I could use some general tips on evangelizing Atheists

A few more things that may not be immediately obvious:

(1) Be willing to be corrected, to not know everything, and even to be wrong. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you don’t know. If your opponent makes a good point, acknowledge it. You may think this weakens your position, but it does not. An honest “I don’t know” will do a lot to make it clear that you care about the truth and are willing to be intellectually honest.

(2) Acknowledge that sometimes, Christians are jerks. Some of them are even jerks in the name of religion. Many atheists have dealt time and again with stupid, judgmental Christians. Some of us are even related to them! Don’t try to excuse bad behavior done in the name of religion.

(3) Educate yourself on atheism and the various beliefs atheists can have, and make an effort to find out what the person you’re talking to believes. For example, moral relativism is far less common among atheists than many Christians think. Hasty generalizations will not help your cause.

(4) Similarly, educate yourself on widely held atheist objections to Christianity. Especially consider in the U.S. that many atheists are primarily familiar with evangelical Christianity; some of their objections may not apply.

Ok, so these are all tips if you’re dealing with someone who’s genuinely interested in talking. The final thing is to know when to cut your losses. If someone is being rude or combative, don’t engage. Be polite, be a good witness, but don’t argue with someone who’s just interested in winning debates.

To evangelize atheists I would try to find out why they are atheist. A lot of atheists believe in science. Use science against them. Never be rude because then they might blame that on your religion.

My experience is limited to hearing atheists speak hear on CAF. And from this, I’ve found that some have different reasons, or at least argue from different logic. So it would depend on how knowledgable you are with the topic they bring up.

However there is one topic that keeps coming up over and over and seems like mainly women are into this. SUFFERING. How can God be so mean as to make everyone suffer. Why couldn’t God just make it so no one will suffer. And then there is different aspects of this. One being the God of the old testiment demanding that people be killed, even babies. Babies are the central and front figure to their passionate arguement.

Or then there is the arguement of suffering in the modern world of babies dying in a cruel way.
And there are a few more twists to suffering as well.

Of course the catholic and biblical answer to suffering is that even tho a mother lose her tiny infant baby, God loves children and may give that child happiness in the after life. Or at the very least, God is all just and love, and we can be sure that he will be more than fair.

But this argument is never satisfactory for they insist that if God is God, all of this could be bypassed. However, their solution is that if the baby dies in a cruel aweful painful and terrible way, the baby is nothing more than a used up burnt match stick that ceases to exist and just compounds the terrible loss to the mother offering her no hope or consolation what so ever. So their solution is worse than no solution. Yet they are criticle of a mean God, their answer to this “baby suffering” is far worse.

So just don’t let them get away with this argument, for if they are not as cruel, then what is their answer that would be kind to that mother. They don’t have one. Because they believe that everything and everybody stops existing at death. And so there is no answer to suffering or justice by their standards. It is logically all just one big mistake.

Just a thought.

First off, a disclaimer: I would be very careful generalizing from the sorts of atheists who would sign up for a Catholic forum, to all atheists. You’re going to get a much more argumentative lot here on CAF than you would in a random sampling.

The problem with this is that, on an atheistic framework, we have no reason to think that cruelty and suffering wouldn’t exist or would be answered somehow. On a theistic framework we do. Claiming that the atheistic answer doesn’t provide a solution fundamentally misunderstands the argument.

The question was never about having a solution. It was about what we would expect if each theory was true. The claim being made is that, if God exists, then we would expect there to be no needless suffering. But if God doesn’t exist, then we would have no reason to expect either way. Therefore, since we do see needless suffering, it’s more probable that God doesn’t exist than that he does.

“The question was never about having a solution.”

O but it is. The way they carry on about the pain and suffering, it is all about this so called mom and it is a big deal which the argument tries to gather snowball strength by making a big deal out of this mom and how cruel this big nasty god is who made her suffer in this way. The direction of this argument goes on an on about pain. It tries to create an emotional black hole to suck everyone down into it. Over and over and over we hear the same thing about cruelity. If it weren’t so, then the big deal wouldn’t be made, it would be passed over quickly making a point. But no. It has to go on and on and on in a very descriptive narrative.

And then there is this statement, “if God exists, then we would expect there to be no needless suffering”. But again, the argument doesn’t stop there. The image of this suffering tearjerking itty bitty mom, a weak poor creature, is suffering from this big mobster in the sky. And then on an on and on. It’s never about a dry straightfoward statement, but all about emotion to drain people dry right to the bone.

The way you stated it is fine, no offense. But is that the way it is presented? No.
There are pages and pages of these horrific sob stories giving God a black eye.

So my contention is not against entering a discussion with atheists, only with this over done presentation on suffering. Which I do not understand, since there are plenty of other crimes ,injustices, “u picky” things going on. Why settle for one? And if this argument is extended to its logical conclusion, then the argument will fall apart of its own self evident “obviously wrong” weight. It would mean that we should end our world because there is just too much to straighten out, starting with my light bill, which I could make you cry over.

Just a few thoughts, including thanks for your reply.

Its a bit ironic because I was an agnostic/atheist with these views until I educated myself. It turns out that the atheists I know (and knew) are just as emotional and irrational. As someone more wise than me once said, the same barb can sting twice…

Honestly, the excuses you gave are common misunderstandings and can be properly understood from information found in the apologetics forum on this site alone, or from simply listening to Peter Kreeft’s free online lecture on the Proofs for Gods existence.
For example:

#1 Actually our physical laws claim this and reason (logic) did thousands of years ago. Simply put, every event set in motion has a cause that set it in motion. These causes can be traced back to a first cause (e.g. you were born because your parents procreated, they were born for similar reasons… all the way to the big bang). Since the oscillating universe theory has been repeatedly proved invalid, the only explanation left is an intelligent (see anthropic principle) first cause. How do athiests escape this? By claiming the universe created itself (no, im not kidding). So yes, everything that happens does have a reason but what I think you are trying to say is “everything that happens was directly because of God.” And that I would agree with (like your free will to denounce Him).

#2 Related to #1 (display of ignorance of logic)

#3 - #5 Ill paraphrase your point - appeal to logical proofs of Gods existence.

My favorite is #6 - “be open minded” - does that mean your open minded to being closed minded? Or perhaps be open minded to error? I would suggest that you should not be open minded to error or ill intention for that matter.

Finally, I will use your own logic and claim you have to prove all the proofs for the existence of God invalid (not just claim you dont know). So to begin, I would start with educating yourself on them (there are probably about two dozen).

If an atheist believes that science can explain everything, it is easy to point out that science cannot give logic a rational foundation. We use logic in scientific reasoning, but science cannot give logic itself a scientific basis. If an atheist is an empiricist, point out that the claim that every statement should be empirically verifiable is itself not an empirically verifiable statement. Point out also that there are no claims of theism which are logically incompatible with empirically verifiable facts. Enter metaphysics and ontology.

Dearly beloved friends,

Cordial greetings and a very good day. Here are some further thoughts for your perusal, as regards our mission to Atheists.

Atheism is found chiefly among men who find the belief in a Personal God an irksome check on the indulgence of their passions and students of physical science who, from too intense concentration on their own particular line of work, which is concerned exclusively with material things, sadly come to doubt all that is spiritual or moral - everything in fact, save those things which the tests of the laboratory can be applied.

In addition to bringing men’s notice to the undeniable civilising influence of Christianity and the hostility against the Church (men naturally hate anything that shames them), it should be observed that Atheism is actually contrary to the well-being and nature of man.

Society is necessary for man, because it is only as a member of society that man can attain to the normal development of his faculties; and society can have no stable and happy existence unless its members observe the moral law. Now the moral law requires justice and kindness in those that govern and a willing obedience and loyalty in their citizens. It forbids murder, lying, fraud and every kind of wicked desire/vice. It unites a husband and wife in lifelong wedlock and it binds the family together and ensures the proper rearing of children. That society is necessary for man and that its success is dependent upon the observance of the moral law - these are truths which no sane man would seriously stop to deny. They emerge naturally out of reason and cannot be rejected unless a man surrenders all trust in human intelligence and confesses that the discovery of truth is impossible. However, for the mass of mankind, observance of moral law, certainly over any great stretch of time, is quite impossible, unless, that is, there is belief in a Personal God - All powerful, All-knowing, who will reward the good and punish the wicked. Belief in a Personal God, therefore, dear friends, is a demand of our very reason and nature and must be true. “If God does not exist, everything is permitted” (Dostoievsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Bk. 5).

If it be objected that in many countries today large sections of the population either deny or ignore the existence of God, and yet are generally well-behaved, I would say by way of reply that these are people whose good habits that have been derived from believing parents or at least from the Christian consciousness, even if they are unaware of that or flatly deny it. However, the momentum of Christianity by which they are now being carried along will inevitably exhaust itself, if not in this generation then certainly in some future one. Many Atheists are unaware that today we are largely living on the spiritual capital of the past, but it will not last forever and is even now rapidly diminishing. Moreover, Atheism, which removes the only effective check on sin and wrongdoing, will inevitably lead to moral degradation and the destruction of human society. To this extent one could rightly say that Atheism is man’s greatest enemy. Amid the spiral of crime, corruption, violence, decadence, scandals, greed and unprecedented family breakdown since the permissive revolution of the Sixties, who can honestly deny that this is the case?

God bless.

Warmest good wishes,

Portrait

Pax

What are you talking about? The answer is right in the Bible. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in Heaven.” It’s not about saying the right thing to try to convince someone of coming over to the Catholic side. It’s about living a life of virtue and good works. Such will naturally attract people. Beating them over the head with the Bible will only build contempt.

Mike you do atheism proud. Most of the ones we get on these forums are anything but polite. Thank you for being a real man. :thumbsup:

Personally I think it is pretty much a waste of time. But there is some good advice in the posts above. :thumbsup:

In addition to apologetics by masters such as Kreeft and Hahn, I think 'trust has a great strategy. How often is Scripture “in our faces” these days?

This is the purpose of some of us who are evangelizing through Facebook. For example, I’ve pledged to post daily Scripture verses on my FB update. I did this yesterday- John 6:35- and the first “like” I got on it was from an agnostic “friend” I’ve never met (I have a lot of performing arts “friends” all over the world). Today I posted John 1:1-5, which is of course deeply theological. Imagine you are an unbeliever and every time you read your feeds there are Scripture verses there. Okay, you might get annoyed, but something might slowly begin to sink in…that still small voice…

Please join me and others here in using FB for evangelization! No preaching necessary, just a verse or two a day. God bless!

Amen. Save rational arguments for rational people. It is a sad truth, not just in religion but all subjects, that people are not convinced by arguments simply on the strength of the underlying reasoning. It does not matter what you say if your audience doesn’t want to hear it.

I would not say so given that, in my experience, the most common atheist argument boils down to that God does not exist because God is too mean.

Interesting. How are atheists purely logical when science and empiricism cannot give logic a rational foundation? What exactly is the ontological status of logic in naturalism, a world where there are only physical processes of nature?

I would be very cautious of pursuing this line. Even as an atheist, I never saw someone who was an atheist because it was easier to indulge their passions that way. I have no doubt there are some out there, though my impression is that the percentage decreases with age. Nonetheless, I saw many that were as I was, disgusted with the “morality” that they observed among Christians.

It seemed to me that Christianity had been a force for evil as much as good. I looked through history and saw Christians using their faith to support slavery and oppose basic women’s rights (no, that’s not just an abortion thing - what about all the people that cited their christian beliefs as the reason women shouldn’t vote or attend college?). I saw Christianity in the modern day promoting wars I thought unjust, and making it difficult to address any real issues about racism or sexism without someone crying out that they were offended. In short, I saw it as as a force that encouraged people to feel better about themselves without really making themselves or the world around them better.

In addition to bringing men’s notice to the undeniable civilising influence of Christianity and the hostility against the Church (men naturally hate anything that shames them), it should be observed that Atheism is actually contrary to the well-being and nature of man.

This is just not a particularly good argument. Men hate that which shames them, but the fact that they hate something does not mean they are shamed by it. Many of us find ourselves equally antagonistic to those promoting accusations which we fully believe to be groundless. I hated the church for what I saw (often correctly) as the self-righteousness of people who had substituted a list of rules and pious talk for loving and caring for their fellow man. My story is darker than most on that count, but there will still be many who have truly seen evil going under the guise of Christianity.

As an atheist, I concluded that Christianity was evil for that very reason - that it promoted immorality. I saw it promoting insularity and a lack of true caring for others, trusting rather in rules and throwing a few dollars at a situation as an excuse to not get involved. I saw it brush over abuse and bullying in the name of promoting “traditional family values.” These were real, genuine evils that the church has been guilty of.

Even as a Christian, I find that many of the statements that I’ve said are true of many Christians. I do some work in sexual assault and domestic violence activism, and time and again my biggest enemies are Christians who would rather stamp their feet and shout trite statements about “modesty” and “submission” and hide from true pain and suffering in the world. If you’re out evangelizing, you’ll need to be able to admit to that kind of atheist that sometimes, people do use Christianity as an excuse to do evil. But that’s not why you believe it.

The “Dark Ages” came about due to the fall of the Western Roman Empire (caused by a combination of having an expansionist based system no longer expanding and several large permanent invasions of less technologically advanced and uneducated peoples) and the collapse of the physical and social infrastructures that were dependent upon it. The “Church caused the Dark Ages” argument really only works if you ignore the fact that the ERE didn’t go through a similar “Dark Age”; nor did the regions that came under the stable control of the Caliphate (which had an even stronger link between state and religion than either parts of the Roman Empire). No “Bible shoving” required.

OP,

The biggest issue you are going to face are atheists who start with their conclusions and work backwards in order to rationalize their conclusions and see nothing wrong with this because they claim to be logic and reason using individuals.

In other words, Christianity is wrong not because of it’s actual teachings but because of individual bad Christians.

OP,

Another example of start with the conclusion then work backwards. Additionally, the above comment highlights another issue will run in to, namely judging a system based on the actions of select individuals (those that support their conclusion) and not on the system itself.

Good points. I will only add that Catholic theology has as its philosophical underpinnings the highly developed logical thinking of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas.

In a conversation earlier this year with a PhD. candidate in Philosophy, he told me that (in effect) the scholarly community of philosophers is ‘still waiting’ for the next Aristotle. I presume this “next Aristotle” is for some the “great atheist hope,” which would make him in effect the anti-Aristotle.

Anyway that is the esteem in which philosophy academics hold Aristotle, whether they are atheist or not.

It was a little more complicated than that. Note that I was responding to the post that claimed atheists become atheists because they don’t want to deal with morality. My main caution is to not assume that’s the case, when dealing with atheists. If you start in on that line, you’ll just come across as arrogant and self-righteous.

That said, I actually did think that Christian teachings encouraged immorality. It wasn’t just that individual Christians did bad things, but that I ran into a lot of Christians who, according to their own words, did those things because they were Christians. They were the ones out there saying that Christianity required immoral things.

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.