The Christian and the Atheist

I have a good friend who identifies as an atheist. He was raised in a Christian church and went through all the rites associated with the Christian belief in God. It was not until he was older and witnessed his father die a horrific death caused by cancer that he decided that there is no God of any kind.

Atheism is defined as the absence of belief in any deities.

By this definition, my friend is an atheist. His reasoning is that if a god did exist, especially the Christian understanding of God, then his father would never have died in the manner in which he did. My friend would not be the first to make such a claim. Not everyone who states this thought begins to identify as an atheist however.

As a Christian leader, how can I be friends with an atheist?

My answer to that question is pretty simple…because I believe in Jesus Christ. My understanding of what my Lord taught is that all people are children of God, even those who do not acknowledge God. If this is true then I am already in relationship with my friend because he is my brother in God.

Another important lesson which I have picked up from reading Scripture is that I am not empowered to choose who receives God’s mercy and love. The choice of who receives and who does not belongs solely to God. We see this in the story of Nineveh and Jonah. We see this in the story of the woman charged with adultery and Jesus. God retains the power of who God gives mercy and love. With me not having to make that decision and my belief that God has chosen to give ALL people mercy and love, then I am free to love even those who identify as atheist.

My understanding of my commitment as a Christian is that it is not my responsibility to save anyone. I am not even sure what someone would need saved from other than maybe themselves. Once again, the saving has fallen into the realm of God. What I am called to do as a Christian is to do my best every day to demonstrate the love and mercy of God to others as I have received it. The reason that I strive to do this is not because it impacts my receiving of love and mercy but in response to having received that love and mercy.

I have heard some people state that there is no way they could ever be friends with an atheist. Why they feel that way is only known to them. However, I can speculate that for some it is out of fear. The individual may be afraid that if they befriended an atheist, that friendship might weaken or damage their faith. If that is the case, then I think they need to examine their understanding of faith and work toward a healthy faith.

Others may argue that being friends with an atheist would shed a negative light on them when viewed by their Christian friends. This argument has problems abounding. First, you would need to question what type of Christian friends you are associating with if they do not view extending love and mercy to others is in opposition to Christ’s teachings. Second, using the example of Jesus, a follower should never allow the viewpoints of others to limit reaching out in relationship towards others, especially those termed undesirable.

A Christian and an Atheist

I am a Christian. I am a leader in the Christian church. My good friend is an atheist. We have a wonderful relationship in which we can share ideas (even opposing ones), laughter, jokes, and some coffee. I no longer get to see my atheist friend anymore since we live in different states now but I think of him often. I look forward to being able to see him again soon.

6 thoughts on “The Christian and the Atheist

  1. it seems as if you don’t believe your friend and have to insist that he is “really” a believer. This is why atheists get annoyed with Christians when they try to ignore what we say.

    A lot of Christians try to claim that the only reason that someone is an atheist is because this god disappointed them. That is occasionally the case, but often not the only one or that one at all. I’m an atheist (former Presbyterian) that realized that there is no evidence for this god or any gods. None of the essential events in the bible have any evidence, only claims. I also read the bible when I was losing my faith and found out that it isn’t what is claimed by most Christians. In it, I found a god that murders people for the actions of others, that commands genocide, and in revelation, works with what is supposedly its arch enemy. You don’t hear those verses from the pastor.

    I am gratified that you do admit that your god picks and chooses who can accept it and damns people for nothing but its own pleasure. That is not fairness or justice in any sense, just a morality based on might equals right. It’s not love or mercy at all to say “hey, it’s fine for god to damn people to eternal torture for nothing”.

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    1. I appreciate your comments. I am not sure why you think I do not believe my friend nor did I insist that he is really a believer. I completely listen to what he says and he listens to what I say. There is no hostility in our relationship or disrespect of any kind. In fact, it is the direct opposite.

      I also did not state that I believe a person is an atheist only because God has disappointed them.

      I respect that you do not find evidence for God or any gods. I also agree that the Bible presents very difficult images to understand. I am sure you have done a lot of study into how the Bible was written, why it was written, its oral heritage, and the cultural influences on what was recorded. You may have even studied Greek and Hebrew, the original languages of the written text so that you fully understand all the nuances of trying to translate the ancient texts into English.

      I absolutely do not admit that God picks and chooses who can accept or that God damns people at all. These may have been misunderstandings you carry from your past experiences. I believe that God has chosen ALL people to receive grace, love, and mercy. I believe that God damns no one but instead lets each individual choose it they wish to accept the grace, love, and mercy which God offers.

      Again, thank you for reading my post and sharing your perspectives.

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      1. The reason I don’t think you believe your friend is that you insist on claiming that he is your “brother in god”, which is something I’m pretty sure he would not agree with.
        You may have not stated that you believe a person is an atheist only because that your god disappointed him, but that is the story you are telling which is very common from Christians. Many Christians make the false claim that atheists are either mad at their god or “rebelling” against it. It makes a good story if you try to devalue what an atheist thinks, and have to make it only about emotions, not facts.
        It’s not my position that there is no evidence for your god or any gods; that’s a fact. You may present what you think is evidence for your version of you religion. And the bible is claimed to be correctly interpreted by every Christian, and those interpretations vary all over the place. I have indeed done a lot of research on how the bible was put together from many books over hundreds of years. Now, with your claims, it seems you are trying to claim that only someone who has read everything in its original language and knows how to interpret is the only person who can criticize your claims. One has to wonder if you have done the same to know what your bible actually says. Now, considering that we have many many translations of the bible, often with the translators claiming that they had divine help, and many from people who have no idea how to read Koine Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew, one has to wonder why there are so many differences? Why would this be if these people are the experts you claim?
        You claim you don’t’ admit that this god picks and chooses. It certainly seems you do: “Another important lesson which I have picked up from reading Scripture is that I am not empowered to choose who receives God’s mercy and love. The choice of who receives and who does not belongs solely to God.” Can you explain what you meant then?
        I don’t’ think I’ve misunderstood at all, and your bible supports what you’ve said above in Romans 9. “ So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.” There is nothing in the bible that says that your god chooses all people to receive grace and it says that there is no free will, but your god’s choice.

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      2. I think you jump to conclusions which fit your stance. I do have the education to make the statements which I do. I have a degree to affirm the hours of study which I have done including in the ancient languages.

        I also find it interesting that you support your arguments by quoting the Bible which you claim has no authority.

        You are more than welcome to have your views. Whether you accept that I view my friend as a child of God or that I view you the same is your choice which I do not take from you. However, you cannot take that view away from me either.

        I also do not view your interpretation of God’s choice as accurate as I understand God. Yet that is your view and I respect your right to have that view.

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      3. Unfortunately, I do not jump to conclusions at all.
        As for your education, plenty of people have the same background as you and know that the bible is not a historical document nor has any evidence to support it.
        I have no problem in quoting the bible when what you say is not true about it. That does not need me to say it has any authority at all.
        You have yet to show your god exists much less that anyone is a “child of god” which is nothing more than a Christian trying to claim that everyone is on his team. No one is taking your view away, I am pointing out it is a baseless one.
        You have invented your god in your own image as has every other Christian. You want to claim that your interpretation is the only right one. Nothing new there either.

        again, why do Christians vary so much in their claims of the “truth”?

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  2. The problem with the Bible is that it was written by men and the Bible is only partly history. Much of the Bible is stories to help teach lessons. So taking the Bible verbatim causes so many problems. As this individual has posted before, his understanding of God’ is that God’ is love. So if you start from that premise then love is everyone’s brother. It is about relationship. Love can create very strong bonds and through those bonds we can do much more together than by ourselves.

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