Courtesy of author

A few years ago, I told my mother, a Christian woman from Mississippi who had freshly aged into her 60s, that I was an atheist. She didn’t speak to me for three days straight. I should be clearer—I actually told her, as we waited at the window of an Arby’s drive-thru, that God didn’t have a place in my life, since she’d asked me where God fit in my life. God certainly did not fit into the jamocha shake and curly fries I was about to devour, nor did he fit into the nice relaxing holiday I was trying to have away from school at that point, but my mother failed to notice the signals I was giving to this effect, and she pressed the issue.

Had I not been so thoroughly and godlessly enjoying my delicious ass beef n cheddar sandwich, curly fries, and jamocha shake on the way home, I probably would have put more stake into the tense, aggressive silence that my mother imposed on the car ride home. As it stood, I enjoyed the absolute shit out of my Arby’s, thank you very much, so that didn’t happen.

What did happen was that my mother watched more Christian programming than I had ever seen in the days to follow. And not just the Black pastors, either—she watched the little wrinkled old White men who emulated the Black preachers, too, spreading the word of the lord to little southern middle-aged White ladies. In fact, she would very deliberately change the channel to it when I would come into the room, glare at me, and then sit and watch. I wondered in these moments if she would tell me that my computer was the mark of the beast again, but she didn’t break her silence even for that. To be honest, I was a little relieved—you can only watch X Factor and America’s Got Talent with 60-somethings so much before you want to burn down the entire institution of entertainment. I digress.

I can only assume that my mother was doing her damnedest to convert me, despite the fact that I was clearly getting angry and ignoring her. Given her persistence, I’m assuming that was part of the plan—as a matter of fact, in the several uncomfortable conversations I’ve had with the pushier of Christians, I have been so thoroughly and vocally against talking about my religion that I can only assume their persistence in talking about it anyway is a part of some elaborate plan to get me closer to Jesus. Because I don't understand why Christians so worried about your soul and your religion would deliberately do anything to make you dislike religion more. That would just be silly.

Since I, too, care dearly about the state of everyone else’s souls, I’ve used my experiences to compile a list of the best things to do to get atheists to convert to your religion, for those who may not be assertive enough in their spirituality to do so.

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Say "You’ll Turn To God When You’re Down On Your Luck"

It is a well-known fact that atheists are entirely immune to the tragedies and tribulations that all believers must go through to grow in life and faith. Our lives are a scintillating and sin-filled flurry of hookers and dark liquor and orgies and Arby’s combo meals. Nothing bad really happens to atheists—or at least, nothing that bad possibly could have happened, since they are still uniformly blissful and ignorant and living their lives without believing in God, which is really not a sustainable thing. There is science somewhere in the Bible that proves this, probably.

Atheists carry with them a near-divine ability to not go through tragic or traumatizing life events. You are right in assuming that the atheist simply needs to go through a certain type of trauma in order to stop being a godless heathen—for the best effect, you should plan to not actually help them through the trauma, as they must learn to swim in the holy waters of the lord by trying not to drown in destitution. Telling them you’ll pray for them during this situation is a plus.

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To be fair, it is highly probably that this conversation will be the most obnoxious thing the atheist has experienced all week, so the people who do this are probably on to something.

Ask "What Made You Stop Believing In God?"

It is a well-known fact that every atheist has experienced some trauma that has caused them to move away from God. Atheists are all expert scientists and logicians—just a few months ago, in fact, my sister asked me to explain how she had a dream about a coworker having cancer, which then followed with a totally different coworker ending up with cancer some weeks later. I replied, “I donno, statistics, what the fuck,” to which she replied by nodding sagely and reluctantly changing the subject after about five not-so-subtle hints that I was not a diviner of dreams. But, since atheists are such experts at logic and science and yet somehow do not believe in God, there must be some serious issue that has caused them to move away from God, as God is the alpha and the omega, and what is more scientific than Greek letters? Despite the fact that they probably expressed not even wanting to have this personal ass conversation, asking them about this nebulous trauma makes sense in context, since all atheists are really just lost souls looking for a random shoulder to cry on, like the little Jamaican lady who saw my skirt falling only six inches above my knees, eyed me judgmentally, and asked me what church I attended. I lied to get her to leave me alone, because, you know, heathen/atheist.

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A really skilled evangelist will manage to fit this in with the “Down on Your Luck” piece and imply that something terrible must have caused the atheist to stop believing even though the atheist has still not experienced that one thing that will make them suddenly need God more than anything else, including therapy or a stable income or a way to get out of religion conversations they did not consent to.

Ask Them A Bunch of Probing Questions, And Ignore Their Answers

This is most effective when the atheist is reading a book, or at the dinner table, or at any other time where you would normally find it rude to ask very personal questions about someone’s beliefs and philosophy. Since the atheist is by nature a free spirit, they will appreciate your commitment to finding out the truth, and they will even more thoroughly appreciate your dedicated decision to ignore each and every thing they are saying. If an atheist appreciates anything, it’s a cynic—a cynic who completely ignores the other side of a conversation they are taking part in is essentially their version of God. And if there’s any time to deify yourself, it’s when you’re talking to an atheist. They really like that deity shit.

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Praise God…All the Time

In much the same way that your friends are always super keen to hear about your new diet or workout regimen and how happy and healthy you feel, your atheist friends are just a few “praise Gods” away from really taking action and doing what it is that you do every day. Just tell them what wonderful things the lord has brought into your life this week, tell them how much you enjoyed church, and find the most awkward and critical way possible to invite them to your place of worship. Maybe bring up the depression the atheist went into when their ex cheated, since God finally got you through yours after several months of therapy and not dating and a bunch of other things you’ll selectively ignore in this narrative.

Be sure to praise God whenever the atheist has something good happen in their life—positive reinforcement is always a good thing, and the discomfort they feel as they have to ignore you or swiftly change the subject is just a test God is putting them through. It’ll work eventually, and you’ll get used to completing the “God is good all the time and all the time God is good,” call and response on your own under your breath.

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Say the Same Things Over and Over and Over and Over and Over Again

Should the atheist actually decide to engage with you about the word of God, you must be prepared. This is your chance! Don’t worry if the atheist says they don’t want to talk about it—this categorically means that they have no solid reason to not be religious, which you should combatively accuse them of as your opening.

Undoubtedly, the atheist will be prepared with reasons that they are an atheist; these reasons are not always related to science or even logic, but you should assume as much in your conversation and immediately begin arguing against the doctrine of atheism—and there definitely is one, since atheism is a religion, a religion which you should essentially treat as a douchey and arrogant application of the scientific method no matter what the atheist says. Essentially, it’s okay to assume every atheist is Richard Dawkins. They’ll take it as a compliment as he is the White Jesus of their religion.

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If you’re a Christian who doesn’t actually read the Bible — which, if my experience in these conversations tells me anything, should not stop you from trying to argue about it with other people — you have the best ammo. Bible verse aside, all you need to do is repeat yourself over, and over, and over, and over again—this could even provide the trauma that the atheist will need to call upon God to escape your repetitive wrath. Here’s all you really need to know:

Because God said so. Because it’s in the Bible. Because the Bible is the word of the Lord. Because you have to have faith in the Bible. Because the Bible is the word of God. Because you must have faith in God. Because the Bible says so.

KEEP. AT. IT. Be a human thesaurus for the word of Jesus. This is foolproof—I know, because it’s happened every time I have made the grave error of caving to have this conversation when the first fifteen times I refused to have it didn’t work. Since people keep doing this, it must have some profound effect on atheists. Or maybe it just gets pushy Christians off at night. I can’t really be sure.