How to Be Friends with an Atheist

As a religious person, you may find it very difficult to understand and accept that your friend does not believe in the existence of a God or a deity of any religion. Your friend may have recently opened up to you that he or she (hereafter 'he') is an atheist. Or you may have known about it from the beginning of the friendship, but find it hard to understand why.

As with any differences between friends, it is important to let your friend know that you will accept him as he is and will not judge him, as you value your friendship highly. These steps form a simple guideline on how to best approach the situation, such that you can keep your friendship going strong.


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    Acknowledge that he trusts you by revealing his atheism to you. Being a non-believer is a taboo in many parts of the world and is often looked down upon.
    • Atheists do not always publicly proclaim their lack of belief. If your friend opened up this fact about himself to you, do not betray his trust by publicizing the fact or mocking his lack of belief.
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    Understand that being an atheist doesn't define your friend in other areas of his life. He is just as human as anyone else, having aspirations to live a fulfilling life and to enjoy good company, including yours.
    • He is the same person as he was before you learnt that he is an atheist. Avoid devaluing your friend based on your new knowledge.
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    Do not attempt to convert him to your religion. A common retort faced by an atheist who just "came out" is How can you not believe in God?
    • Atheists often find themselves being attacked by such questions and having to defend their position. This is often detrimental to your friendship and turns it sour.
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    Reassure your friend that you respect his lack of belief and his right to hold the position. Thank him for placing his trust and confidence in you. Also, be aware that he respects your religious belief and your right to hold the position. He has no intention of converting you into atheism or entering into an argument with you where you need to defend your belief.
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    Be sure you are open-minded when listening to and trying to understand his explanations. You may want to know more about his atheistic position and understand why he holds it. Do not take his explanations personally as attacks on religion, and do not feel the need to defend your own faith. If you are easily offended by someone's lack of belief in God or his criticism about religion, avoid asking to explain more.
    • Realize that there's a difference between seeking to understand his position and actually agreeing with it. You can engage in discussion and friendly debate without attempting to convert one another. In fact, learning more about his view may not only benefit your friendship but even strengthen your confidence in your faith, so it can be a win-win.
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    Move on quickly to non-religious topics of discussion. Atheists prefer not to dwell on the topic as religion is a sensitive topic. Once they have told you that they are an atheist, try to move on quickly to other topics of discussion such as your common interests. This helps avoid risking a breakdown of your friendship.


  • See your friend as a fellow human being and your friend first, and as an atheist last. There is a lot more in your friend than just his lack of belief, the most important of it all being a good quality friend of yours!
  • If you feel passionate about your faith, you may feel offended by the views held by your atheist friend. In this case, it may be better to avoid discussions about religious topics altogether.
  • Do not start treating your friend differently. Continue engaging in the same activities with your friend with the same frequency as before.
  • Your friend may or may not be interested in learning about religion. Understand that this is natural curiosity for knowledge and only engage in activities with your friend involving your places of worship (such as visiting them or attending sermons) if he wishes to do so.
  • You may find it helpful to create analogies between atheism and another common social taboo that you accept. A recommended example is homosexuality which also remains a taboo, and places similar risks on someone "coming out" to his trusted friends.
  • Atheists actually really enjoy religious debates and discussions. They love to learn about other religions. Just make sure that you don't seem like you are trying to convert them.
  • If you find your friend a wonderful person and you plan on dating him or her, continue reading this article for more helpful tips.


  • Do not call atheism a phase in life. Atheists usually have strong reasons not to believe in God, most likely rooted in their scientific education. They are not doing it to be cool nor to be rebellious towards their parents or society.
  • Do not accuse your friend of being angry with God. For someone to be angry at God, he must first believe that God exists. An atheist simply does not believe that God exists.
  • When your atheist friend faces a personal life crisis, such as the loss of a loved one or the diagnosis of a major illness, do not use it as an opportunity to turn him to God. Respect that he has his own method of coping with the situation and provide him with your complete support as a trusted friend.
  • Do not think that your friend is bitter about life. Atheists are just as happy, and have the same kinds of ups and downs in life as anyone else. They don't like to be seen as bitter people.
  • Do not offer to pray for or with your atheist friend. Atheists believe that prayer has no effect, and would rather see action instead of prayer. Some atheists consider it offensive to be prayed for.

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Categories: Friends | Atheism | Religion | Interfaith Relationships