Most Christian apologists think that atheism is as much a religion as Christianity because atheists seem to show just as much devotion to the idea of their being no god as Christians show to their god. While, admittedly, some atheists are zealous in their non-belief, many go about their daily lives quietly not believing in a deity, not saying anything about it to anyone. They are either closet atheists or they simply don’t think religion, or lack thereof, is all that important in their lives.
I’m one of the more zealous types, but there is still something fundamental that separates even the most enthusiastic atheist from his believer counterpart. Atheists are open to being convinced that God exists. Devout believers cannot be convinced that their religion is simply ancient mythology.
So, how do you convert an atheist to Christianity? It’s simple really. Here is a list of dos and don’ts that, if used properly, will convince the vast majority of atheists, including this one, to become one of you, a devout Christian. First, the don’ts. Don’t try to sway us with any of these methods or you’re doomed to failure from the start:
1. Don’t quote from the bible. If we believed that the bible was anything more than ancient fiction, we would already be Christians. To us, the bible not only lacks evidence that God exists, it is evidence that he does not. With all the God-approved violence, wars, genocide, rape, slavery, lust, misogyny, and child murder going on throughout its pages, how could anyone believe it was written (or dictated) by a loving, all-caring god? Not to mention the fact that it is full of inconsistencies and outright falsehoods. A real god could have done much better.
2. Don’t have pity on us or say you’re going to pray for our salvation. That just pisses us off. If we don’t believe in a god, why would we believe in prayer? And why do you think your meager effort at prayer is in anyway helpful? It’s demeaning and shows you as the self-righteous, holier-than-thou egotist that you are.
3. Don’t tell us we are going to hell if we don’t change our ways. Since we do not subscribe to the concept of Christianity, or any religion, we certainly don’t believe in one of its inventions. Hell was never mentioned in the Old Testament and Jesus mentioned it in the New Testament as a metaphor. Hell is Gehenna, a real place in ancient Jerusalem which was used as a constantly-burning garbage dump. If we do not believe in hell, then how in hell are we supposed to fear going there?
4. Don’t tell us that God must exist because of all the beauty in the world: The miracle of child birth, the beauty of a rose, the magnificent detail in a flake of snow. Yes, we all agree with you that nature is beautiful and intricate. We also know for a fact why it is true. We know that nature follows its own rules, the laws of physics. Things are the way they are because chemicals behave like chemicals; they can do nothing but. The laws of classical physics and quantum mechanics can describe and explain wonderfully why things are the way they are; there is no need to invoke a god. God was invented to explain the unexplainable before we knew enough to explain it. There is no need for God anymore.
5. Finally, don’t tell us that we need God as a moral foundation. That’s just plain nonsense. The most atheistic countries in the world have the lowest levels of crime, divorce, and teen pregnancy. In America, the most conservative states in the Bible Belt have the highest divorce rates, crime rates, and teen pregnancy rates. There is exactly an inverse relationship between religiosity and moral fiber as measured by the statistics. Ethical treatment among humans is innate. We evolved that way because we are a social species and being ethical strengthens society. If you go by the morality of the bible, we would still own slaves, stone adulterous women to death, and crucify people for blasphemy.
So those are the things you should not do, ever, if you want to help us see the light and become Christian. Now, here are some things that you should do. If you avoid the above and can show us the following, I promise most of us will at least listen to reason to your proselytizing efforts.
1. Show us any historically-verifiable evidence that any of the miracles that you claimed Jesus performed really happened. For example, show us an entry in a Roman journal or registry that Jesus was resurrected. Show us a copy of his death certificate. Show us any secular document whatsoever that was written during the lifetime of Jesus that tells anything at all about what he did. And no, we won’t accept hearsay evidence that you heard about this document or that document that exists somewhere in Rome or in the Holy Lands that proves Jesus performed a miracle. If you haven’t seen it and if you can’t show it to us so we can go look for ourselves to verify its authenticity, then we’re not interested.
2. Show us a legitimate miracle of healing that cannot have a natural explanation. In other words, show us a medically-documented case of a person re-growing a severed limb after being prayed over. There are people who claim to have been cured by prayer or by faith. But that happens in any culture and in every religion, even voodoo. And, yes, even the occasional terminally-ill atheist will get better inexplicably. It happens. Just because science can’t explain how it happens yet doesn’t mean that it was caused by God. That is the God of the Gaps again. You invoke God to explain things that science can’t, instead of just being patient until science can.
3. God could reveal himself to us in an unmistakable fashion. In other words, if we could be witness to a bona fide, personal miracle then we would certainly take notice. Of course, we would have to be able to rule out fraud or deception; after all, magicians seem to perform miracles all the time. We would also have to rule out hallucinations. Some hallucinations can appear quite real. Now, this is listed in the “dos” column, but I don’t think there is anything you can actively do to cause this to happen, other than pray, I guess. But if a true revelation happened to us, we would consider believing in a divine being. Keep in mind, though, atheists are skeptics. We would have to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that what happened to us was truly a miracle.
That’s about it. Do any one of the latter three things and we will treat you seriously. Do any two of them and we are well on our way to conversion. Do all three and you’ve pretty much won us over. All we’re asking for is evidence, the kind of evidence that would be admissible in a court of law, not hearsay or anecdotes.
That’s all we ask, as atheists, for you to do or not do in order to bring us into the fold. Now, what can we do to convince you that you are deluding yourselves with your religious mysticism?
I didn’t think so.