Friday, August 16, 2013

3 Ways to Persuade an Atheist to Become a Christian? Oh boy - Part I

I stumbled across this article, entitled "How to Persuade an Atheist to Become Christian".

Let's see if "provide sufficient scientific evidence" makes an appearance, shall we?

Conversion to Christianity is a beautiful thing that requires that the person accept that Jesus is the only way to salvation. As a Christian, you are probably concerned about atheist friends who have not accepted Christ into their heart. Here is a guide on wikiHow to persuade an Atheist to become a Christian.
Hi, uh, question(s). What makes you think Jesus existed? What makes you think that we need "salvation" from anything? What makes you think Jesus is the only way, or even a way? How does "accepting Jesus" act as a mechanism towards accomplishing that goal?

Phew... question explosion there, just from that intro paragraph. I gotta keep it under control. I gotta regulate the plasma injectors.
It's important to remember that an Atheist needs to honestly accept Christ into their heart to become a Christian. This act is not something that can be forced on another person. At some point, you may need to accept and respect their decision to not seek salvation through Christianity.
Thanks for that.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:17-19)
I didn't need a holy book to understand that. I figured it out myself.

How to Prepare

This is their first section.
Put yourself in your friend's seat. Someone may hold his or her beliefs as settled and true, so pushing conversion may be disrespectful. You cannot force belief in God on anyone. If they are interested in talking about the Gospel, then do it. However, don't take every opportunity to inject your beliefs in detail. It becomes quickly annoying and counterproductive. Also choose the place to do so carefully. It is inappropriate and unprofessional to pressure someone into a religious discussion at work, for example.
Now if only the apologists we get harassed by could get this idea. One in particular has been haunting a forum I frequent, and I've tried to explain to him on several occasions that he's really just making Christianity worse in our eyes, despite his good intentions.

One complaint though: "Someone may hold his or her beliefs as settled and true" ... are we talking about atheists or skeptics? The whole point is that it's something we don't believe. In fact, particularly for the more skeptical crowd, we'd expect a higher degree of comfort when dealing with uncertainties or tentative conclusions. I may think that evolution is done and settled, myself, but don't think that because of that, I think the question of "God" is done and settled, as well. My atheism is not contingent on evolution, abiogenesis or the Big Bang.

Be ready to have your own faith challenged. You might get confronted with well-formulated arguments. Many atheists who are interested in Christianity might be able to explain Evolution, the Big Bang or other scientific theories in an easily understandable way. They might refer to certain scientific evidence and people who support these theories. Before starting a discussion, you must expect that they have a scientific orthodoxy with their evidence aligned in their favor.
A scientific orthodoxy? You mean, like those sets of facts which are demonstrably true? I can't say I'm impressed that they're dismissing the bulk of scientific knowledge, much of which powers the computers they're using to create/maintain this website, as "orthodoxy".

It's true. It's not "aligned in our favor". We accept it, because it's literally evidently true. We didn't align the evidence in our favor. We aligned ourselves to the evidence. That's the point.

Be prepared to have a genuine conversation with them. Show interest in what they are saying. If your only interest is in converting someone, you are not likely to get a warm audience. If you are going to convince him or her of anything one-on-one, you have to first take a genuine interest in that person's point of view. If you find yourself pushing to talk more than patiently listening, this is probably not the case. Keep in mind that it should be an equal exchange of ideas not a lecture on Christianity directed at them.
It's like they've been talking to the same Christian apologists that I have. I've found, across the board, that apologists have zero interest in the epistemology behind the topic. None... which explains a lot about why they're believers in the first place.

I'm fine with having those discussions. I don't like to have a pre-conceived notion, but rather, focus on the process/procedure about how we arrive at those conclusions. The proof is in the pudding... not trying to start with the pudding and prove it.. if that makes any sense.
Be knowledgeable about Christianity. If you are a Christian and you believe that the Bible is the direct word of God, then have you read most of it and the Gospels? If not, you may find the person you are trying to convert is better versed in the Bible than you. Remember that atheists live in a world that is mostly religious. They've had to defend their beliefs much more than a Christian who lives in a mostly Christian society.
Wow... people who can grasp other peoples' perspectives? It's also why we're a lot more tolerant of other world views. Surprisingly, dialog between American atheists (the people, not the organization), and American Muslims tend to be very cordial, and fun... whereas the Christian majority are not used to having their privilege challenged.

That's why we need a diverse culture... it's a lot more healthy.
Familiarize yourself with Atheist arguments. If you're going to present an argument for your beliefs, skim over what atheists have said about such arguments in the past. This may show interest and respect for the other person's thoughts and time. You might try resources like the atheism FAQ or Positive Atheism.
To talk about "atheist arguments" barely even makes sense. The only argument we have, is that the theists have yet to demonstrate their claims. If we're talking about scientific topics, then those are scientific arguments, not atheist ones.

But sure, do that, I guess... but it's sort of devolves into a tit-for-tat response/counter-response thing at that point. I'm not that interested in "Opponent Issues Rebuttal #1545. Queue Response #334."

Again, the process underlying the arguments, and how they were formed, is more important than memorizing arguments and rebuttals.

It's a good point though. Do I really want to be "surprised" with the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the 47th time? That's a good context for me to be grouchy.

Now we get to the steps

Have an open discussion. Be open and honest at all times. You could end up doing irreparable damage to your friendship if you let emotions underneath the conversation direct the conversation. It should always be civil, positive and cordial. Never cut them off, accuse them of lying or say malicious things to make a point.
Ideally... but I don't have the longest fuse in the world. If I'm detecting BS, that fuse burns that much faster.

So far, this conversion guide is more about "How not to Fuck Up a Conversation" guide... and little about positively supporting the Christian claims.
Be honest if feel your Christianity is being mocked. Give respect to an atheist, but also insist on respect for yourself. Discussion need not turn to an angry, harsh argument or put-downs. Don't accept something said in a mean spirit without letting the person know how it makes you feel. However, realize that while you deserve respect, your ideas should stand on their own merit. Don't be thin-skinned when your beliefs are challenged. Also, what you consider mockery might have a serious point that can be explicitly addressed. Don't just assume that someone's rebuttals are mean-spirited. Before reacting, make sure you understand the point made and keep a cool (and compassionate) attitude.
I'll caveat my response by saying that, sure there are jerk atheists. I may be among their ranks. It mostly depends on what mood I'm in.

Again - not a bad point, though. I am pro-mockery. I love sarcasm and satire. It's key to understand that the mockery is probably not out of some kind of pure-hate attack... but because you just said something, or hold some belief to be true, that appears to be bat-shit insane. If you've gotten to the point where the atheists's BS detector is bursting into flames, and they're mocking your incredibly idiotic statements... you've already lost the battle.

I may be exaggerating a bit... but it's still germane. If you're saying something that's mock-able, that should be a red flag that you're doing a poor job synchronizing your claims/beliefs with reality.
Similarly, don't mock their beliefs or arguments. Avoid the standard dismissive response: "Well, they are not true Christians," when asked about prominent or pervasive offenders (often committed by politicians, evangelists, preachers, etc.) within the faith. This is called a fallacy of ambiguity, often referred to as the "No True Scotsman" fallacy, and it will be broken apart within seconds of you uttering it. Avoid making excuses for such people, because these people are often responsible for discriminating against the rest of society for what they have done themselves. Never defend hypocrisy or pretend it doesn't exist in your faith. Instead, acknowledge that people are fallible and can use their free will to make wrong choices or hurt people, but reiterate that those choices aren't necessarily Christian.
Generally, I disagree. Mock away. If anything, it progresses the conversation because it cuts to the heart of the matter. Comedy/sarcasm has a way of doing that. You won't offend me. I do not hold beliefs as sacred. I think the concept of "blasphemy" is absurd.

Think of us as epistemological Klingons. We respect the reciprocation of our mockery and sarcasm. Of course, I'm talking about a subset of atheists. We're not all like that.

Strangely, after the first sentence, they didn't really address anything about mocking atheist claims. It was advising not to use the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.. which is fine, but the point should have been "don't use logical fallacies" (which I'd love if they'd stop doing), and not "don't mock their beliefs".

Establish a common language. You will not convince an atheist that your belief has merit, if you use assumptions that the atheist does not agree are valid. You have to establish a common definition for terms and try not to play with semantics to gloss over a point. When you have a discussion, it is best to speak the same language. This means that you will have to back up and use secular reasoning to establish your theological ideas.
Excellent point. I talk about this a lot, actually. It's like they're advising for the usage of critical thinking...but not quite.

At least get past this idea that atheism is the positive belief that there IS NO GOD... or that "knowledge" is "I really really really believe this is true", or that "logic" is the inevitable sequential application of every logical fallacy known to man, strung end-to-end. (Seriously, what many people think "logic" and "rational" means is "it makes sense to me")

I chortle at the idea of using secular reasoning to establish theological ideas. Care to share an example?

Ask why your friend is Atheist. Has your friend always felt that there is no (caring) creator? Has something happened to cause this person pain in life, or feel that religious leaders are hypocritical? Or does he or she simply choose to base a belief system on scientific orthodoxy? Whatever the reason is, you need to get to the core of your friend's beliefs.
Do not assume to know anything about why. Do not ask if he doesn't believe because God made him mad. It's a nonsensical question, and will hinder your discussion.
BY THE BLAZING BEARD OF THOR - not this crap again!

Cue the idiotic stereotypes. I'll tell you exactly why I'm an atheist...

... because you haven't provided sufficient evidence that a god exists. End of story.

"Do not ask if he doesn't believe because God made him mad. It's a nonsensical question, and will hinder your discussion."

Okay... you managed to redeem yourselves at the last moment.. sort of, since it's contradicted by their earlier statement in the same paragraph: "Has something happened to cause this person pain in life,"... which would make us mad, maybe?

Every time they use this "scientific orthodoxy" phasing, my respect for this guide halves. We're already down to 25% respect from when I started, just based on that. What they call "choosing to base a belief system on scientific orthodoxy", I call, "Believing what's actually demonstrably true".

The Problem of Evil, or the question of misbehaving clergy are not arguments against God. They're arguments against the idea that good/morality comes from religion/gods. They're two distinct questions, with two distinct sets of topics. If you don't get that, it's no wonder why we're having problems communicating. If God is evil (and after a few pages of reading the Bible, I myself concluded this), that doesn't mean he doesn't exist. That's silly.

They somehow managed to bungle a straight forward and legitimate point - get to know the atheist's position - and yet, then, they had to open their mouths further and screw it up.

Discuss the tenets of Christianity. Remember: "People don't light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to everyone."(Matthew 5:15-16). Quoting the Bible at every possible opportunity is counterproductive, yet saying "I thank God for [something that goes your way]" may be fine. Remember, an atheist does not agree, by default, that the Bible is a valid source of information. You will have to establish that, first.
Better tip: Fuck the tenets of Christianity. Establish that they're true first. Until then, the particulars of your belief system are moot. I care less about what you believe, and more about why you believe it. Strangely, the very last sentence gets this point for the Bible, but doesn't get that it needs to be applied to the whole belief system.

Additionally, saying "I thank God for [something]" is not going to score any points. Do you know what my first impression is, whenever a Christian says something like that to me?
  • They're delusional.
  • They are clearly unfamiliar with psychological basics like: confirmation bias, priming, availability heuristics, memory errors, placebo effect, etc.
  • Or, if they are, they are exhibiting zero interest in ruling out incredibly common psychological factors, and have decided to leap over all other likely possibilities, and conclude that an invisible sky wizard is responsible... and their inability or unwillingness to apply the smallest modicum of critical thought to their beliefs, renders their ability, to render an accurate or informed world view, suspect to non-existent.
Thus, credibility - eviscerated.

You do realize that my response will immediately be "how do you know that had anything to do with a god?", and if you have not engaged in any epistemological error mitigation, you've effectively nuked your credibility from orbit?

Probably the most non-self-obliterating suggestion they have here, that's actually legitimate, is the fact that yes, we don't consider the Bible true, so citing anything from it will be totally ineffectual... unless we're talking about internal Biblical topics within context... like one would do in a literature class.

I've read the whole thing. I wasn't impressed.

Thus ends Part I - check back for Part II and probably Part III

1 comment:


    Before discussing Saul's conversion we need to establish a point of fact. You cannot become a Christian and have unforgiven sins. If your sins have been forgiven you are a Christian. If you are a Christian then your sins have been forgiven. It is impossible to separate forgiveness, from being in Christ. How could you say I became a Christian last night but my sins were not forgiven? By the same reasoning you could not assert that I had my sins forgiven last night but I am not a Christian.

    What is true for us, was true for the apostle Paul.

    Acts 9:3-6 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who are You Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what to do."

    Saul obviously believed in Jesus at this point, yet he was still not forgiven of his sins; therefore he was not a Christian. Paul was not saved by "FAITH ONLY."

    Acts 9:9-11 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am Lord." 11 And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying,

    Saul believed that Jesus was Lord.
    Saul repented.
    Saul fasted and prayed for three days.
    After three days on the road to Damascus Saul was still not forgiven of his sins. Saul was not saved by faith alone, Saul was not saved by repenting alone. Saul was not saved by praying and fasting. SAUL WAS NOT SAVED ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS.

    Acts 22:12-16 "A certain Ananias....13 came to me....16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.'

    Saul's sins were forgiven after he was baptized in water, not before.

    Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

    Saul was not a Christian until he was baptized into Christ.

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved......

    Saul was not saved until he was immersed in water.

    Acts 2:38...and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins....

    Saul sins where not forgiven until he was baptized in water.

    Paul was saved the way all men are saved. FAITH John 3:16---REPENTANCE Acts 3:19---CONFESSION Romans 10:9-19---WATER BAPTISM Acts 2:38