How to Persuade a Christian to Become Atheist

Two Parts:Researching Belief SystemsEngaging in Conversation

Belief is deeply personal and deeply rooted in both how we are raised and our emotions. Our beliefs help us make sense of the world and give us a guideline for how we treat others. Every person is entitled to their beliefs and disrespecting those who don’t share a belief of your own is a moral disservice to them and yourself. However, in some cases, you may believe that a certain belief is harmful for the individual. Engaging in regular theological discussions can help change your friend’s mindset (or even your own). Just know that change is a long process.

Part 1
Researching Belief Systems

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    Educate yourself. Read everything you can about atheism, Christianity and religious history. Learn both sides of the coin, both atheist and Christian beliefs, in addition to other religions and belief systems. Morals and values run parallel through many belief systems, allowing for common grounds for discussion in all religions.
    • There are many resources online that can help you learn about religious systems, including podcasts, and audio and visual classes.[1]
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    Read and understand their holy book cover to cover. Argument and persuasion cannot be effectively built out of thin air. You must understand where your friend is coming from in order to build a bridge between your two belief systems.
    • The Bible is regarded as one of the most influential sources on literature in western culture. It is a great read for narrative merit alone.[2]
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    Learn common arguments leveled by theists. Although it is not possible to prepare for every argument you should know some of the more common talking points in Christian apologetics.
    • These include arguments like the fine-tuned Universe, which argues that our Universe supports life so well and works in such a precise way that it must have been intelligently designed. This argument directly challenges our science-based understanding of the origins of the Universe.
    • Another argument, Pascal’s Wager, is the suggestion that one should live their life under the assumption that God does exist, given that the stakes are skewed. If God does not exist, your life simply ends. However, if God does exist, how you behaved in life determines whether you will be rewarded eternally in Heaven, or punished eternally in Hell. This argument, though steeped in logic, raises questions of honesty, morality, and the extent of God's powers.[3]
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    Examine your own myths, urban legends, and superstitions. Learn why people believe stories backed by anecdotal evidence. Understanding something about belief as it pertains to psychology will better prepare you for counter-arguments and why you may feel the way you do about your own beliefs.
    • Urban myths such as Bloody Mary for example have no proof or scientific basis and are believed to be untrue. However, the myth is still passed around because the idea that such events could exist is alluring and fun.
    • Urban myths and other legends often stem from real life events or people that actually existed, but the truth behind them has become exaggerated or twisted over time. Bloody Mary for example may stem from Mary Worth, a woman hanged for witchcraft, or Queen Mary I of England, who was known for her ruthlessness. [4]
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    Study basic physics and biology. Some arguments stem from misinterpretations and misinformation about physics or biology. Understanding the core of these subjects will allow you to challenge unscientific arguments and assumptions.
    • Evolution is the most widely known areas of contention between some Christians and atheists. Studying natural selection and how creatures survive and die off is a good place to start your studies.

Part 2
Engaging in Conversation

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    Let them engage. Let them engage the conversation first. This sidesteps any feelings that you may be attacking their belief system with an agenda. Remain calm, firm, and reasonable. A common stereotype of atheists is that they are angry and hostile.
    • Explain why you are an atheist and what that means to you. The goal of conversation is to wipe away preconceived notions about one another’s beliefs.
    • For example, you could say: “I believe that people have the ability to identify and choose right from wrong by experiencing life on their own.”
    • You might also say: “People are wildly complex and interesting – I believe they can make mistakes, but also learn from them, without needing to be policed.”
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    Ask questions about their beliefs. Why do they hold a particular belief? Sometimes pointing out a single fallacy every now and then is sufficient. Ask them to explain something about their religion you don't understand to help you to think about deeper meaning.
    • You might ask your friend: “How can God allow some in the world to starve and others to eat?”
    • You might also ask: “I’m interested in what Christians think of the fact that the Bible was written by several individuals. Is it difficult to trust in so many differing accounts?”
    • Suggest your friend start questioning everyday occurrences. Questioning authenticates truth and can become a habit that help change thinking.[5]
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    Stay casual. Show that atheism has not impacted your life in a negative way. If they bring up their belief that God had a hand in an event in their life, it is okay to point out other factors that helped them, such as their own actions or a professional's skills.
    • For example, getting accepted into college might feel like a divine gift, but it was an individual’s hard work that paved the way. You might tell them: “Congratulations! All of that studying really paid off.”
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    Avoid logical fallacies. Both sides of any debate will often create incorrect argumentation and rely on rhetoric without even noticing.
    • Common informal fallacies in debate include circular reasoning, which begins and ends an argument with the same idea. For example, “The Bible makes no false claims; whatever the Bible says is true; thus, the Bible contains only truth.” The second and third portions of the argument are the same concept, and thus, not an argument of merit.[6]
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    Socialize with them. Spend a day with an eclectic group of friends that come from all walks of life. Exposure to others’ views and philosophies helps all of us expand our thinking.
    • Avoid activities that might make your friends of particular faiths uncomfortable, such as wild parties or violent movies.
    • Board games, shopping or hiking are excellent activities that everyone can enjoy.
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    Give your friend practical advice for their problems. Use personal experience to offer authenticity. If your friend shares some wisdom from the Bible, quote similar wisdom from another belief system or a wise historical individual.
    • For example, if your friend is falling behind at school: "I feel you - I had a hard time dealing with all that homework too. Have you looked into study groups? I joined one with my classmates and we ended up finishing the homework in half the time.'
    • In times of your friend's lack of confidence, you might offer: "When I feel down, I always think to this great Buddhist quote: 'You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere.'"
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    Know when to back away. Don't let differences and debate cause the end of a friendship. Know when to drop the conversation.
    • Don’t raise your voice. A raised voice often indicates or leads to anger, which can throw the discussion off track. If your friend begins to raise their voice, ease off of the conversation.
    • Avoid physicality. A discussion that turns physical is no longer a discussion. If you or your friend start getting pushy, end the conversation and put some space between the two of you for the time being.
    • Talking about your feelings behind your thoughts helps create a more peaceful and constructive atmosphere. Show your friend that you are coming from a place of caring, rather than just looking to win an argument[7]
    • Keep the argument on track. If the conversation turns to other issues, such as personal attacks or insults, it’s time to drop the conversation.
    • If your friend becomes angry or hurt, back away from the conversation and apologize. Even if you feel you are in the right, hurting another’s feelings was not the intent of the conversation and you don’t want to risk your friendship.
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    Be open-minded. Listen and understand their point of view. If their faith brings them peace and fulfillment, accept that fact. Don’t damage or take away another’s sense of peace. [8]


  • Respect is a two way street. Show respect for the theist if you expect to receive any in return.
  • Be prepared for strong resistance.
  • Don't push too hard. Change of faith is a highly personal activity that inherently takes a long time. Change is a gradual process. Let the person come to their own understanding. A journey of personal discovery will yield stronger results.
  • If you show an openness to understanding your friend's opinions, this should earn openness toward you.
  • Listen carefully to the concerns and reservations of the believer. Try to understand their stated reasons for believing, then address each of those concerns directly.
  • Citing peer-reviewed scientific publications at every possible opportunity may be a bit overbearing and harm your argument.
  • Every person is different, even within the same religion. Don't assume that your friend thinks or believes something merely because he or she is a Christian. Instead, ask him or her about the topic.
  • Show the normality of life for an atheist through your own successes and friendships. If your friend sees that being an atheist doesn't mean having a less fulfilling life, it may deal with some of the misconceptions they have about atheism.
  • Point out some of the positive and altruistic organizations run by atheists, such as the American Humanist Association.[9]
  • Do not bully them into atheism.
  • Discuss religion and belief only when invited to do so. Leave religion out of dinner conversions. The last thing you want is to come off as "preachy" or annoying and overbearing.


  • Think about your friendship. Are the two of you close? Religious debate can be trying on even the best of friendships and a firm foundation to stand on could make all the difference if the outcome is not positive.

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Categories: Atheism