Is there "hope" for atheists?

Hi!

I have an atheist friend who believes in the “big bang” beginning and such. I’m a devout Catholic and I get where he’s coming from (sorta).
I tried to reason with him a little bit, kinda going the science route.

I told him that if the Big Bang really did happen and evolution really is true (rather than God physically making the world how it is told in the book of Genesis), there must be a cause because in science every scientific even has a cause. He seems to agree with me on that.
Then he went on to say that humans are just mistakes. I was going to say that we aren’t mistakes and were just made because God loved us (and still does) but I decided against it since he doesn’t believe that there’s a Maker. I then thought of asking him,“So you mean that your parents are a mistake?” but I thought that might come out a little too strong than how I mean it to be.

I then talked to someone else about if they were able to convince an atheist that there really is a God and they said that atheists are “hopeless and can only be changed through prayer and God’s grace if they are open”.

Is there really no “hope” for them at all? (I mean to convince them verbally.)

Former atheists, can you please tell me what changed you that made you believe there is a God?

Catholics and other Christians, if you have been able to sort of convert someone, how did you do it?

-7discerning7

P.S. This thread is NOT intended for arguments and/or debates on religion itself.

I think that depends on the atheist. Not all atheists have arrived at their position by the same route and for the same reasons nor do they all have the same kind of personality. Many of the more aggressive New Atheists in the Richard Dawkins mode are actually adherents of an idea called scientism which assumes that scientific methods apply to all categories of being equally. If something cannot be demonstrated by the scientific method then they assume it cannot be true. The trick here is to demonstrate that scientific methods, admirable and useful as they are, only apply to certain fields and not to others. If science cannot demonstrate that a mother loves her baby or predict that certain creatures will die to protect others for example then it needs to accept its limitations.

Personally I was an atheist for philosophical reasons, I was a Marxist, I simply saw no need for a God hypothesis and so got by without it. My conversion was brought about by a personal encounter with Jesus in the sacrament of the altar so argument played no role as an efficient cause of conversion. It did help, however, to be aware beforehand that though the God hypothesis wasn’t, it seemed to me then, necessary it was at least possible. So in arguing the case for God it may be the case that you are laying down foundations which another will build upon later, perhaps much much later.

I’m not sure i’d say hopeless. Basically people go with what makes sense to them and it can be exceedingly hard to change that.

I’m still agnostic but a few years ago I honestly and truly tried to believe but just couldn’t get myself to. I think the epiphany about God’s existence is one that happens within a person and can’t be “reasoned” into someone.

So, while you can try to plant and water the seed, that seed will only sprout when the time comes.

The Church recognizes that the spirit of biblical interpretation is not always literal.
Interpreting the Bible:

catholicbible101.com/howtoreadthebible.htm
ewtn.com/library/curia/pbcinter.htm

Science is not inconsistent with divine Creation, nor does the Church claim it is.
The big bang theory, which is now under some dispute with some scientists, dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2649885/Has-big-bang-breakthrough-foiled-DUST-Researchers-claim-major-flaw-discovery-found.html could be another way of saying God exploding the universe into existence. It isn’t contrary to God’s creation at all.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

159"Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are"

From " Humani Generis" Encyclical by Pope Pius XII
vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

36"the teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions . . . take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—[but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God"

Pope John Paul II, on the 23rd of October, 1996, while speaking to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences plenary session at the Vatican, declared the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin to be fact, tacitly acknowledging that man evolved from the apes while teaching that at some period in history God gave souls to humankind, that leap from animal to human.

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI said the debate raging in some countries — particularly the United States and his native Germany — between creationism and evolution was an “absurdity,” saying that evolution can coexist with faith.

The pontiff, speaking as he was concluding his holiday in northern Italy, also said that while there is much scientific proof to support evolution, the theory could not exclude a role by God.
“They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other,” the pope said. “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.”
He said evolution did not answer all the questions: “Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question, ‘Where does everything come from?’”

While evolutionary threads are banned, you do in fact have common ground for discussion with your atheist friend.

The Holy Spirit converts people and convicts them of their sin and need for a savior. Atheism is illogical and atheists, if they are willing to follow the argument and are open to the possiblity of God, can be argued into theism, the belief in a personal God. This is IMO just another way of stating Catholic dogma that God can be known through human reason (see your catechism for more info).

However our culture is so debased that these “new atheists” as one other poster mentioned are actually thought of as intellectuals by many atheists, instead of the loud-mouthed, mean-spirited, philosophically inept buffoons they are as demonstrated in their writings and public statements. It is really hard to reason with people who look up to folks like Christopher Hitchens, a journalist who, for years smeared Mother Teresa, a 4’9’’ woman from Albania who devoted her life to serving the poorest of the poor in calcutta, while he lived it up partying and drinking in the west and collecting royalties from books which contained these smears. Once you see this kind of mean-spirit and pride in their idol, you can begin to see why it is that so many atheists are not open to reason. Just take a look at any atheist internet forum to see so many angry teenagers committing fallacy after fallacy and believing historical lie after historical lie. After all, one of the arguments for God is the argument from morality. But good luck trying to use this on people who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) and don’t believe in objective morals.

We cannot consider it hopeless for atheists to come to belief in God.
There are many stories of atheists finding faith, including among past and present members of CAF.
However, we cannot force any kind of belief on others.
We can respectfully present reasonable arguments, although without the kind of intrusion that we ourselves would find oppressive if others tried to change our beliefs.

We can live our live in authentic witness of our faith.
As St Francis said, “Preach always, and if necessary, use words” meaning that our example is our best witness of God’s love and truth.

We can and must pray for them, as faith is a gift from God.
All the argument in the world will not convince unless God gives the grace.

God bless you in your sincere desire to bring others to Him.
Kind wishes and prayers,

Trishie

One of my friends is an Atheist.
I would love to be the sort of person he is - battling a life-limiting illness with acceptance and humour; - previously the inspired teacher every child should be lucky enough to have; - giving his wonderful musical talents voluntarily, both directly and to aspiring young musicians;- years spent working with disabled children - the list is endless. He is a joy and great fun to be with at any time. I’m proud to be one of his many friends. His courage and kindness humbles me.

God will I know welcome him with love when the time comes for him to leave us. My friend is due for a wonderful surprise! :thumbsup:

Works do not save.

Faith and works.

With respect opusAquinas,
Would you then consign all non believers to hell - in which they do not believe anyway?
Where is our trust in the Love Of God if all good, kind, caring people are to be abandoned?
Certainly the God in whom I believe would never abandon those He has created because they hold differing beliefs to Christians. Are we so certain that we know and can presume to think that our way is the ONLY path to God?
God bless you.

It is unfair and incorrect to accuse either Balthasar or Neuhaus of teaching that no one goes to hell. They grant that it is probable that some or even many do go there, but they assert, on the ground that God is capable of bringing any sinner to repentance, that we have a right to hope and pray that all will be saved. The fact that something is highly improbable need not prevent us from hoping and praying that it will happen. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church , “In hope, the Church prays for ‘all men to be saved’ (1 Timothy 2:4)” ( CCC §1821). At another point the Catechism declares: “The Church prays that no one should be lost” ( CCC §1058).

firstthings.com/article/2003/05/the-population-of-hell

Sure hope for repentance that all turn to Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation otherwise let the dead bury the dead. :rolleyes:

Hello, atheist here. I was raised to believe in a God, but my parents were only very mildly religious. They were non-denominational and never went to a church except on special occasions. I began having doubts as a pre-teen, and I became a full-blown atheist around 14 or so. Obviously conversion techniques haven’t worked on me, but I have been exposed to a lot, so I can tell you which techniques are the least effective.

Around the time I began to have doubts, I felt a pressure to believe in God that didn’t exist for other beliefs. I was biased, and this belief was special somehow. It was easy for me to see why, as I had always known: I desperately wanted to believe in an afterlife. You see, for being so young, I had a fairly acute sense of my own mortality, and the thought that my life could end and I would never get to see loved ones again terrified me. When it became obvious that no religion could answer my questions, I asked myself if there were any god I could imagine that would grant an afterlife, yet had an excuse for leaving the world as it is. I couldn’t think of anything.

Eventually, I began to come to terms with mortality after wrestling with it for a few years, and my belief in god faded shortly after. This was the ultimate proof to me of my own atheism–God had always been nothing more than an emotional crutch to me, and all the “evidence” I had been exposed to amounted to nothing. It was never really evidence, it was comfort.

My point is that many religious people, like myself as a child, decide from the outset that they will believe and attempt to work from that starting point. They are not looking for truth; they are looking for rationalizations. It may be helpful to think of your own motives. Are you the kind of person who looks for evidence and then believes, or believes and then looks for evidence? If you wish to convert people, my suggestion would be to focus on the feel-good aspects of your faith. That’s what draws people in the first place in many cases.

DO NOT attempt to use any argument that you devised one day when you asked yourself why people should believe in god, because it will be a rationalization. If it truly coincided with the evidence, you would have been led to the argument naturally without having to cobble it together to fill some sort of demand in the idea market. Science is not religion’s strength; emotion is.

DO NOT threaten an atheist with Hell and expect it to somehow resonate with him. Firstly, there are many problems with Pascal’s Wager. But the bigger problem is that atheists simply don’t believe in Hell to begin with. Look at some of your own Catholic peers and see how their opinions are often divided when it comes to Hell. The “negative” aspects of religion are where the least agreement will occur, so begin with the positive aspects.

DO NOT quote the Bible or a theologian as evidence for your position. This should be obvious, but a non-Christian isn’t going to see a Christian document or quotation as authoritative. Some Christians have experience debating Muslims, so try using arguments that would work on Muslims if you have this experience.

Sacred music. There is no other explanation for its beauty than that what it celebrates is true. :thumbsup:

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” John Keats

Hello opusAquinas,
Please can you clarify something for me:- Did your last post mean that you believe that unless one is Christian (ideally Catholic?) one is damned for all eternity? Jews, Buddhists etc. - those who are good, devout people who choose to follow a different path and who seek spiritual enlightenment in other ways.
I respect your right to hold any personal opinion, even if it is not mine and ask my question out of interest.

Thank you for taking the trouble to reply directly to my post.
God bless you

Some “atheists” are more “Christian” than some Christians.

I agree, for the most part, with oreoracle’s post. Religion has no bearing on scientific ideas like the big bang, so you won’t get very far with that type of argument. And don’t quote the bible or use religious arguments as those things have no weight with non believers.

As an atheist, what interests me about believers is their reason for belief. Talk about what has personally convinced you to be Catholic. That is your strongest position. Above all, be honest. If you don’t have an answer to something, don’t rationalize. Don’t do apologetics. It isn’t convincing.

Some atheists have an interest in religion and some don’t. Those who don’t probably won’t be interested in what you have to say. So keep that in mind as well. Good luck.

I doubt a lot of atheists spend genuine, reflective time on such matters. It seems to me a lot of people become atheist/agnostic because of some selfish reason(s).

I can say that based on the responses/personal messages I’ve gotten here and elsewhere, and let me tell you it makes me SO GLAD that I am Catholic.

A lot of atheists I’ve encountered seem bitter, angry and upset and have a chip on his/her shoulder.

But as your story shows, there’s ALWAYS hope for everyone, including atheists. God loves everyone without exception. :yup:

In your post, you wrote, “Firstly, there are many problems with Pascal’s Wager”.

One of the biggest problems with Pascal’s Wager in my opinion, and this is merely my opinion, is that I believe that God appreciates honesty and Pascal’s Wager seems to me to be the height of attempting to pull the wool, so to speak, over God’s Eyes.

If anything, merely my opinion again, if I understand Pascal’s Wager, anyone taking this wager would probably find that it won’t work to be the con job that it is and will just backfire on whoever takes it.

But then, some Christians are not really Christians.

They are sort of like people who call themselves world travelers because they have been from Fort Worth to Dallas and back. :smiley:

I don’t agree. All Pascal is saying is, if you don’t believe it, try believing it.

Try it you’ll like it!

And who wouldn’t like it once they’ve tried it?

Someone who’s made up his mind beforehand that after he tried it he wouldn’t like it, has conned himself.

That’s not even backfire. If anything, it’s forefire! :wink:

Than again some atheists just do not believe in the “conception” of God that many believers in God put forth as being God.

I’m from Maryland, living in Delaware but was stationed in Texas, that’s a good one.

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