Yesterday I posted a question I got via a website for students. Read the question here. Today I’m posting my answer to James request for help in convincing his Christian girlfriend to be an atheist. It’s longer than a normal post, but hopefully worth the read.
Thanks for writing to me. You’ve asked a question that I’ve never answered. I’m happy to give you what help I can in getting your girlfriend not believe in God or the afterlife.
I think you’ve got quite a challenge. These sort of “persistent delusions” of faith are common, often reinforced by experiences. If your girlfriend is typical, she’s probably quite convinced and has even tried to get you to believe these things too.
To convince her to not believe in God, you’ve first got to overcome her reasons for believing in God, and wanting to have a relationship with Jesus. I think you’ll have to explain away the reasons that the vast majority of the world believes in God. I’d suggest reading this article and giving logical refutations to the issues raised, particularly the argument of design. If she’s well studied on the topic, you’ll probably have to overwhelm the philosophical issues raised by Bill Craig since he’s one of the top minds of theism.
A significant issue to overcome for most Christians is the person of Jesus. You’ll likely have to help her see Jesus wasn’t God despite his claims to be God. The world’s near universal respect for Jesus, his teaching, and his morality, will be a problem. You’ll probably have to convince her he is either an evil liar, or a lunatic and not really the Lord. You can study up on this issue at here.
To change what is often a thorough-going faith of Christians, it helps to read what they read, and understand their views to effectively refute them. This may require a thorough study of the life and claims of Jesus. You’ll need to account for his miracles, his resurrection, prophecy about him written hundreds of years before his birth, the lives he changed, etc. I’d start with Gospel of John and see where she is wrong to believe in Jesus.
Once you’ve disproved Christianity and discredited Jesus, the next step is to convince her that an atheistic world view explains the universe far better than a creator God. Without this step, she’s likely to embrace some new faith. You’ll really need to go on the offensive here since it’s probably why you’ve chosen to be an atheist.
Help her to look past the logical impossibility of proving the non-existence of anything, and encourage her to embrace the belief that God doesn’t exist. Quickly you’ll need to roll-out your enduring basis for morality that doesn’t reside in transient issues of culture, preference, or subjective terms like “goodness.” Since there is no metaphysical evil, she’ll need your help see that Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, and terrorists are just people who act “differently” and should not be judged. Make her see that if she did judge them as evil or bad, she’d have to rely on a trans-cultural, transcendent, universal standard of justice that doesn’t exist.
Remind her that science has explained all the mysteries and there is nothing that exists outside of the physical realm. Explain to her that non-material things like love, beauty, and the mind aren’t real, just figments invented to explain what confuses people. Help her to see that life is better without the pretense of transcendence and enduring meaning.
Help her understand that the effects she attributes to the cause of “God” are merely her psychological or bio-kinetic projections rooted in her innate fear. But be careful or she may say fear isn’t material and therefore an unsatisfactory explanation. She must be disabused of the notion that her experiences are valid, and understand that your lack of experience on the same issue is what she should trust.
One of the most challenging issues you’ll face is that embracing atheism will highlight her natural tendency to slip quickly into nihilism. Once she’s rejected the possibility of anything being transcendent, people often, quite logically, reject anything as meaningful. Since we all are nothing more than evolutionary accidents it is easy to conclude life is pointless and cruel. You’ll have to quickly explain what value life has other than some existential semantic invention. Tell her how everything is random chance yet remains significant.
A risk at that point is for her to conclude her affection for you isn’t transcendent, and to cut you loose. So persevere carefully while stoking that psycho-kinetic projection.
That is the path I think you should take. I hope it helps. Please write back and let me know how it goes.