How to make an Athiest believe

I was having a conversation with my friend the other night about religion. My friend is a Christian and I am an atheist. Over the years we have been friends he has repeatedly told me that he feels bad for me because I am a good person, but I will be going to hell because I have not accepted Christ into my heart. It makes him very upset.
I would like to think that I have an open mind. I am totally willing to listen to other people’s beliefs and take them into consideration. I have chosen my atheist beliefs because it makes the most sense to me and I have been unable to find any evidence that would make me believe in a God or anything associated with that God.
Over the course of our conversation I realized that I don’t know what it would take for me to accept that this being created us, that He rules our lives, that there is a heaven and a hell.
I tried to explain this to my friend and I don’t think he really understands. He is 100% sure that there is a God. I have to say that I am not 100% sure that there is not a God, but pretty darn close. I am willing to accept that there is a God, but what will it take for me?

I ask him why he has faith, why he is 100% sure and he can’t really explain that to me.
Since joining these boards I have really enjoyed reading all the religious debates and a common thing I see with devoted Christians (or Catholics or I guess any religion) is that they made a choice to believe in God, or something happened to them to make them believe. They tell me to make this choice.

My question is how can I make that choice? What do I have to do to accept Jesus into my heart? I have an open mind and I will listen but as I explained to my friend, the total devotion that he has can’t be there for me because I have a lot of doubt in my heart. I can’t just say “Ok I believe in God now” and live my life that way.

To you believers, what would you propose I do to come closer to believing in God?

Are you asking for a logical method to take a leap of faith?

My personal opinion is that you should stop discussing religion with your friend, since it only upsets both of you.

My advice is that you stop measuring things in percents. You don’t have to be any % sure that God does or doesn’t exist. You can simply say, honestly, that you don’t see any reason to think that he does, or that you feel that he does.

If you want to believe in God, you can start by believing that there is a God. I guarantee: this is a sure-fire path to the belief that there is a God.

Something I was thinking about earlier today.

Next time he tells you that you’ve chosen not to believe in God, fish a quarter out of your pocket and hold it up. “If I flip this in the air, do you believe it’ll land on its edge?”

He’ll say no, natch. To which you follow up: “I want you to choose to believe that it will land on its edge. This is a much more trivial belief than whether God exists; if I can choose to not believe in God, surely you can choose to believe the quarter will land on its edge.”

He may get the point, or he may come up with some argument I’ve not thought of, or he may say Sure, he now believes the quarter will land on its edge.

I can only help you out in the last case. Say, “Cool. I betcha fifty dollars it’ll land on heads or tails. In fact, I’ll give you three to one odds. Do you really believe it’ll land on its edge, or are you just pretending to believe?”

HOpefully he’ll get the point. If he doesn’t, go through with the flip. Now he’s confronted with an experience suggesting to him that the belief is incorrect. Tell him that, despite that experience, you still want him to choose to believe the coin will land on its edge.

Your next bet is winner-take-all. Tell him that if, as he believes, the coin will land on its edge, you’ll accept that as evidence of divine intercession and will do your damnedest to accept Jesus.

But if he’s wrong in his belief, all he’s got to do is spit on a crucifix and repeat three times, “I reject you, God!”

Naturally, if he’s certain in his chosen belief, he recognizes that it doesn’t risk his claiming to reject God.

The point of all this is to show him that you’re not choosing your belief in the absence of God: it’s a conclusion you inevitably came to, given your experiences of the world. If he can’t choose to change his belief in something as trivial as how coins fall when flipped, how can he possibly think you can choose to change your belief in something as important as whether God exists?

He might be right about god. He might be wrong. But neither of you chose your beliefs.

As for me, God has infinite opportunities to prove His existence to me. If my computer monitor changes into a rabbit, tapdances across my desk, and begins preaching to me about God’s existence, I’ll call my coworkers over for confirmation; once it’s clear they’re seeing what I’m seeing, I’ll be pretty damned inclined to believe whatever the rabbit tells me. Tapdancing is optional.


If the quarter does land on edge, though, you may as well resign yourself to a nice toasty afterlife.

It does not upset either of us to have a discussion about religion. We have conversations comparing beliefs about all facets of life in relation to religion and I very much enjoy that. He is not trying to convert me.
I am not really asking for a logical method. I really asking people that do believe in God what they feel it takes from a person to gain faith after having none. It really comes down to me hearing time and time again that God has given us a choice. I don’t feel he has given me a choice because I don’t feel that there is anything that I can do to believe.

How can you just all of the sudden believe in something? How does that work?
I am not saying that I even want to believe in God. If I wanted to it would probably be a lot easier. Like I said above, I don’t feel I have been given a choice as many Christians say. Is this choice something that I have already discounted, not even really being aware of it?

If you really are interested in figuring out how to believe, I would suggest praying. Even if your prayer is something along the lines of “God, I’m pretty sure you aren’t there, but if you are, I’d really like to know…” I’d also suggest trying it more than once. Say, every day for a week or two. And then you can see if ways or reasons to believe present themselves.

Tell him, “Well, I don’t feel that I DO have a choice-I cannot make myself believe what I do not believe.”

You might ask him what it would take him to believe in Allah, or Krishna, or any number of other gods. Ask him if he thinks he would be Christian if he grew up in the middle of Saudi Arabia?

People come to believe either because their society believes, or because of some irrational reason - and they often reject those who believe in other things for the same reasons. Why do you not believe? I don’t for logical and rational reasons, but some people stop believing for irrational reasons. If the former, you might ask why he thinks rational disbelief is worse than irrational belief. If the latter, then you’re in the same boat, and you can wonder what it would take him not to believe.

I must say though that I like Daniel’s exercise.

Well, barring being indoctrinated from an early age, in my experience, some sort of severe physical/ emotional trauma can cause someone that otherwise has no use for religion/God to embrace both.


If you don’t believe in God, and don’t see that you have the capacity to do so at this time, then I don’t think you can simply change what you accept as the truth. Something down the road might cause you to change you mind. As long as you are open to any possibility, then God will make himself known to you at some point in time.

It seems to me that you do believe in God, and maybe you just aren’t completely sure what that means for your own life. If you are comfortable in doing so, I suggest talking to a minister. Maybe your friend could recommend someone to talk with.

If I can ask, do you feel guilty about your disbelief? Are you questioning what you believe is true? Do you have any sort of religious background? These answers might help get to the bottom of a few things.

Given your first point there, I think you’d need one of the following:
[li]Severe head trauma[/li][li]A frontal lobotomy[/li][li]A horrifically terrible drinking problem[/li][li]Having your brain inverted by space aliens[/li][/ul]
Not to be facetious or insulting, but you’ve already told us that you came to your atheist views because you looked at the matter rationally and drew a logical conclusion based on the (lack of) evidence. Ergo, it seems to me that the only way for you to “come closer to believing in God” is either (a) more convincing evidence, or (b) the removal or curtailing of your rational self.

Since (a) doesn’t seem very likely IMO, that leaves (b).

Why on earth are you trying to believe in something that you don’t believe in? If someone told you there are little green men hopping around on pogo sticks on the moon, would you believe it? Would you feel bad about not believing it - bad enough to try to believe it? And how would you go about believing in these little green men? The only way is to separate your brain from reality, like billions of people, including your friend, have already done. Any psychotic can claim “certainty.” That doesn’t make him right.

Right now, I’m imagining one of those “I want to believe” T-shirts that UFO afficionados wear.

Welcome to the SDMBGD.

Christians OR Catholics??
The only people who I’ve ever seen make a distinction betweenCatholics and other Christians are fundamentalists. I"ve never in all of my days ever seen an atheist regard Catholics as anything other than Christians.
I question your truthfulness.
FYI, Catholics ARE Christians.
But, that being said, I think it’s a good question.

Mottpot, you can at least rest easy knowing that your friend would have just as much trouble coming up with a way to turn himself into an atheist.

Give him a near death experience.

Give him a near death experience. Works every time.


Just try it. As was suggested, start talking to God. When you doub that there is no God, ignore that doubt, and hope that there is. Envision whatever God you want to believe in. Form an internal relationship with him, as if he was a real person that listens to your concerns and helps you out. Pretty soon, the belief will stick. The important part is to work God into those parts of your life that are emotionally important to you so that God and those experiences seem inseperable. That’s what really makes a belief stick.

That’s also why the coin/edge is much HARDER to believe in: because it’s very hard to work THAT belief into anything you can get deeply emotionally invested in.

There’s an oldie but a goodie:

“I put it to you that we are both atheists. I just happen to believe in one less god than you do.”