I could use some general tips on evangelizing Atheists

Hello everyone. I could use some general tips on evangelizing Atheists. I would welcome tips from anyone but especially from former Atheists who are now Catholic.

For me, telling me what the “Bible says” did nothing. It actually made me madder. Try to avoid direct quotations from Scripture. Of course allude to it and use Christ’s words, but never, EVER say “According to the letter of James” unless describing the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. Try to use more philosophical truths than revelational truths.

It seems odd to me that the Church does not research how and why people become Catholics through standard social research. That is how successful businesses expand their customer base; how governments persuade people to smoke less and drive safely, and how politicians get votes. I actually cant think of any research along these lines at all, for any religion. Why is this sort of work not done to help out people like the OP?

I think the most effective way is to live and love your faith. Let the light of Christ shine from you. Remember that you are not the light or the source of the light but a fragment of a mirror whose size and shape you will never know. With what you have you can reflect the light into the darkness of human hearts (I took this from a story I read). Others can tell when you are living your faith and will be drawn to the joy they see in you. Also, pray and offer sacrifices for them(fasting). I agree with the others that hearing “the Bible says” will only push people away. I know it did before my eyes were opened.

While Evangelizing you are usually coming up against confrontation. We need to stay charitable…so, KNOW what you believe and why first. then I would grab “Were is That in the bible” by Patrick Madrid. I would get the NAB (New answers bible) that explains all dogmas while you read the bible…VERY informative, and my personal favorite Bible. Check out a few of the really small books that are all about Apologetics, begining apologetics etc from Fr. Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham…awesome especially if you know the Mormons are coming on a tuesday. Over the weekend read one of their books addressing Mormonism. I had to fight for my faith as I am a convert, so I really can hold my own on apologetics…godd luck to you…and stay charitable:)

Realize that intellectual difficulties exist, but that it is not the only reason for wy many atheists are atheists. Apart from giving the best defense you can give them for the faith, live a life that walks the walk. Love them, make sure your interaction with them is not just about converting them. If you decide that they are too stubborn to ever change, continue to love them in their atheism. Pray for them… See if you can get them involved in some social justice mission with your parish. They may be interested in doing community service, and hopefully they will have a positive experience with the participants and see the light of Christ. If they are still unconvinced, at least they helped make a difference and perhaps their relationship and understanding of Christians can improve.

This is very true, though I have a feeling that the RC do have such a program. Jesuits are pretty on top of things. It may not be common or public knowledge, but Jesuits have been around for a while, and are very scholarly with a focal mission on converting non-Catholics.

Dear Holly,

Cordial greetings and a very good day. It might be a jolly good idea to bring to the notice of Atheists the following two lines of reasoning:

First, the very hostility against the Church is a witness of her truth. The Catholic Church bears the mark of opposition and, like her Divine Founder, she is a “sign of contradiction” (Lk. 2: 34). Even your most ardent Atheist would probably be prepared to concede that it is only the Catholic Church and the Pope that have any coherent and authoritative teaching on the burning issues of our age. The very dissent whipped up against the Church when she speaks is surely a proof that she speaks with a voice that disturbs the consciences of men. What other Christian leader today arouses the fury of the modern enemies of our Blessed Saviour like the Holy Father does? If, dear sister, the holy religion of Christ consisted of nothing more than “cleverly devised myths” (II Pet. 1: 16), then it is highly improbable that it would have elicited the intense hostility that it has down through the ages. If this is not a witness as to its divine origin then I do not know what is.

Second, the Catholic Church is the great civiliser and has been the inspiration of the greatest elements of Western civilisation. Europe ultimately owes to the Catholic Church all that made it great and distinctive. Indeed, it was this insight, dear sister, that moved Hilaire Belloc to write that, “The Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith”. Now of course he was not suggesting that the two could really be so literally identified and that Christ’s religion could only be European in its expression. As he explained, “I have never said that the Church was necessarily European. The Church will last forever, and on this earth, until the end of the world; and our remote descendents may find its chief membership to have passed to Africans or Asiatics in some civilisation yet unborn” (Letter to the Catholic Herald, 1936). That last sentence was possibly very prophetical, especially given the errosion and worldliness of much Western Christianity today.

Whilst the Church exists primarily for the salvation of souls, not for the sake of civilisation, even upon the basis of civilisation an Atheist can recognize the necessity of the Church’s power and influence for good. Moreover, he will observe the inability of any other philosophy, religion, or institution to hold its own against all that is anti-human and unworthy of civilised man. The Atheist, dear sister, should understand that without the supernatural, the natural order itself simply cannot survive. Evelyn Waugh, upon his conversion in 1930, could already appreciate the same truth: “in the present phase of European history the essential issue is no longer between Catholicism, on the side, and Protestantism, on the other, but between Christianity and Chaos…In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the choice before any educated European was between Christianity, in whatever form it was presented to him…and…a polite and highly attractive scepticism. So great, indeed, was the inherited, subconscious power of Christianity that it was nearly two centuries before the real nature of this loss of faith became apparent. Today we can see it on all sides as the active negation of all that Western culture has stood for. Civilisation…the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe - has not itself the power of survival. It came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance…It is no longer possible, as it was in the time of Gibbon, to accept the benefits of civilisation and at the same deny the supernatural basis on which it rest…Christianity…is in greater need of combative strength than it has been for centuries”. Jolly powerful and persuasive stuff that continues to have abiding relevance even in our age, perhaps even more so.

Those who examine seriously the claims of the Catholic Church come to realise that the choice that they have is between Her and Nothing. Blessed Newman recorded that, while an Anglican, he “came to the conclusion that there was no medium, in true philosophy, between Atheism and Catholicity, and that a perfectly consistent mind, under those circumstances in which it finds itself here below, must embrace either the one or the other”; - “there are but two alternatives, the way to Rome, and the way to Atheism: Anglicanism is the halfway house on the one side, and Liberalism is the halfway house on the other” (Apologia Pro Vita Sua, ch. IV (1841-45).

These, dear sister, are, I think, very important lines of reasoning to pursue with professed Atheists and I trust that they will be of some service to you in any future discussions or evangelistic endeavour.

God bless.

Warmest good wishes,

Portrait

Pax

Double post.

Throw bible verse after bible verse at them like a crazed bible thumper. Although they will insult and mock you, passages from scripture penetrates the heart and plants seeds of faith. Although I did not have faith, my values subsconsciously aligned with Christ’s, such as the value of truth over false peace (never “tolerate” lies for the sake of coexistence like my secularist friends do). Even not knowing the full bible can plant enough seeds of faith that it blossoms.

When they are ready, they may seek God with all their hearts and find Him, like scripture declares. But they may only do that if they are aware of what scripture declares,

I am a former atheist, and this is how I converted. Debated with Christians long enough to have bible versus I disagreed with change my heart.

I am one of them. My advice is don’t. They will or will not come to the Lord on their own.

Just be there to help them when they do. Its really the best you can do.

Much has been written on the matter, but it is not all that easy to locate. Here is one source:
Gaudium et spes, (#19-21) the Vatican II Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, has several paragraphs on evangelization of atheists, including this:

[INDENT]The remedy which must be applied to atheism, however, is to be sought in a proper presentation of the Church’s teaching as well as in the integral life of the Church and her members. For it is the function of the Church, led by the Holy Spirit Who renews and purifies her ceaselessly,(17) to make God the Father and His Incarnate Son present and in a sense visible. This result is achieved chiefly by the witness of a living and mature faith, namely, one trained to see difficulties clearly and to master them. Many martyrs have given luminous witness to this faith and continue to do so. This faith needs to prove its fruitfulness by penetrating the believer’s entire life, including its worldly dimensions, and by activating him toward justice and love, especially regarding the needy. What does the most reveal God’s presence, however, is the brotherly charity of the faithful who are united in spirit as they work together for the faith of the Gospel(18) and who prove themselves a sign of unity.

While rejecting atheism, root and branch, the Church sincerely professes that all men, believers and unbelievers alike, ought to work for the rightful betterment of this world in which all alike live; such an ideal cannot be realized, however, apart from sincere and prudent dialogue. Hence the Church protests against the distinction which some state authorities make between believers and unbelievers, with prejudice to the fundamental rights of the human person. The Church calls for the active liberty of believers to build up in this world God’s temple too. She courteously invites atheists to examine the Gospel of Christ with an open mind.[/INDENT]

And from Christifideles Laici:

[INDENT]The Hour Has Come for a Re-Evangelization

  1. Whole countries and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and capable of fostering a viable and working community of faith, are now put to a hard test, and in some cases, are even undergoing a radical transformation, as a result of a constant spreading of an indifference to religion, of secularism and atheism. This particularly concerns countries and nations of the so-called First World, in which economic well-being and consumerism, even if coexistent with a tragic situation of poverty and misery, inspires and sustains a life lived “as if God did not exist”. This indifference to religion and the practice of religion devoid of true meaning in the face of life’s very serious problems, are not less worrying and upsetting when compared with declared atheism. Sometimes the Christian faith as well, while maintaining some of the externals of its tradition and rituals, tends to be separated from those moments of human existence which have the most significance, such as, birth, suffering and death. In such cases, the questions and formidable enigmas posed by these situations, if remaining without responses, expose contemporary people to an inconsolable delusion or to the temptation of eliminating the truly humanizing dimension of life implicit in these problems.

On the other hand, in other regions or nations many vital traditions of piety and popular forms of Christian religion are still conserved; but today this moral and spiritual patrimony runs the risk of being dispersed under the impact of a multiplicity of processes, including secularization and the spread of sects. Only a re-evangelization can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith, and serve to make these traditions a force for authentic freedom.

Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations.

At this moment the lay faithful, in virtue of their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, are fully part of this work of the Church. Their responsibility, in particular, is to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response-consciously perceived and stated by all in varying degrees-to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society. This will be possible if the lay faithful will know how to overcome in themselves the separation of the Gospel from life, to again take up in their daily activities in family, work and society, an integrated approach to life that is fully brought about by the inspiration and strength of the Gospel.

To all people of today I once again repeat the impassioned cry with which I began my pastoral ministry: "Do not be afraid! Open, in deed, open wide the doors to Christ![/INDENT]

Hello, Holly! As a member of the group you’re trying to evangelize to, let me critique a few of the suggestions given to you so far.

To you, the other posters, and the moderators: I’m not looking to derail the topic with various arguments for and against faith. I just want to give my opinions as to what arguments may or may not work as well as what Holly might need to expect and prepare for in doing so.

For me, telling me what the “Bible says” did nothing. It actually made me madder. Try to avoid direct quotations from Scripture.

I agree with this to a point. At the very least if you quote scripture, don’t cite chapter and verse. It tends to come off as a regurgitation of items as opposed to something that’s been taken to heart.

In the same vein:

Throw bible verse after bible verse at them like a crazed bible thumper. Although they will insult and mock you, passages from scripture penetrates the heart and plants seeds of faith.

I disagree with this. Setting aside whether the words themselves have a power to pierce a non-believers heart, take it from a different persepective. If someone were to rattle off verse after verse of The Pearl of Great Price, The Koran, or some other non-christian tome that wouldn’t convince you. Not only that, it demonstrates that you are not willing to engage in discussion. Listening is more than just waiting for the other person to stop speaking. No one likes a shoutbox.

I think the most effective way is to live and love your faith.

It can’t hurt! :smiley:

First, the very hostility against the Church is a witness of her truth. The Catholic Church bears the mark of opposition and, like her Divine Founder, she is a “sign of contradiction” (Lk. 2: 34).

That will not make a convincing argument. There are plenty of things that people are hostile to that are not true. Islam is a perfect example. Also while I appreciate verses like 2 Timothy 3:12 as a means to bring strength to christians against persecution, I occasionally see people using such verses to evangelize. Many groups (including many cults) will tell their followers that they will be mocked or ridiculed, but that doesn’t mean what they say is the truth.

Second, the Catholic Church is the great civiliser and has been the inspiration of the greatest elements of Western civilisation.

It would be foolish to ignore the influence of the Catholic Church on western civilization; but you need to be prepared if you wish to use this argument. There have been other civilization with no christian influence. A person could argue that western civilization could have flourished (albeit possibly in a different way) without the church. Also while the church provided a stable influence you would then have to bridge a gap between an organization keeping people in line and one that is true about all things unseen.

The one thing I would add is to investigate the counter-arguments to your reasons for believing. Don’t assume what you are telling someone is something he or she has never heard before.

Oh, and one final thing. Be polite. As people living in a free society each one of us has the right to express our views. But do not turn a person’s courtesy as a tool against him. If a person is not interested in what you’re saying, please disengage. Few things can get under the skin of a non-believer quicker than someone who foregoes basic ettiquette and wears away his patience with no sign of stopping.

Well I think that the heart has reasons that reason knows not of. Debating a convicted atheist at an intellectual level is an exercise in futility. You are an atheist so you believe reasoned discourse it what is needed, but I am an ex-atheist who realizes that reason is not what will move a man to change his ways, especially if he has silly epistemology. He has to realize what this Jesus fellow says is truth and align his values accordingly. When the time comes he may turn fully to Christ of he may not.

The bible itself tells us to be fools for Christ’s sake, but also tells us that hearing the word of God plants the seed of faith.

Romans 10:

14 How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?

15 And how can they preach, unless they be sent? as it is written: *How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things?

16 But all do not obey the gospel. For Isaias saith: *Lord, who hath believed our report?

17 Faith then cometh by hearing: and hearing by the word of Christ.

Luke 8:

4 And when a very great multitude was gathered together, and hastened out of the cities to him, he spoke by a similitude:

5 *A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.

6 And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.

7 And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it, choked it.

8 And other some fell upon good ground: and sprung up, and yielded fruit a hundred-fold. Saying these things, he cried out: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

9 And his disciples asked him what this parable might be.

10 To whom he said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but to the rest in parables, *that seeing, they may not see, and hearing, they may not understand.

11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

12 And they, by the way side, are they that hear; then the devil cometh, and taketh the word out of their heart, lest believing, they should be saved.

13 Now they upon the rock, are they who when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no roots; who believe for a while, and in time of temptation, fall away.

14 And that which fell among thorns: are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches, and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit.

15 But that on the good ground, are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.

If being respectable in front of others will not plant as many seeds as possible, being a mad fool is the better option. Respectable people don’t proselytize in our present society, but a madman can.

No offense, but as a former religious person converted atheist, you’re fighting a losing battle, and liable to annoy the heck out of anyone you attempt to evangelize (evangelical people tend to get close minded).

In the event that you try it, be sure to have plenty of arguments in favor of the existence of a magical sky fairy-… I mean god. (Atheist joke)

The issue you face with this is:

  1. Atheists are usually purely logical
  2. Religion is usually based purely in emotion.

Arguments to avoid:

  1. Everything has to happen for a reason. (The Problem: No it doesn’t.)
  2. Where else did the world come from? (The Problem: You still have to prove your God exists, not just that they don’t know)
  3. Anything that can’t be logically determined
  4. Don’t quote the bible. (We atheists consider it roughly the same level as a Dungeons and Dragons quest book, maybe a few steps worse)
  5. Don’t be a bible-beater.
  6. Be open minded. Even if you don’t agree with us, restating your opinion will only **** us off (because you’re only listening to yourself).

I’d also like to add that our hostility to the church isn’t proof that the church is right, it’s just proof that we don’t like the church. I, personally, dislike the church because religion wastes time and makes people blind and gullible, and it indoctrinates children. The church has not been a great example for western civilization. We (the world) tried putting the church in charge, and we call this era “The Dark Ages”.

I’d honestly like to see you make a good go at this. It’s so hard to find Theists that can actually talk to an atheist without shoving a bible in our faces.

Build a relationship first. Make a friend. Take an example from Jesus when He fed the multitudes: people listen better when you feed them and respect their needs.

No one will listen to you if they don’t trust you. Preach the gospel at all times, but only use words when absolutely necessary. Be a trustworthy witness to your words. Did I say build a relationship first?

Ask, don’t tell. Keep the lines of communication open. If you make the effort to understand what drives them, you’ll be able to provide answers which are truly meaningful. Did you grown up in a religious family? What prompted you to decide to be an atheist? What doesn’t make sense? Is your life what you hoped it would be? Do you wish you were more at peace and happier? Are your children learning to be the kind of good people you want them to be?

Once you get to know them and their needs, and they know you genuine care for their physical needs, you’ll be in a position to begin a long-term dialogue which may eventually lead to spiritual conversion.

Your goal is not to convert the atheist, so don’t push it that far and don’t get disappointed when you can’t. Your goal is to plow the ground so that someone else can plant a seed. Your goal is to plant a seed which someone else will tend. Your goal is to water a seed that someone else planted. Be there ready to plow, plant, and water when the moments arise.

Could I take a moment to thank the person who responded above me?

As an atheist, most apologetic attempts beat me upside the head with a bible and marginalize me. It’s nice to hear of the revolutionary idea of treating atheists like people. Even if I really, really dislike your religion, I love the method you use to spread it sir or madam.

Thank you.

I was an atheist until I converted to Catholicism some 6 years ago. The first religious book I read was St. Thomas’ De rationibus fidei which had a great effect on me. I started reading other works by St. Thomas and was introduced to the cosmological argument. This argument has been improved by modern philosophers. A year later I became Catholic.

I think that the modal arguments (modal-epistemological, possible worlds) for the existence of God are the strongest.

There are two kinds of atheists: those who simply do not believe in God, and those who believe that God does not exist. The first has not found any evidence for the existence of God and may be reasonable. With the second one no discussion is possible because it is logically impossible to know that God does not exist.

If atheists are not familiar with rational arguments for God’s existence, you can introduce them to it. If they are, debate them on it. Do not let religion get into the discussion, it’s useless and a separate topic. Like Chesterton, find something you agree with in your opponent’s argument, build on that and demonstrate how his or her argument is incomplete.

No, thank YOU for your kind response. I hope that everyone here treats you with the same courteous respect.

I know that some won’t. Please understand that those are few in number, so feel free to ignore the rude ones, and know that they are not representative of the majority of us.

Thank you all for your answers. :slight_smile:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.