What is the best way to "convert" a Christian?

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Question_everything's picture
What is the best way to "convert" a Christian?

I am an atheist because I care about the truth. If I were believing in something that is not valid, I would want to know. I can't say that I see this quality in most religious people. It's very difficult to have an open and honest discussion with them about their beliefs. The debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham highlighted this issue the best when Ken Ham said,"No one is ever gonna convince me that the word of God is not true." At that point, there is no reason to continue discourse. With that being said, I have two questions.

1) Is it possible to change a religious persons mind?
2) How do you do it?

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ThePragmatic's picture
I'd say this:

I'd say this:
It's not possible for you to change another persons mind, they have to be the one to change it. But it's possible to be helpful in that process.

Since many don't even want to do that, and/or are afraid to do so, it's not an easy task.
Discussing evidence and reason with someone who holds an irrational belief, has (as I understand it) even been proven in studies to have an opposite effect.

That said, there is no "golden recepie" to convert others. People are different and will react different approaches.
Some just need education and will eventually be able to draw their own conclusions, while other might start questioning their beliefs after a firm "Your god is just lies, that you have been fed all your life".
Others haven't even read their own Bible, and drop their faith when they do read it.

The best long term method, is in my opinion "Street Epistemology". A term coined by Peter Boghossian.
It's basically about asking questions to guide the person into question how they have come to their beliefs.
Here's a video of him holding a talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIaPXtZpzBw&feature=youtu.be&t=530

Truett's picture
Great thread, Audrey. I'll

Great thread, Audrey. I'll be watching this thread. I'm on the lookout for golden bullets for the fight against religious dogma. There are bound to be semi-successful strategies and tactics, and I'd like to be as well armed as possible in this regard. Arguments were most persuasive in my awakening, and the five best interlocutors I've ever seen are (in order of effectiveness) Christopher Hitchens, Bertrand Russell, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Lawrence Krauss.

hunter2342's picture
I'd have to sorta disagree

I'd have to sorta disagree with you on the point of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins being some of the most effective persuaders/interlocutors. Harris and Krauss (don't know much about Russel) take on a much different way of persuasion/speech, using a more strategical/non-arrogant way of approaching the subject or religious believers. Hitchens and Dawkins are two people I look up to and respect immensely, but they are more entertaining/influential to watch if you're already an atheist. The way they approach it kind of steers people away from their main points, and as I believe they are both very intelligent and have very good points, it's skewed by their (as perceived by believers) arrogant way of speaking, claiming that all religion is bullshit and whatnot. I think that Sam Harris would appear as a much more open-minded and less-elitist character with a less condescending way of speaking, which would attract most religious folks (of course, there are exceptions) a bit more.

SecularSonOfABiscuitEater's picture
I like them all too, but Sam

I like them all too, but Sam Harris can also be sarcastic and condescending sometimes. Which you are correct, is entertaining for us non believers. I think NDT and Bill Nye display way more patience with the religious folks.

Endri Guri's picture
You know, there is this

You know, there is this saying: "If Atheists could reason with the Religious people, there would be no Religion." - I believe this sums up pretty much everything you're looking to know the answer to. People should find the change on their own, as many atheists have done so in this website, Ex-Muslims, Ex-Christians, Ex-Hindu, etc...

Alembé's picture
Hi Endri,

Hi Endri,

That's a valid point you make. People tend to leave religion for logical reasons, but accept and stay with it for emotional ones.

mbrownec's picture
1. Why do you want to "covert

1. Why do you want to "covert" a Christian? Is someone handing out smiley faces for winning over a Christian?

2. Doesn't the "conversion" process automatically include, to some degree, one person utilizing coercive authority over another?

3. Do you like Christians attempting to convert you to Christianity?

4. What's the difference?

5. Why not simply present your belief (with the supporting reasoning) and let the other person decide for themselves whether to accept or reject our atheist principles based on reasoning and merit?

Question_everything's picture
You should really have read

You should really have read the description before you posted this. I feel like it would have clarified some things. Let me share a story with you. I was talking with a Christian once, and it was impossible to have a productive discussion with her because she said she would never change her mind that the Bible was 100% true even if confronted with contrary evidence. My goal is not necessarily to convert a Christian. Rather, to convert this way of thinking. If people examine their beliefs with an objective lense, and come to find that Christianity is valid, then I would love to discuss that with them because my end goal is to find the truth, not have a belief that simply makes me feel good. However, I find that when people think more logically about their beliefs, they tend to stop believing in them.

1. I don't want to convert Christians as much as I want them to think critically about their beliefs.
2. I don't want to coerce people, I just want to have an open discussion where we can both be objective.
3. I love when they try to convert me, actually. I love it even more when they have valid arguments instead of anecdotes.
4. The difference is that I will change my mind when confronted with evidence, whereas most Christians will not. Also, their illogical beliefs effect government legislation and therefore effect me. I have a right to question them.
5. That is a good suggestion, but it doesn't work if they are closed off to begin with.

Truett's picture
Hi Mbrownec,

Hi Mbrownec,

Why "convert"? Because messianic religion married with apocolyptic weaponry is objectively bad news for every species on this planet.

Convert is an indelicate word, and it does not fully capture my intent. My deeprr intent is to better understand how to reach someone in a life long delusion, and to be able to present my belief with supporting reasoning successfully when the opportunity presents itself.

I am convinced that a number of religions are antithetical to human flourishing. There are 7.5 billion of us, and the Abrahamic religions are in direct conflict with each other and every non-adherant. They account for over 4 billion humans, and many are deluded with the notion that their eternal fate rests on their obedience to their religions' dictates. Many of those dictates are in direct opposition to each other, and humanity has paid and continues to pay a terrible price because of it.

I care about people. All people. My priorities are improving wellbeing and reducing suffering for all conscious life to whatever extent I am able.

Use of the socratic method and the provision of demonstrable scientific fact are the two principle means of attempting to share my beliefs that I employ. I don't want to share my beliefs for the purpose of sharing them. I don't want to argue for the sake of arguing. I don't want to win a competition or score a point. What I want to do is alleviate suffering and enhance wellbeing, and religion is in opposition to my interests.

These are some of the principle reasons why I want to "convert" religious people.

You are right; they want to convert me. Fine. But let's be fair; I want a conversation, not behead and burn my adversaries. I care about what is actually correct. If I realize that I am incorrect I will turn on a dime. I've done it before. My experience with religious people and my read of history informs me that religious people are not so willing to follow the facts wherever they lead.

These are some of my reasons. I realize that I didn't answer all of your questions, but I feel like I'm writing a book and think I better stop now.

Thanks for the question, Mbrownec. I appreciate being made to consider my position and to defend it.

Kostas Louritis's picture
I don't think it is possible

I don't think it is possible to change their mind but it is possible to "plant the seed of doubt in their minds" and make them question their beliefs and their view on the world ! The problem is that most people prefer to live in a comfortable lie because change and truth hurt !! Now the best way to change someones mind in MY experience is : Make them want to change you ! make then think that you are "the lost sheep" and prove them that they are wrong instead ! As they say the end exuses the means. It still could not work because as i said people prefer comfort than truth! ... i dont have much experience in the matter but i had to share my thoughts !

chimp3's picture
I am not an evangelist for

I am not an evangelist for atheism. I just like arguing. I am passionate about the separation of church and state though.

Question_everything's picture
Same. I am normally fine with

Same. I am normally fine with other people believing whatever they want, but when that effects legislation, I get heated real quick.

mykcob4's picture
People have to become an

People have to become an atheist on their own. You cannot force anybody or even convince them without their cooperation to do so!

Closet_atheist's picture
Like others here have said

Like others here have said you can't change a theist's mind, they have to come to that conclusion on their own. But what you can do is plant a seed of doubt, (what Constantine115 mentioned). I would recommend that they read up on both biology and philosophy. Subjects that made myself question my born into religion. Maybe even a little psychology, specifically how people are brainwashed through lies, repetition, and fear.

I myself don't try to convert people, I know there's a lot of hate and oppression that comes from religion. But why would I want to take away my friends and family's delusion of happiness after death.

hunter2342's picture
I would have to agree with

I would have to agree with what others have stated on this thread, that you can't exactly "change" a theists mind, but you can help them. The reasons people usually leave religion tend to be on the more logical side, but if they don't want to think logically, it'll be a difficult task getting to them. There's no point in trying to "convert" somebody that isn't willing to have an open and honest discussion, but if they're willing then you could suggest them some of the modern science educators and voices, or brush up on some of the arguments you think they'll bring up (fine tuning, cosmological, morality, etc.) and try and get them to think about their beliefs by asking them questions about what they believe. For example, if they ask where an atheist gets their morals from, in turn as them the same question. Undoubtedly they'll say from God; then ask them why other people also believe they get their morality from God and do bad things. Just get them thinking, and if they're willing to converse, you'll get them to think about their beliefs more.

algebe's picture
@Spicyharris "The reasons

@Spicyharris "The reasons people usually leave religion tend to be on the more logical side"

Another situation that forces Christians to question their beliefs is when something terrible happens to them and they can't understand why Jesus didn't prevent it. A long time ago a Catholic friend lost a month-old baby, and a few years later his wife. I think if he'd asked me on either occasion whether I thought he should turn his back on the faith, I'd have said no.

Sky Pilot's picture
If a person claims to be

If a person claims to be religious, especially a Christian, there's no reason for him to freak out when things like that happen. Remember the lessons of Job and Adam & Eve and David. Of course the survivor might fall into a deep depression but that's more or less normal for anyone in that circumstance. But if a person claims to be religious he should be able to endure it without major problems.

And if anyone is killed because of his faith remember that a magic number of people must be killed before Jesus returns. It's been 2,000 years but maybe the next one will be the lucky number.

SecularSonOfABiscuitEater's picture
The way I see it, non

The way I see it, non believers are freethinkers. It is the practice of being a free thinker that allows someone to Embrace being a non-believer. Therefore as Athiests we should leave the practice of conversion with the dogmas we let go of.

Dragon reborn's picture
Education, if anything. Yet,

Education, if anything. Yet, if someone doesn't value evidence, none you give will matter. If they don't value logic, no logic will avail you.

joeligori's picture
I'm not sure that 'converting

I'm not sure that 'converting' someone is really possible. With my limited experience of dealing with this I find that believers hold their beliefs for many different reasons, most if not all of which are NOT logical. Unless you can get the believer to think logically and to question their 'faith' they will never discard that belief. I've become more interested in trying to understand where that 'faith' comes from. I'm trying to understand how someone can live in the 'real' world and maintain 'faith' in something that's not 'real' and does not 'exist'. (Definitions of 'Real' and 'Exist' might be helpful in understanding my last sentence.)

charvakheresy's picture
I once read a book written by

I once read a book written by an indian mystic/guru called Rajnish a.k.a Osho.
In the book he says there are two types of people; 1. That believe everything and 2. those that question everything.
His point was that you can reach a state of void or nirvana or whatever through either path (and a lot of other nonsense).

However I do agree with his premise and it seems to resonate. some people are just predisposed to believe and others to question. what the reason for this predisposition is I do not know yet it seems to be true.

I can no more convince my mother to reason than she can convince me to believe and often we find ourselves at an impasse. I cannot for the life of me fathom her point of view. She believes! thats all. She neither reads the quran nor does she listen to clerical discourses on islamic teachings, yet she believes. Its truly blind and any attempt on my part to get her to even try to be curious makes her shut her eyes tighter and hope more....

ThePragmatic's picture
An interesting article by

An interesting article by Michael Shermer: "How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail"

"Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason is related to the worldview perceived to be under threat by the conflicting data."

xenoview's picture
They have to decide to leave

They have to decide to leave faith and religion behind. They have to see all the fear and hate of religion before they can leave it behind.

Lucifer's Duck's picture
More questions than answers

More questions than answers here Audrey.

"I am an atheist because I care about the truth."

Bold statement there my friend. Whose "truth" do you care about?

"If I were believing in something that is not valid, I would want to know. I can't say that I see this quality in most religious people. It's very difficult to have an open and honest discussion with them about their beliefs"

Actually, How do you define "valid"? Although I disagree with the religious worldview I have to say, even though I find myself wanting to crack their heads together, they do genuinely believe/think they are being "open and honest".

It is not only Ken Ham who claims:"No one is ever gonna convince me that the word of God is not true". When you come across this attitude. It is time to realise that you are on a sinking ship and it is time to excuse yourself from the conversation/debate and find that lifeboat.

1) Is it possible to change a religious person's' mind?
2) How do you do it?

1. Depends on how deeply indoctrinated they are.


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