friend for his service for me please!

Then ask, regarding the “hypocritical” appearance of those who go to weekly worship service after sinning all week… what about those who go to daily Mass and sin all week? Are they even more hypocritical? I think you would find if you participate at daily mass that many of the participants live more devout, happier lives as Christians. In other words, the graces received help you sin less if you apply them so my thought is, those that attend weekly service (some of the best of us many Catholics that don’t) are not hypocrites but rather helping themselves live as good and morally as they can. A generalization of course but I think the premise stands if you believe grace is available with every sacrament.

Your friend is an open minded atheist to leave the possibility of God on the table. That’s a great start. Ask what is it like to never know if you’ll be right? If he dies and goes to heaven or hell he will know he was wrong. If he does and he is right, there is no God, then he would never have the satisfaction of knowing it. The faithful on the other hand can never know if we are wrong for the same logic. How about the coincidental nature of how the OT played out foreshadowing the NT, coincidence? It could hardly be.

Its tough situation but adoration seems to be the best remedy for lack of faith. Invite him along some time.

Good Luck and God Bless

One other thing…

Since he has investigated other religions, ask him to focus on Christianity only for the rest of his life. It is a TON to ask of anyone but I would suggest to him that no other faith’s founder claimed to be God. You name the faith, its all based on prophets claiming knowledge of someone or something, or a better way to live etc. Only Christianity claims its foundation is God himself and that is worthy of additional diligence if you ask me.

I would ask him how he knows he is a good person? How does he judge this? Certainly, there must be a person or thing that you must judge yourself against to be “good” and what is this person or thing. If he references a person, ask him who or what that person references… eventually it will come down to a thing… God. Mere Christianity by CS Lewis gives a much better and longer demonstration of this than I can here. I suggest you read that.

I would pull up Pascal’s Wager and Thomas Aquinas’s Third Way of Knowing God, the Cosmological Proof.

So to answer his question, the Christian God requires faith in him to enter Heaven. As to worship? You can prefer whatever you want, I can prefer to slap people instead of high-five them, that doesn’t mean it’s right.

And the hypocrites (I forgot to add this) why judge a society by its criminals?

I hope I have helped you :slight_smile:

I didn’t realize that… Will work that in for sure… thx!

Will look into these writings and yes, you did… Excellent last point BTW:)

Why does an athiest believe in Hell? Why does an athiest believe in good and evil? :confused:

Interestingly for as well as he is read, he makes false assumptions on Catholicism based on what seems to be a Protestant understanding… Which may make this a bit easier for me…

I don’t believe he does. He believes he’ll just become dust…

so he IS an actual atheist as opposed to someone who is mad at religion.

Seriously, I don’t think Pascal’s wager or Thomas Acquinas’s logic will get anywhere with him, but report back, I’m curious.

What do you suggest? :blush:

If he’s a rational Atheist- this argument is undeniable.

Aquinas’ logic is completely valid and sound, and is being defended and appropriated by modern Analytical Philosophy. There is a big problem with people being unable to understand Aquinas, because he presupposes an intimate knowledge of Aristotle, Logic, and Metaphysics. This is obviously a problem in modern society where the standard of education is abysmal and we are only in the business of educating to the level of slavery.

There is also the likely hood that he is not interested enough in the subject to wade through all that. If he’s not invested or interested in the Catholic faith, then what’s his motivation.

Many times followers of a faith think that because the topic/issue is important or critical to them, so others should likewise make it a priority.

If someone of another faith challenged a Catholic to read various things on their faith, and listen to arguments etc, most Catholics would simply say “no thanks”.

Does your friend enjoy discussing religion etc or is it not his thing.

Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing that one could say to actual atheist who is not intrested in the subjects of religion or philosophy that would “convince” them.

Either the spirit moves a person or it doesn’t. Most people are not converted by reason or logic. Not saying it never happens, but it’s not common. Most of the one’s I know who HAVE been converted that way were already interested in at least the subject in not in the particular faith itself.

If a person feels no need for a religion or a supreme being, it’s unlikely you will convince them they need one, life however may bring them to that conclusion on their own.

I was converted by St Thomas Aquinas and Pope John Paul the Great (and the Second Vatican Council.) You could say say it was logic and reasoning that converted me. Although, I was interested in philosophy and theology anyway. So your points are valid!

Philosophically; you can only aim for Classical Theism. The most you can do for Christianity is offer an Argument for the Historicity of the Resurrection. This wont even get off the ground though until you can demonstrate the truth of Classical Theism.

In my opinion, debating with an atheist is about as pointless as debating with a Keynesian economist.

If all Catholics had that attitude; I wouldn’t be Catholic :wink:

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