As Christianity’s influence wanes in America, atheism only becomes stronger.
It’s becoming increasingly popular to believe God doesn’t exist, especially for young people. A 2018 Barna study found that the percentage of atheists is twice as high among Gen Z (13%) than it is among the general population (6%).
Sadly, the percentage that identifies as Christian drops from generation to generation, with only 59% of 13- to 18-year-olds being self-proclaimed Christians.
So chances are, you have a friend or two who believes in atheism. The question is: How do you reach that atheist friend with the gospel?
Dr. Andy McIntosh has a helpful answer to that question. But first, he says, it’s important that you understand how deeply flawed atheism actually is.
Atheism Is a Religion
The fundamental belief system underpinning atheism is naturalism, or materialism. In essence, it’s the idea that only what is material exists. Humans are supposedly just a body—no soul, no spirit. And ultimately, that means there’s no God we need to answer to.
Atheists may say they have nothing to do with religion, but the truth is that atheism is a religion. It takes a great amount of faith to believe that the entire universe arose by mere chance and natural processes.
How could chance have led to the complicated barb system we find in bird feathers? Or what about photosynthesis? Could evolution really have jumpstarted a system in plants that produces sugar and oxygen? And what about DNA, a biological language that’s infinitely more complicated than a computer program?
The other issue atheists run into is human nature itself. The Bible says God created humans in His image, allowing us to know God, to think rationally and logically, to be creative, and to be righteous.
But according to naturalism, our brains are nothing more than lumps of meat. Yet how could a lump of meat think and create the way humans do?
How to Reach an Atheist
It’s one thing to know atheism is intrinsically flawed. It’s another thing to help someone else come to the same conclusion.
So how do you reach your atheist friends and family members with the gospel? Dr. McIntosh has several helpful suggestions:
1. Be kind and speak gently.
The world loves to focus on the drama of atheists vs. Christians and the debates that ensue between them. But we as believers must leave that behind when we’re having a personal conversation.
Remember, not all atheists are defiant and determined to prove God is dead. Some behave that way, of course, but many don’t. It’s important that you showcase the love of Jesus to your atheist friend whenever you talk with them.
2. Start with a question.
It’s usually a good idea to start the conversation with a healthy amount of listening before you ever open your mouth to share your opinion.
Remember that people’s beliefs are often very personal for them. Sometimes people turn to atheism because of very dark and painful times in their lives. So asking questions to draw them out is a good way to show that you care.
Some good questions to start the discussion are:
What made you become an atheist?
Is there trouble in the world?
If so, what is the cause of the trouble?
How do you assess what is right and wrong?
These questions not only give your friend room to talk and feel heard, but they also help expose atheism’s faulty reasoning. After all, morality makes no sense apart from a righteous Creator God.
3. Drive the conversation to Christ.
This isn’t a verbal battle for a person’s mind. This is a spiritual battle for their soul. What’s the point of winning an argument if it doesn’t change your friend’s heart and point them to the gospel?
Try to gently yet deliberately steer the conversation to Jesus, especially His death and resurrection. The apostle Paul said, “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use logical arguments in discussions. But it does mean that logic alone won’t lead to a person’s salvation.
Man-made arguments can’t save your friend’s soul—but Jesus certainly can.