We know and believe in the Qur’an and the Almighty Allah and thus have no difficulty understanding that there is a Creator of this universe. What line of reasoning should be used when pursuing an atheist? I mean, since he does not even believe in the revelations, how can he be persuaded to understand the existence of Allah?
Before I answer your question regarding how to argue with an atheist I would recommend that you answer some questions to yourself first. Are you arguing to point out the Truth? Are you arguing to prove your verbal combative skill or art of argument better than the atheist? Are you arguing because you yourself are unsure of what you believe? Are you arguing because when you’re attacked (academically speaking) you find yourself unable to defend your position quiet confidently? Do you have a good grasp on Islam for you to answer many potentially difficult questions that may challenge your own understanding? Finally, why are you arguing and what is your purpose?
Although, I believe that “arguments” have become a tool for disputation I feel that if proper dialog and etiquette are submitted to by both parties then great progress can be made. I would put forth that sometimes “progress” is only achieving understanding and not necessarily getting the other side to agree with you. Look at the definition of argument below and see if it matches your intentions:
To give an ‘argument’ means to offer a set of reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion… an argument is not simply a statement of certain views, and it is not simply a dispute. Arguments are attempts to support certain views with reasons… Argument is essential, in the first place, because it is a way of trying to find out which views are better than others… Arguments in this sense is a means of inquiry… – Anthony Weston
After you have understood your purpose and the reasons behind arguing you can move on to the steps towards a dialog with an atheist. First of all clear your mind of any negative presumptions and prejudices about this person in particular and atheists in general. For example if you believe that this person is a going to hell for not believing in God, then you need to let go of that. After all how could “not believing” in God be a sin if the person has not been presented with the Truth? Keep in mind that a sin is committed when someone intentionally and knowingly disobeys God’s rules. Another thing one should keep themselves in check for is the “I’m better off because I know the Truth” attitude. Condescending behavior is picked up easily and turns away many people regardless of how beautiful the message is.1 I suggest you live by these words during your dialog:
Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance. (Al-Nahl 16: 125)
Before your mouth makes a sound, humble yourself and ask the Lord for guidance and strength. Ask for the ability to present Islam in the most correct way. Be prepared to answer difficult question because many atheists are so because of education and knowledge not ignorance. Listening is your most powerful tool. Sometimes people are so over zealous in their mission to spread the Truth that they end up talking to themselves. People will shut a babbling person out and cannot wait to get out of the situation. Don’t make talking to you a situation. So listen with truthful interest to what the person has to say. Find out how the person became an atheist. That should suffice for a long conversation. You should be shrewd to pick up on things in the person’s conversation to understand better his/her situation. Find commonalities. Almost every person has questioned their own beliefs. We’ve all asked “why” at some point or another in our lives. Share how you’ve come to the conclusion that Islam is the Truth and how your “why’s” and “how’s” have been answered. Ask the person what are the basis of the belief of God’s non existence. Ask the person what is the point of doing good and why his/her consciousness bothers him/her when committing wrong? You can ask questions that regard pondering the Universe and its laws.
There are so many questions and so many twists and turns in your conversation that you may end up learning something about yourself. I will refrain from further suggestions because I don’t want to make your arguments for you. Besides I don’t know the person and I tend to view every person as a universe unto themselves. Their individuality is important therefore there is no one way or general line of reasoning to persuade a person. It all depends on the persons’ intellectual capacity and willingness to accept Truth. The essential parts of argument or dialog are the investment of your time, intentions and truthful concern for your fellow humans. It is then up to the person to accept or reject Truth, with the hope that you have presented it in the most accurate way possible.
I hope I have helped.
God knows Best.