How to convert an atheist:
Cause the ex-atheist to practise your religion

Index | Prepare to make the case | Cause the atheist to believe in your god(s) | Cause the ex-atheist to practise your religion | Supplement - Creationism / Intelligent Design | Discussion

Remember: you can practise a religion without believing in its god. So this page can apply to atheists as well as ex-atheists.

Planning the case

You may not care whether the ex-atheist (the new believer) prays, goes to church, sings hymns, donates money, visits Mecca, fasts or obeys other food-laws, obeys dress-codes, etc. You may feel it is sufficient that they have been helped over hurdle 3 and believe in your god.

If you are convinced that they should act in certain ways, you need to make the case. Probably this will be in the form of a (simple) cost/benefit analysis for each practice.

You may need to distinguish between the benefits to the ex-atheist and benefits to others, such as the religious organisation itself or other religious people. (Many atheists believe that religious practices exist primarily to benefit religious organisations, or to reduce defection, and this ex-atheist may still suspect that).

Religious practices

Are all of your religious practices necessary? Can they validly be cherry-picked by the ex-atheist? The questions below are those that an ex-atheist may ask. (Earlier reconnaissance may have indicated whether any of these are likely to be important to this person).

One-off tasks

You may identify the need for a one-off activity, such as "renouncing sin" or "committing to a life of righteousness". If this achieves salvation, then its benefit-to-cost ratio is high.

Occasional tasks

What happens if (say) the ex-atheist doesn't complete a pilgrimage to Mecca? Will he or she automatically go to hell? Or is it some sort of contributing factor, and other activities can compensate? You may need to consult experts in your religion.

There may be benefits that are independent of the religion of course, for example tourism.

Periodic activities

Obvious examples are praying every day (or X times a day), and/or going to church or mosque or temple or synagogue periodically. These may be "a package" that cannot be split, (and you may need to justify that position). Otherwise you may need a separate case for each practice. For example:

  • Is periodic prayer necessary to achieve salvation, or is it for a different purpose? Is it to strengthen the resolve of the ex-atheist, or achieve some beneficial mental state, or to achieve specific changes to the world?
  • What is the specific value of attending a church, chapel, mosque, temple, etc? Is the benefit primarily social, or a learning exercise for essential practices, or a way of reinforcing belief in the religions god(s)? Obviously, different ex-atheists will form different judgments about the benefit-to-cost ratios of the non-essential practices.

Ongoing behaviours

These may be to do with sex, food, clothes, speech, work, association, tithes, and others.

The benefit-to-cost ratio of ongoing practices may range from high (where the practice isn't a significant change of life-style or is even an enjoyable change), to low (where the practice is a disruption of ongoing inconvenience or even annoyance).

Once again, you need to understand whether this behaviour is necessary to achieve salvation, or is it for a different purpose?