All thinking men are atheists. – Ernest Hemingway
Before we begin, there are many reasons why a person is not a Christian. As discussed in another article Why does an Atheist Reject Christianity, a disbelief in the Christian God can stem from a multitude of life experiences. But, for the purposes of this article, I will focus on one type of Atheist that is prominent in Western Society, and that is the “Atheist who logically concluded that there isn’t a God.” I myself used to be this type of Atheist. Regardless of why or how I became an Atheist, I used logic to form my arguments against the existence of a God, especially the existence of the Christian God.
In order to better approach someone, who not only doesn’t believe in Christianity, but doesn’t even believe there is a Creator, one has to comprehend where the Atheist’s beliefs are rooted. Now, if your first thought is to say, “Their beliefs are rooted in the devil!” Then, please, control yourself. The goal is to love the people we are helping to convert, and with love comes understanding. And, in order to understand Atheists better, one must understand how he or she thinks, what he or she is thinking in regards to God, and why he or she thinks that way. Since this is a lot of ground to cover, let’s just dive right in.
First off, a person who doesn’t believe they were created by a supreme being tends to rely 100% on their own faculties, however they perceive the world to be is what they believe. When it comes to figuring out the ‘WHY’ of life, they will look to those who they believe are smarter than them, more studious, or those who are experts in a particular field. When I was an Atheist, I looked to accomplished physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers to help me understand my existence. These people helped form my understanding of reality . . . thus, when I believed in their understanding of reality, it eventually became my understanding of reality. Did I ever learn advanced physics or mathematics to verify if Stephen Hawking was right? Nope. But, he seemed like a smart guy, and a lot of other people, smarter than me and more accomplished than me, seemed to think that he was on to something with his theories, so I justified my belief in his explanation of the universe.
In short, our perception is our reality.
Now, while this may be true for the vast majority of humans, if not all, it is especially significant to an Atheist because they choose not to rely on practices like prayer, nor do they believe in divine miracles or gifts of the Spirit, to aid them in times of uncertainty. So, because they rely solely on their own intellect and understanding, it is very important that the information given to them be intelligible, justifiable, and practical.
When an Atheist looks at Christianity, they are looking at it without any emotional bias whatsoever. They do not feel anything about a particular belief system, they simply see it for what it is.
Oftentimes, you might hear an Atheist say, “I don’t believe in Zeus, why would I believe in Jesus?” While some Christians might have a hard time wrapping their brain around this question (most likely because they don’t see Zeus and Jesus as equals), to the Atheist, Jesus and Zeus are simply two options in a world full of deities to worship.
But, why is this significant?
In order for the Christian to approach an Atheist with any hope of that person listening, there has to be an understanding of that person’s paradigm. If you don’t know what a paradigm is, it’s essentially the lens through which we interpret the world around us. To many Christians, they interpret the world around them through a paradigm of ‘God being in control of everything.’ For example, if something tragic happens (e.g. the unexpected loss of a loved one), then he or she may say, “It was God’s will.” But, if an Atheist loses a loved one, then he or she might say something like, “That’s life.”
Here’s another example of how an Atheist might think. . .
A Christian might ask, “What if you die today, where will you go? Aren’t you afraid of what might happen if there really is a heaven?”
Now, the reason this is an absurd question to an Atheist is because it is based on the premise that:
1) the Atheist is afraid of a god he doesn’t believe in; and
2) it assumes the Atheist actually cares about where he goes when he dies.
More often than not, an Atheist has accepted his or her fate. They are going to die. You are going to die. Everybody dies. There isn’t anything they can do about it. To the Christian, the thought of an afterlife with God, in heaven, and seeing their loved ones is what gives them comfort. It’s a very strange notion to consider that there might not be anything after death! But, for the Atheist, that consideration, that perception, is their reality.
Now, I’ve talked to some atheists (usually agnostic) who might say something like:
“I don’t believe in a heaven; but if there was one, then I would expect a just God to judge me based on the good life I have lived and not on me having worshiped him.”
Do you kind of see how the Atheist’s mind works? I’m not saying we should agree with it, or even think like him. All I ask you to consider is to accept him, and understand him. That’s it.
Here are some additional paradigms (in the form of questions and answers) that a lot Atheists share, or at least might agree with, when it comes to popular topics regarding Christianity . . .
Q: If you don’t believe that there is a God judging you, or a heaven and a hell, why be moral?
A: I’m not moral because I fear judgement, I’m moral because I want to associate myself with other moral human beings. To me, being a moral and just person is essential to living a full and wholesome life. And furthermore, if you need religion to dictate to you how to be a good person, then you aren’t a good person.
Q: How do you explain all of the miracles or spiritual experiences that people have on a daily basis?
A: To me, spiritual experiences are simply a a human’s way of making sense of the world around them. Hundreds of years ago, a lot of people believed that evil spirits caused diseases. Now, modern medicine has discovered the true origin of disease. I believe that eventually, as humans continue to understand more and more about the world around them, ‘miracles’ or ‘spiritual experiences’ that we can’t explain now will eventually be discovered through future research and technology.
Q: Isn’t Atheism a belief in nothing?
A: Well, if you are referring to a belief in a deity, then no. I don’t believe there is any one thing out there guiding everyone’s lives. But, if you’re asking me if I believe in anything at all, then yes, I absolutely believe in lots of things. I believe in the power of love, and not just romantic love, but love for all mankind and the earth itself. I believe in the power of human will to continue to advance and evolve. I believe in the joy of innovation and discovery. I believe in all of these things because I have seen the effects of these things for the betterment of mankind.
Creation of the Universe
Q: How can you believe the Universe was just randomly created?
A: Well, if you look at the evidence for the Big Bang, and compare it to the evidence for an invisible person who created the Universe, then the Big Bang Theory wins. Scientists can observe the leftover radiation from the Big Bang, there is no observable, physical evidence for God.
While there are many other topics that could be covered, which I will probably go over in another post, hopefully the point is clear:
Atheists do not see the world like Christians see the world. They do not fear God, they do not fear ceasing to exist after death, and they do not believe that morality is enforced by future judgement.
So, what can you do with this information?
The most important thing the Christian can do is to get on the Atheist’s level. If you truly want to help someone discover the joy of having Christ in their heart, you have to have compassion. Not pity, compassion. To have compassion, we have to understand them. We can’t always walk in their shoes, but we can at least comprehend the road that they’ve walked on.
The Christian might ask: “But, I don’t think that’s appropriate. Shouldn’t the Atheist get on MY level; I mean, after all, it’s THEM who needs the truth, not the other way around!”
And I would respond: “I don’t mean on an intellectual level, I mean on a spiritual level.”
Let me give you an example from the Bible:
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The biggest problem that I have observed when a Christian attempts to talk to an Atheist is their inability to convey spiritual things. The Christian spends all of this time just throwing scripture passages (or what I like to call ‘Bible Bombs’). Or, they will talk about their conversion to God and all of the amazing experiences they had. Basically, it’s just spouting off a whole bunch of scriptures, or giving them a lot of ‘unrelatable’ experiences, and seeing if any of them stick. As for the ‘apologetic’ methods, while perhaps effective in certain situations, I’ve never really seen someone convert to God based on reasoned arguments.
As the scripture in 1 Corinthians explains, the things of God “. . . are spiritually discerned.” While rationalizing and arguing the case for God may be entertaining for you, and maybe even intellectually stimulating at best, it is not the most effective method for converting them to a belief in God.
What is effective, at least in my experience, is helping someone understand how spiritual things are discerned; then, when they have fully developed this sense of discernment, they are in a position to be taught about the benefits of living a Christ-like life.