NOTA BENE: The purpose of syndicating this pro-atheism post is to solicit civil and intelligent rebuttals from the capable apologists in my readership. Peter is a pretty reasonable guy and will response politely if addressed politely. I encourage folks to make the case for Christ in a manner consistent with His teachings. – Funky
Over on Pharyngula, PZ Myers posted a link to “How to Persuade an Atheist to Become Christian.” I read the article and was surprised to find so much good advice that anyone who actually follows it will likely never succeed. For example, the very first piece of advice:
Most Atheists are highly intelligent. Probably better educated than you are and have spent a lot of time thinking about reasons TO believe. You have to give them a real reason – not just an emotional one! You need to read and think a lot too. They usually don’t care about your beliefs or want to be bothered with them. It is best to leave them alone. Don’t be surprised if they manage to persuade you to give up your beliefs.
That’s certainly true. In my experience, some of the people most likely to become atheists are Christians who strain to find reasons for belief.
But it gets better. Notice that Christians are advised to give a “real” reason for belief and not an “emotional” one. If you read further, you will also find this advice:
Trying to use logical arguments may not work, as it may have been logical enquiry which originally convinced them to become Atheist.
Yes, that’s true, too. But what exactly is the proselytizer left with if neither logical nor emotional arguments are useful? Here are some of their examples of useful arguments:
One way to encourage someone to believe in God is to spend a lot of time in nature and appreciate the beauty of it. For example, go outside in night and see the stars and moon. It’s hard to see such a majestic sight and not think who/what made it all.
That one is almost laughable, especially the “who/what” part. If you’re going to allow the “what,” then you’ve pretty much shot yourself in the foot for convincing someone to believe in a God that’s a “who.” It also fails to account for the fact that many, if not most atheists are already avid lovers and observers of the natural world.
And by the way, if you look at nature and the only word at your command to describe it is “majesty,” haven’t you already locked yourself into an anthropomorphic perspective that will make you more likely to infer a “who” rather than a “what”? The words you use can limit the extent and creativity of your thoughts. Isn’t it time to retire “majesty” as an adjective for nature? It’s far more appropriate for describing human exploits.
Here’s another example of an allegedly useful persuasive method:
Give your friend practical advice for their problems from the Holy Book, such as the book of Proverbs. Don’t forget to show them the Scripture itself; that way, he or she will know that it’s not your own thinking, but God’s.
Well, I suppose that might work, but wouldn’t you have to assume that your subject atheist is amenable to the idea that stuff written in “the Holy Book” was written by God? And doesn’t that just take you back to square one, where logic and emotion won’t work?
There’s even another piece of advice that directly contradicts that one:
An unbeliever may not be swayed by arguments from the Bible, since he or she does not believe that it is divinely-inspired, or possibly that deities even exist. Quoting a Bible verse might be sufficient if speaking to a fellow Christian, but it will likely not be convincing for an atheist.
So you should read to them from the Bible to convince them that God is real, but they will not be swayed by this because, as I mentioned above, they do not share your belief that the Bible is divinely inspired. Alright, then, I guess we can safely cross both of these piece of advice off the list: no logic, no emotion, no Bible.
Here’s another one, that’s even more contradictory than the others:
Use something that appeals to the atheist. You need to convince them that something they cannot comprehend exists. One good method is to remind them of their childhood, when they did not comprehend something, but knew it existed (Such as air or war) If that does not work, appeal to their reason.
First, since when does anybody equate nonexistence with incomprehension? This method operates from the assumption that the atheist does not believe in God because he or she cannot comprehend God. But I’ve never met (or even heard of) someone who chooses not to believe in God on the grounds that God is incomprehensible. People decline theism because they find God to be “nonsense,” but not because they find God beyond comprehension. There’s a difference. I can comprehend the idea that once there was a land called Middle Earth, with hobbits and dwarfs and elves, but I still think it’s nonsense.
The “air” argument is particularly lame. Air is so immediately and palpably unlike God that a Christian who makes this argument probably fails to comprehend his or her own beliefs. Air is one of those things that you absolutely cannot live without. If you try to stop breathing, you will pass out and begin breathing again. If you say, “I don’t believe in air,” none of that will change. No matter how much you put your mind to the problem, you will continue to be surrounded by and to need air for your basic survival. God, on the other hand, can be completely ignored without any consequences whatsoever.
Finally, note the last sentence of this method: “If that does not work, appeal to their reason.” Which, of course, if this article is read consistently, means something other than logic or emotion. And that is?
So, to review, to persuade an atheist to become a Christian, don’t refer to the Bible, don’t appeal to emotions, don’t use logic, and going for long walks in the wilderness probably won’t work either. But you can “appeal to their reason.” Or follow any of the other advice in the article, which includes such head-scratchers as:
Bring in the subject of the Ten Commandments and list them off one by one.
Um, okay. What will that do? Is it like a magical incantation or something?
Emphasize verifiable truth over unverifiable dogma, and work together with them to discover what is actually true, with honesty and integrity.
Whose side are you on, anyway? The idea of God is ”unverifiable dogma.” The fact that we need air to live is “verifiable truth.” Study of the natural world through a rigorous method of hypothesis, experimentation, and revision will lead to more “verifiable truth” than just “appreciating the beauty” of nature and wondering at its “majesty.”
Anyway, I doubt all the contradictory advice in the article will be a stumbling block to Christians, who are quite comfortable operating within the parameters of their own contradictory “Holy Book,” or operating outside its parameters while claiming that it remains authoritative. But the ones who read the whole article, take it seriously, and try to follow all of its advice will soon be atheists themselves.