Billy Graham Says Christians Can Do Nothing to Convert Atheists

And by “do nothing,” I mean he says to pray.  So, same thing.

On Monday, Billy Graham published a Q&A on his website where he addressed relationships between Christians and atheists.  A reader asked the following question:

My best friend and I enjoy each other’s company, but I’m a Christian and he says he’s an atheist. I’ve tried to argue with him, but he just laughs and says I ought to grow up and forget about God. How can I win him over?

How about just continue to be friends and stop trying to push your religion on him. It’s fucking annoying.

Anyway, Graham’s answer contained the following:

You can point him in the right direction—but to be honest, you can’t win him over by yourself (as you’ve discovered). He’s convinced that he is right—and even if he has secret doubts, his pride probably gets in the way.

Yes, that’s correct. Your argument for the existence of God lacks evidence and is unconvincing on its own. Your friend is proud that he has used reason, logic, and critical thinking to come to the conclusion that there’s absolutely no reason for him to believe in an invisible being in the sky guiding the 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000003% of the observable universe we inhabit (yes, that’s just the amount we can see from Earth). I contend that if there is a creator, its spatial planning skills are horrible.

Graham goes on:

The most important thing you can do for your friend is to pray for him, asking God to convict him of his sin and his pride and convince him of his need for Christ.

So again, nothing.  Pray to the same deity that has been pleaded to for centuries to stop hunger, bring peace to the world, and send the Cubs to the World Series. I don’t know about you, but when my kids are hungry and ask for a snack, I usually give them one.  You know, because I love them.

He goes on still:

In addition, encourage him to face honestly the consequences of his atheism (which many atheists, I’ve discovered, never do). If God doesn’t exist (as he claims), then he has no hope of life after death. Nor does he have anyone to turn to when he needs guidance, or when life turns against him.

Oh dear.  Open atheists face the consequences of their atheism every day.  From ostracism to familial conflicts, to outright bigotry and discrimination, to imprisonment or death in some cultures, trust us, we feel it.  And those consequences aren’t coming from a god; they’re coming from righteous Christians and other religious fanatics like you.  And as far as having no one to turn to for guidance or comfort, that’s just nonsense.  I’d rather turn to the people I trust and relationships we have to fill those needs than to carry on a one-sided conversation with an imaginary friend.

My advice to the person who sent in this question (if he even exists and wasn’t a strawman made up by Billy Graham) is to focus on enjoying the friendship and camaraderie you have with your atheist friend.  Most of my friends and family are believers and don’t try to convince me to believe their dogma, just as I don’t try to burst their Bronze Age ideological bubble. It’s called respect.  Once you stop showing that, you can say goodbye to your friendship altogether.


Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

View all posts by Kevin Davis →

53 thoughts on “Billy Graham Says Christians Can Do Nothing to Convert Atheists

  1. Life after death? That would be like hoping to win the lottery without purchasing a ticket. You can’t get there from here.

  2. Consequences of atheism being “no life after death?” Well here’s a secret: that’s because that’s not a damn thing. That’s medically impossible. Someone needs to take Graham’s ass back to school to learn that because if that’s all your faith is good for at the end of the day, then it’s already failed. The best you can do is just continue to be the man’s friend, don’t judge him for having every reason not to sip your chosen flavor of kool-aid and leave his non-belief alone.

    This is as easy as 2+2, what’s hard to get about this?

    1. ” ‘no life after death’….because that’s not a damn thing”

      Strictly speaking, that’s correct. However, the definition of death is probably more ambiguous than you think. People who are cryogenically frozen are legally dead, but may not have lost consciousness permanently. I wouldn’t get my hopes up, but it’s a possibility.

  3. The most important thing you can do for your friend is to pray for him, asking God to convict him of his sin and his pride and convince him of his need for Christ.

    His sin and pride? For not wanting to convert to your religion? Fuck that.

    1. The prideful sin of self-sufficiency: thinking that you do not need God.

      It’s still a fundamental misunderstanding of what atheism is: not believing in any gods. The cure for lack of belief is proof, but they don’t want to admit that they have none. So they have to re-characterize atheists as cocky rather than merely skeptical.

    2. Hmmm, sounds a lot like the religious friend should remove the plank from his own eye before tending to the “mote” in the atheist’s eye. 😉

  4. Isn’t it sad to know you can’t fly, Billy? Where’s the joy in believing you haven’t been given the gift of flight? You should stop believing you can’t fly and go jump off a tall building.

  5. First, there were general vocalizations for danger, lust and hunger.
    After that came language.
    After that came the big questions.
    After that came storytelling.
    After that came religions.
    Only after thousands of years came the technology and methodology to support realistic explanations for reality.
    Some people think the storytelling is right because it came first.

  6. We accept your concession of defeat regarding your lack of evidence and impotence of your apologetics, Mr. Graham.

    Now kindly wander over to where THE FELLOW WHO SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS is waiting for you with your very own hourglass. That’s a good chap.

  7. Oh no, all these years of being an atheist, I never realized it meant there was no afterlife! Whatever shall I do?

    Said no one ever.

    1. Damn! Why’d you have to spoil it for everyone else… I myself was sure that I’d get to finally meet Charles Darwin, who, of course spends his eternal days hanging with the invisible pink unicorn.

  8. How about just continue to be friends and stop trying to push your religion on him. It’s fucking annoying.

    It is. I dropped a good friend of many years because he turned into a christer and would not relent in proselytizing. He should know very well my position, yet it was continuous. Oh well…

    1. Pity to lose a friendship, but someone who refuses to respect your wishes or your viewpoint is definitely stretching the boundaries of “friend.”

  9. Not face the consequences? Most atheists entirely acknowledge they don’t believe in any life after death, and God will obviously not help them. It’s no secret.

  10. For five years I and my friend and work out buddy in the university enjoyed each other’s company, yet he was a devout Christian. He was also a scientist, and said that he never tried to convince me because he had no evidence to show me. I never tried to deconvert him, because he didn’t seem broken. It can be done.

    1. For twelve years I worked for a devout Christian in an oilfield engineering company. He never tried to convert me, and I never tried to convert him, because we were working on, with, and for machines, and somehow the subject just doesn’t seem relevant.

  11. There’s that phrase again: “convict him of his sin.” In other words, make him feel guilty. If you don’t feel guilty, or if you don’t think it makes any sense to ask an invisible spirit being to forgive you (as opposed to, say, asking the people you’ve wronged to forgive you), you won’t buy what Xianity is selling.

  12. Once, when I was very, very young I started to get up at a Billy Graham crusade, when they called for people to come down and convert or whatever. Two friends of mine grabbed an arm each and held me down. I’m not quite sure if they just didn’t want to be embarrassed by me, or if they wanted to leave early, but I shall be forever in their debt.

  13. Well, if I’m being honest, his answer is certainly much better than a lot of the ones I’ve heard other Christians say. He didn’t say that he should cease all contact with the friend to avoid bringing up doubts in himself, for example.

    I always feel conflicted whenever I hear people like Billy Graham say things like these though. An inclusivist Christian who fought for civil rights at a time when all churches were segregated. It is hard to hate him, given that apart from his beliefs, he does come across as a genuinely good person that just wants to help people, but, well, how does that old quote go again…

    “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”

    1. Sorry, but no. Go back and listen to some of his old sermons (they’re still being rebroadcast on TV in my neck of the Bible Belt). He’s a straight-out “everyone’s going HELL but me” preacher. Disgusting. Loathsome.

      A mellifluous baritone voice does not make one a “nice person”.

  14. It may be that Christians can do little to convince atheists to convert but Billy you surely should be able to convince most Muslims, after all most of your work is already done, as they like you have already mistaken the imaginary for the real. So get to work on this and get back to us if you succeed because then you might actually have something there that we could discuss.

      1. Frank must be slipping, because this account is still blocked. I’ve had to block the odious bigot a half-dozen times — he keeps changing accounts. Must be running out of free e-mail clients to establish a new account.

  15. “How about just continue to be friends and stop trying to push your religion on him. It’s fucking annoying.”
    Hmmm, I never find it annoying, rather, somewhat endearing. It’s kind of nice that somebody cares enough about me to try to save me, the imaginary nature of that attempt notwithstanding.

    Plus, being that we are friends I feel much the same and enjoy the opportunity to engage in rational discourse on the subject in the hopes my friend will find the way out of the darkness of religion and into the light of rationality.

    “guiding the
    0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000003% of the
    observable universe we inhabit (yes, that’s just the amount we can see
    from Earth).”
    On an omnipotent being such ratios are irrelevant. Efficiency doesn’t matter when you have that much power. For example, consider how inefficient it is for us to produce Saffron.

    Also, what do you mean by “we see””? You mean the naked eye, yes, that is a believable calculation. If you mean “we see” in the more general sense of all observations made by humanity then no, we can see back to within 300,000 years after the big bang with the CMB, as well as very deep with the Hubble deep field and other very long distance observations.

    “The most important thing you can do for your friend is to pray for him,
    asking God to convict him of his sin and his pride and convince him of
    his need for Christ.”
    On an omniscient god with perfect foreknowledge prayer can have no effect. What, is god going to change his mind? If so, then the foreknowledge was not perfect. If god already knows what he is going to do then a prayer can have no effect. Can’t have it both ways, either god is not omniscient or prayer has no effect.

  16. Yes, pray for him.
    Like, pray for him all the time.
    Especially when the two of you are together in the same room.
    Your roommate would absolutely rejoice in your nonstop silent praying.
    Trust me, he will appreciate that in ways you cannot imagine.

  17. Also note that his roommate “says he is an atheist”, not simply *is* an atheist, because the idea of someone actually being comfortable with their atheism is inconceivable to this christian.

    1. The idea of someone being sincerely atheist is borderline foreign to these people. It’s all because we want to sin, y’know, and we just can’t look the empty sky in the face when we do.

  18. Actually, I liked this response from BG. He basically told the letter-writer* to go away, stop bothering his friend, and focus on his own behavior.
    *I’m pretty sure the letter-writer doesn’t exist.

  19. I gave Billy Graham a shot at me almost 60 years ago when he wasn’t a feeble old man. He couldn’t get the job done then. He’s got no chance now.

  20. Let’s get real here. Billy Graham is drooling-into-his-oatmeal demented (I have this on very good authority). No way he wrote the words attributed to him. His family has co-opted his name; it’s now a “brand” like Pepsi or Dear Abby.

    My local newspaper runs a daily (DAILY) column from “Graham” which is chock-a-block full of such useful advice. Saturday was from a young woman who thought she might have made a mistake in going to college — “Graham’s” advice — like EVERY OTHER COLUMN — is to “pray to God”.

      1. The ONLY advice the columns ever give is to “pray” or “give your heart to God” or some other equally facile nonsense.

        I’m tempted to write a letter to “Graham” saying that I’m a 12-year-old daughter of a crack whore and that my mom wants to have an auction for my virginity with some of her customers, but I don’t want to, but the bible says I have to do what my mother wants…so what should I do?

        I guarantee the reply will be to “pray”.

  21. If God doesn’t exist (as he claims), then he has no hope of life after death…
    I know I don’t speak for all atheists, this is purely my thoughts on an afterlife. I don’t hope for one, this one has been plenty long enough. The idea of living for eternity has zero appeal to me. I don’t care if it’s a happily ever after scenario, eternity lasts too long, and I would end up bored to the point of suicide, then it starts all over again. Nope count me out.

  22. “The most important thing you can do for your friend is to pray for him,
    asking God to convict him of his sin and his pride and convince him of
    his need for Christ.”

    If God loves atheists more than any Christian ever could (I think that’s what Christians believe) then WHY would He wait for a Christian to ask Him to help an Atheist become saved?

    1. “Ask god to convict him…” well screw you, Billy boy, and your imaginary monster under the bed you rode in on.

  23. The in-reverend Franky boy can pray all that he wants to but he and his imaginary sky god will never bring me back to religion. 12 years of Catholic schooling scarred my brain with indoctrination. I have finally recovered and don’t intend to go back.

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