The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

How to convert me: Part II

Hello everyone! Dave Muscato here again.

First off, a huge thank-you to everyone who upvoted, shared, and commented on Part I of this article. We got about 58,000 visitors, making it the second most-read article in the history of this blog (224 articles since April 2011). We’re very glad you enjoyed it.

We got such a huge response to the last one that I thought it would be helpful to address some of the things that came up in emails, on Twitter, in the comments, and so on. There was a LOT of excellent feedback and I’m very grateful to hear from all of you!

And so, for your reading pleasure, here is some MORE advice for evangelicals on how to convert me:

  1. Discuss, don’t preach. This is such an important point, I’m going to go into some detail about it. Discussion means listening, being willing to change your mind if you’re shown to be wrong about something, and understanding that no one has all the answers. Be ready, willing, and able to learn, as well as inform. When I go into a discussion, it is with an open mind, and I except the same from my conversation partner. I know it’s counterintuitive, but if your goal is to convert me, you are not going to get very far by preaching. I arrived at my conclusions after many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours poring over history and evidence, doing lots of reading, studying logical arguments, and reading the Bible and other holy books. Simply telling me “Jesus died for your sins” is not going to do anything at all to change my mind. I’ve read the Bible, too. The issue is not that I don’t know what it says; it’s that I don’t believe what it says.

    Discussing religion with some other students on Mizzou's campus. I'm in the center with the black shirt and straw hat.

    Discussing atheism with some other students on Mizzou’s campus. I’m in the center with the black shirt and straw hat, with Brother Jed looking on (back right, in vest).

  2. Don’t just tell me what you believe. Tell me why you believe it. Remember that the point here is “I am not convinced your beliefs are true.” I know it’s easier to fall into the routine of retelling what you believe, but once we’ve covered it, tell me your story. The important part (to me) is not what you believe; it’s why.
  3. Make an effort to learn the standard arguments. There are really only about 10 or 12 of them. As I said in my last article, I am always happy to go over these again and again if it helps someone see things differently, but it is a huge time-saver—not to mention that I will be impressed with you—if you know these at the outset, or at least are passingly familiar with them. Here and here are two excellent resources to help you get started. These are very familiar to atheists. I sometimes hear from believers that they are shocked at how knowledgeable many atheists are about such a wide variety of subjects, from evolutionary biology to geology to cosmology to ancient history. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: We’re not necessarily; it’s just that there really only are about a dozen of these rebuttals for us to learn 😉
  4. When it comes to ethics, don’t make assumptions. Ask, listen, and learn. There is this idea circulated by Christians and other religionists that atheists are immoral, amoral, unethical, or all three. This is simply an attempt to demonize us and if you want to have any success discussing religion with me, you’re going to have to start by not thinking of me as evil. In fact, many atheists have spent a great deal of time and energy studying ethics, and many have a higher ethical standard than you yourself might. Since we do not rely on arguments from authority, many atheists have arrived at their conclusions on ethical principles by careful study of the philosophy of ethics, and we can often provide detailed analyses about why we believe what we do. Don’t assume that we’re somehow lacking ethically just because we don’t believe in your god, or heaven, or hell. In fact I can think of few things more important to me than living as ethically as I can.
  5. Don’t end the discussion, especially prematurely, by saying “God bless” or “I’ll pray for you.” Many atheists, myself included, see this as the ultimate in arrogance and an attempt at one final dig before prancing away. I know that some of you actually mean it sincerely, but if you want to build rapport with me, please, just pray for me on your own some other time. My usual response to “I’ll pray for you” is “If you actually believe prayer works, for Pete’s sake, don’t waste your time on me. There are starving children in Africa.” If you absolutely must pray for me, I will respect you much more if you ask for my permission first. And don’t forget Matthew 6:5-6!

I hope that these are helpful for you, and I look forward to hearing how they work out in your own discussions! Have a great one. Until next time!

– Dave

Dave Muscato is the Kansas/Missouri-Area Volunteer Network Coordinator for the Secular Student Alliance. He is also a board member of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A non-traditional junior at Mizzou studying economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday and twice monthly for the Humanist Community at Harvard. His website is

Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Google+
Follow me on Twitter

and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too!


About Danielle Muscato

Danielle Muscato is a civil rights activist, writer, and public speaker. She has appeared on or been quoted in Rolling Stone, People, Time, The New York Times, SPIN, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard Magazine, and on MTV News, VH1, NPR, MSNBC, ABC, "The Real Story" with Gretchen Carlson, The O'Reilly Factor, Huffington Post Live, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Raw Story, CNN, CBS, and Howard Stern Danielle is the former Director of Public Relations for American Atheists. She is also a board member of MU SASHA (University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists & Agnostics). Her website is Follow her on Google+ Follow her on Twitter @daniellemuscato Subscribe to her on YouTube at

11 comments on “How to convert me: Part II

  1. Pingback: How to convert me « The Official MU SASHA Blog, Updated Daily

  2. Craig
    January 28, 2013

    Thank you Dave for an article that has set me thinking. I would, in some respects, agree with your points. However, if I asked you the question “Can you conceive of being presented with evidence that would convert you to theism?”, would you be more open-minded than I am?

    • Dave Muscato
      January 28, 2013

      I’m not quite sure what you’re asking here… If I could be presented with sufficient evidence (or a foolproof logical argument) that some religion was true, I would convert, if that’s what you meant.

    • Jeremy
      January 28, 2013

      I’m not sure I entirely understand the question either. I’m not sure if Craig is an atheist who is implying that they cannot conceive of evidence which would convert them, or perhaps a person of faith who would not be open-minded about arguments from science?

      Personally, for me, the answer is yes. I can conceive of being presented with evidence that would convert me to theism. It’s obviously not a standard of proof I’ve ever been presented with and don’t -expect- to ever be presented with, or I wouldn’t be an atheist. Having said that, the evidence would have to be pretty miraculous and not easily refutable. Everyday observations would not be convincing.

    • Cubist
      January 30, 2013

      Craig :
      [I]f I asked you the question “Can you conceive of being presented with evidence that would convert you to theism?”…

      …you would be Yet Another Friggin’ Xtian Apologist who’s frantically trying to shift the burden of proof away from their own yes-god-exists position, and who’s doing their best to keep everybody from noticing that it’s the yes-god-exists position which has no empirical support whatsoever.
      Could I conceive of evidence that would persuade me that one or more gods actually do exist? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the specifics of the particular god-concept in question. That god-concept bloody well better have specifics, and said specifics had bloody well better be of the sort which can be confirmed or refuted by evidence. “My god-concept is infinitely powerful” is a specific claim which can’t be confirmed or refuted by evidence, as best I can tell, simply because I can’t think of an evidence-based way to distinguish between a god-candidate with a finite level of power that’s really, really high, and a god-candidate with a genuinely infinite level of power. So if you want to convert me to “theism”, all you have to do is come up with a good, solid, testable definition of ‘god’. Because if you’re trying to convert me to believing in some-vaguely-defined-whatsit-or-other, I guarantee that you will not succeed.
      So, in answer to your question: Tell me exactly which flavor of ‘theism’ you’re talking about, to a level of detail sufficient that it’s possible to make an evidence-based evaluation of how true of false it is, and I’ll tell you what sort of evidence would persuade me that that flavor of ‘theism’ is true. And if you cannot or will not adequately define your pet whatzit, you’ll just have to forgive me if I respond by telling you to take your epistemological blank check, fold it into a dense and sharp-cornered package, and shove said package up your lower GI tract until you can taste it.

      • Craig
        February 25, 2013

        Very interesting interpretation of a simple question, Cubist. In reality I am a very long-term atheist – and almost as vehement as yourself – who is not open minded to the existence of any sort of sentient god – there is no room left in our understanding to squeeze in a god of any consequence. My question was posed to attempt to understand how it is possible to maintain an open minded atheist position when explanations of the universe appear to work reasonably well without supernatural intervention

  3. Birds of Paradise
    February 2, 2013

    Hello again Dave 🙂

    I haven’t heard from you lately, but I am still curious to know what your thoughts are based on the arguments I’ve presented to you thus far. As I’ve mentioned to Carol Lynn, my arguments consist of comments #105, #149, #151, and #153 🙂

    If you could just let me know whether they make sense to you or not, then if you will, we can continue our discussion from there 😀

    • Dave Muscato
      February 2, 2013

      Re: 105… You can’t possibly be serious. Adam is “said to” have been 90 feet tall? Said by whom? Considering that Adam is a mythological character, and no physical evidence of his existence has ever been found, how could anyone possibly even know that? By the way, humans overall have been getting taller (as better nutrition was discovered), not shorter:

      Re: 149… I replied already in post 150.

      Re: 151… I suggest you read up on evolution before you try to discredit it. You seem to be very ignorant about some basic biological principles and are undermining your own arguments with misinformation. I recommend the this introductory FAQ, it should answer all of your questions:

      Re: 153… See my response to 151 above.

  4. Pingback: Hvordan du skal omvende en ateist | Herr Ateist

  5. Cubist
    February 26, 2013

    Craig :
    Very interesting interpretation of a simple question, Cubist. In reality I am a very long-term atheist…

    …who presented a query which just happens to be exactly the sort of loaded “gotcha!” question that’s characteristic of proselytizing Xtian apologists. So while I may have been in error to respond to you as if you were Yet Another Friggin’ Xtian Apologist, at the same time you have to admit that your comment constituted good reason to reach such a conclusion, even if in error.
    And if you are indeed the “long-term atheist” you now claim to be, you should be aware that it’s utterly, completely, I-could-have-a-heart-attack-and-die-from-unsurprise commonplace for Xtian apologists to start out presenting themselves as genuine, sho’nuff unbelievers in a kind of “false flag” operation.

    My question was posed to attempt to understand how it is possible to maintain an open minded atheist position when explanations of the universe appear to work reasonably well without supernatural intervention.

    How can anyone “maintain an open minded atheist position” about the existence of god(s)? Same way you can “maintain an open-minded atheist position” about any other factual claim regarding Reality As She Is Spoke, from quantum mechanics to special relativity to evolution to etc etc etc. You “maintain an open minded atheist position” by considering the claimed god-concept on its own merits, including internal consistency and whatever empirical, objective evidence may exist for said god-concept, and rejecting the claimed god-concept if and only if those merits are deficient/nonexistent. To be sure, all claimed god-concepts thus far have been horribly lacking in merit, but since when is the bogosity of Believers’ claims a problem for atheists? Is it our fault that every friggin’ god-concept that’s come down the pike thus far, is a god-concept which either (a) is incoherent on its own terms, or else (b) has been demonstrated to be a superfluous irrelevance?

  6. buy a car online
    May 31, 2013

    It’s hard to come by experienced people about this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on January 28, 2013 by in Author: Dave Muscato and tagged .
%d bloggers like this: