10 Tips for Compassionately Engaging with Your Atheist Friend

10 Tips for Compassionately Engaging with Your Atheist Friend


First, it’s helpful to understand what it means to be an atheist. An atheist is someone who does not believe in God or in any deities. This person rejects the notion that God, or any gods, created the world, the universe, time itself, or the people and creatures that inhabit this earth. It’s a lack of belief, rather than a belief “in” something. Instead, it’s a rejection of the assertion that there is a God (or gods), period.

An atheist is different from an agnostic, who believes that whether God exists is not known, and is possibly even unknowable. Some call agnosticism a belief in the unknown. They might think or hope that God is out there, but they don’t know for sure, and they don’t believe human reason or other evidence can prove the existence of a deity, or the supernatural in general, in any way.

Atheism, then, is not a religion or a belief system. It’s a rejection of belief in God.

Second, it’s helpful to understand why someone is an atheist. People have different reasons for their belief systems, or lack thereof, and atheists do, too:

  • Some cite lack of evidence for God, or what they call “reliable” evidence.
  • Some say the arguments “for” God’s existence don’t adequately prove it.
  • Some say the existence of evil contradicts the notion of an all-powerful God, especially if he “can’t” or “won’t” do anything about it.
  • Some say science explains everything people used to attribute to God, so there is no God.
  • Some consider God to be a psychological crutch humans created because they sought meaning.
  • Some simply haven’t heard the Gospel, perhaps because of their cultural or family upbringing.

There are other reasons beyond this. According to a 2023 Pew Research Center survey, atheists comprise about 4 percent of adults in the United States. Sociologists estimate about 7 percent of the population worldwide is atheistic.

If you are a Christian who has found yourself engaging with an atheist friend, here are 10 tips.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Khosrork