Atheists can be a difficult bunch to argue with. No matter how much of the Word is witnessed to them they will cling to a stubborn insistence that they can't believe something unless it makes sense - not to mention their never ending whining about evidence.
At some point in an encounter with an atheist you may come to realise that despite your best efforts he is never going to stop trying to make sense of everything and just set aside his own limited mind's ability to reason long enough to ask God for the faith to believe in Him. Once this point is reached the best you can hope for is to exit the encounter with some dignity. In order to do this it may become necessary to confuse and confound the atheist long enough to get in the last word with a choice Bible verse and make a hasty exit before he realises what just happened.
Confusing an atheist can be easier than you might think. You need only know your enemy. The atheist prizes reason and logic above all else. Since he will assume that your beliefs are also based on some form of reasoning this can be turned against him. If you present him with an argument that you remember hearing from Church and sound sincere enough he will assume that there must be some logic to the argument and will waste a great deal of his mental energy trying to understand what it is. But the joke is on him! Don't base your arguments on reasoning, base them on faith, instead of showing evidence, quote Bible verses. If you really want to see him furrow his brow in confusion try this one - tell him that you have faith in the Lord because he sent his son Jesus to die for our sins. Say nothing else, he will pause waiting for you to finish your argument, it will take him a while to realise that you've already finished!
Here are a few more tried and tested strategies to keep in mind when battling with atheists:
Use passages of the Bible as evidence that other passages must be true
When an atheist asks for evidence that a passage in the Bible is true you must immediately point him to another passage that supports it. Since this completely misses the point of what the atheist is seeking it is certain to irritate him. From his point of view what you are doing is the equivalent of recalling the same shady witness to the stand when he actually asked for a new witness or some other supporting evidence.
Refuse to accept that the Bible is either the Word of God or it's not
Make it difficult for the atheist to argue with you by remaining opaque about your beliefs. Profess a belief in some parts of the Bible but be vague about others and leave open the possibility that you think they might just be stories or metaphors. This gives you lots of useful 'wriggle room' and causes the atheist to waste most of his mental energy just trying to figure out which particular subset of religious beliefs you hold! For example you might say, 'Well I'm not so sure that Jonah really lived for 3 days in the belly of a whale but Jesus definitely rose from the dead!'
Why in the world would that statement bother an atheist you ask? Well to carry the witness analogy a bit further most atheists think this is like saying that you're pretty sure a witness was mistaken about the first part of his testimony but you’re absolutely confident that he was correct about the last part of it. Trust me; to an atheist such a thing would make no sense. If he comes back with, "If everything you know about God comes from the Bible then isn't it pretty important that it's a reliable and trustworthy source of information?" or some other witty retort, remain calm. Simply smile knowingly and reply, "I don't just know of God from the Bible, I have a personal relationship with Jesus and he is with me all the time."
Refuse to accept that there are any blatantly immoral teachings in the Bible
You must flat out deny this no matter how many passages he points to about slavery, slaughter of women and children, stoning people to death for minor offences or whatever. The atheist will hate this. From their perspective atheists find it utterly astounding that believers can insist that they hold a monopoly on morality and goodness since the Bible is full of immoral teachings. Be sure not to be drawn in by their arguments on this issue which can be quite persuasive if you let your own limited mind think about it too long. If you catch yourself doing this stop immediately, take a deep breath and allow the Holy Spirit to once more fill you and renew your faith.
One of the best ways to have an atheist turn himself inside out with frustration on this issue is to cite the story of Abraham and Isaac and tell him what a beautiful story of faith and devotion and trust in the Lord it is. Explain to him how you exalt the example of Abraham and teach it to your children to show them how they are supposed to Love God unconditionally and do as he commands in the Bible without question. The atheist will be aghast that you teach such things to your children and will claim it was immoral of God to command Abraham to sacrifice his child. You must point out the great mercy and love God showed by having an angel stop it at the last minute. At this point the atheist will become very agitated and will insist that it was immoral to even command it and immoral for Abraham to have agreed to do it. He will probably also express astonishment that you cannot see this. Pretend to listen politely until he is finished then calmly suggest to him that perhaps God was foreshadowing the way he would save the world through the sacrifice of his beloved son Jesus. Let him think about this for a few moments and then look at him smugly as if you think you have just blown his mind and ask, "Can you not see how much God loves you, to do as Abraham was willing to do and sacrifice his own son to save you?"
To continue to poke the bear, bring up the story of Job.
Admit that you've only ever read a few parts of the Bible
If you argue strongly an atheist will assume that you have made a serious study of your faith and will have at least read the entire Bible once. If you are more of a moderate Christian and prefer to just get the gist of things from your local Church group then be open about it. In your battle to outwit the atheist it can only work in your favour since it will support the atheists view that you just believe what other people tell you without seeking knowledge for yourself. This will cause him to lower his guard since he will no longer consider you a worthy opponent to debate. You may be surprised to know that a lot of atheists have gone to the trouble of reading the whole Bible and it will offend them in some way to think that you, who actually claim it is all the absolute word of God - have not. When he points this out to you tell him that the Bible says a Christian doesn't need to read all of God's words in order to know the Word of God. If he asks you where it says that tell him you will get back to him. Don't worry, great religious leaders have been using this bluff technique for centuries and it can never fail since given time you can find a passage in the Bible to support any claim you make.
Say that you accept evolution as a scientific fact but that it merely shows God's awesome power
For some reason atheists don't like it when religious people embrace the scientific truth of evolution on one hand but claim that God chose evolution as the means by which he would create man on the other. Perhaps it has something to do with the many years that Christians kept insisting that evolution was nonsense until finally the evidence for it could be denied no more. Remember, they are still cranky about religious people's insistence that the earth was the centre of the universe for so long. Not to mention how all those people got burnt at the stake because the Bible commands believers not to suffer a witch to live. Oh - and the way Christians kept trying to cast out demons like Jesus did, from all those people who were actually just afflicted with epilepsy or Tourettes syndrome.
You can easily explain this away by suggesting that the wonderful thing about God is that he gradually reveals more and more about the natural world as time passes and His final judgement draws nearer. The atheist will be outraged by this statement and will insist that science and not God has revealed these truths to us. He may even claim that religion has strenuously tried to retard science every step of the way - deny this is true and refer to some scientist you have heard of who was a believing Christian as proof.
On another level, many atheists simply cannot see why God would choose to create man by such an incredibly slow and painful process that would take many millions of years until finally the first humans could evolve. You must be careful to maintain your insistence that God created man perfect and without sin since the very fabric of Christianity begins to unravel if you don't. Insist that the first two humans that ever evolved were perfect and had no knowledge of good and evil. Suggest that the reason the Biblical account of Genesis talks of God creating man from the dust of the ground is because God knew people back then had yet to discover evolution and therefore could only understand a simpler explanation in parable form. This is guaranteed to really launch an all out assault on the atheists respect for well ordered thinking.
Claim that one cannot understand the Bible until one has accepted Jesus as his Lord
Explain to the atheist that the reason he thinks the Bible is an immoral book full of contradictions and superstitious beliefs is because he has not accepted Jesus and been able to read it through spiritual eyes guided by the Holy Ghost. The atheist of course will not understand and may even protest that your statement is utterly absurd. Like a Judo exponent you must absorb the force of his attack and redirect it back at him - claim that the strength of his protest is proof that his mind is closed to spiritual things.
Challenge the atheist to explain how the universe came into being if God did not create it
Mock and ridicule the idea that something as complex as the universe could just arise out of nothing but at the same time make it perfectly clear that you have no problem with the idea that an omnipotent God could just arise out of nothing. When the atheist asks where God is supposed to have come from, explain that the Bible says that God is the Alpha and the Omega and thus he has always existed. If he protests that your answer is nonsense merely keep repeating it as if it did answer his question but he is just too closed minded to see why. To further provoke his annoyance point out in a patronising way that Alpha and Omega means the beginning and the end since he is sure to know that already.
Take positions that suggest you are contemptuous of morality and justice.
If the atheist asks you why God allows innocent children to be stricken with horrible diseases and other kinds of suffering - explain to him that no one is really innocent and all people have sinned in God's eyes. He will express disgust at this core belief of Christianity and will try to claim that a 3 year old child with cancer is innocent of any sin and Christian beliefs lead to the conclusion that the child is being made to suffer unjustly for the crimes of others. Explain to him that the child is not being punished and that the suffering is only occurring because mankind sinned against God in the first place. The atheist may begin to develop a facial tic or other stress related symptom at this point before exploding with a tirade of moral outrage which will probably go something like this:
"Of course he isn't being punished - that would imply that he had actually done something wrong - he is being made to suffer unjustly for the crimes of others. You say that the child is only suffering because mankind sinned against God. When you say mankind you mean a bunch of people who lived before the child was even born and/or other people who are currently living in the child’s time. In other words the child is suffering because of the sins of other people - none of it has anything to do with his own sins because he is only 3 and not yet capable of even understanding what a sin is, let alone committing one. When someone is made to suffer because of something they did - that's called punishment. When someone is made to suffer because of something someone else did that's called inflicting unjust suffering!"
At this point you might want to explain to him that Satan causes cancer not God so why does he keep insisting on blaming God for the childs suffering?
He may then make the claim that if God created Satan and then permitted him to create cancer then God is still the one who ultimately caused cancer. If this happens it will be a good time to point out that even though it does seem a bit unfair for a 3 year old to be made to suffer because of what someone else did, it doesn't really matter anyway because God will make it right in the end - he has a plan.
When the atheist demands to know what kind of plan could possibly make it OK for God to inflict terrible and unjust suffering on an innocent child you must lay the foundations for your next statement carefully. Begin by staring straight into the atheist’s eyes and taking a deep breath. He may lean forward expectantly to hear your answer. Pause for a few moments to build the suspense a little then say, "Even if I knew it to tell you, neither of us could possibly understand it - such is the awesome mind of God!"
The atheist will look at you aghast, one of his eyes may even begin to flicker independently of the other one - this is a good sign, it either means your great moral truths are finally getting through to him or he is about to have a stroke. Either way you are now in the best position you can hope for - quote a Bible verse that is completely unrelated to anything you have been talking about and get the hell out of there!