featured image
"Love the atheists in your life" by Melanie Jean Juneau (CatholicMom.com) Megagreenleopard [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Are you faced with a teenager, husband, family member, or neighbor who say they are atheists? Do you try to evangelize them only to end up in feeling like a failure? Often dialogues end up in battles because when Christians feel attacked by atheists, they often become defensive and upset. However, an indignant rant which bludgeons unbelievers with the "truth" treats them as the enemy and not like people who are as loved by God as any Catholic. When I am secure in the Love of God, I can love and respect everyone, because I do not feel threatened by anything others say or do to me. Then it is possible to encourage respectful dialogue which listens to the crux of each person’s concerns and doubts about the faith. Such dialogue opens the door for the Holy Spirit to become the Divine Moderator of the discussion.
Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. 6Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but finds its joy in the truth (1 Corinthians 13).
My words alone will not convince an atheist. Catholics need theology and apologetics, but these disciplines will not convert anybody, because Christianity is not primarily a moral theology or a philosophy, but a relationship of love. By focusing on our relationship with Christ, He becomes a living Messiah not only to us, but a visible light to others. Many believers still cling to a false idea of a God with a white beard on a throne. This image is a finite human creation, not the real, infinite Creator of the universe. Of course, intelligent atheists reject a false, naive view of God. My own personal experience of the Holy Immortal One is often closer to the mystical apophatic tradition. Such devotion is not one of rigid perfection and certitude, but a life which involves inner struggle, growth, and healing as we journey deeper into the Mystical Body of Christ. The honest life in Christ is rooted in humility because we are constantly aware of our own sinfulness and wounds. A Christian does not have all the answers; he is not afraid to admit he does not understand everything and he certainly does not berate or belittle those who are searching, even if they seem arrogant. God cannot be boxed in, defined because He is a mystery. Such experiential faith reveals itself in the ground of our being.  This is where dialogue with atheists can begin, because God dwells at the core of our selves, atheists and indeed of all life. Ultimately, it is God who reveals Himself to the atheist. A brilliant young friend was atheist. He availed himself to understanding Christianity. When I asked what he had read on spirituality or Christianity he simply replied, “The library.” One day, we were in a prayer group, and while praying, my friend relaxed as merely an observer on the margins of the group. Suddenly, he suddenly started to laugh. Our eyes popped open in surprise. The quiet, subdued young man was beaming, and he exclaimed,
I’m hot all over, especially inside my chest, my heart really. It feels like a glowing, golden mist  all around me, inside of me but it was there all the time; I just couldn’t feel it or see it. Suddenly, I am plugged into a circuit board of power that has been here the entire time. God is real. He exists. I can’t believe it. Why did I not see something all around me, in my face? I feel this energy flowing between everyone in this room and connecting to me as well, like electrical currents, like invisible bands or cords. I want to jump up and down and start yelling on the top of my voice that God exists and He is right here.
God converts atheists and draws them to the Church while our self-righteous preaching drives them away. What God really needs from us is to reflect His Mercy to our family and friends.
Copyright 2019 Melanie Jean Juneau