Dealing with Atheists
Q. I know an individual who is an atheist. He says God hasn’t revealed anything to him to make him believe there is a God. I am praying for him and have given him personal testimony of what God, through Jesus Christ, has done in my life since my conversion. He says he has had religion shoved down his throat growing up. Any additional suggestions?
Mike, via e-mail
Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
A. It’s helpful to remember that faith is a gift. You can’t force it on people, and you can’t argue them into believing. It’s a gift. Nevertheless, the First Vatican Council declared that we can come to certain knowledge of the existence of God even without supernatural revelation and even without supernatural faith (see Dei Filius).
It sounds like this individual needs a good and loyal friend who prays for him and helps him along his journey through life. In calmer moments, when he claims that “religion was shoved down his throat when he was growing up,” you could ask him if he objects to his parents having fed him when he was a toddler, or taking him to the doctor to be vaccinated against smallpox and other diseases. I doubt he complains about the food and the medicine. That might help him to be less antagonistic about his childhood faith experiences.
It seems to me that the path to faith for your atheist friend is to develop the virtue of gratitude for his blessings. Pray for him. Every day. That’s the best advice I can offer.