In my sixth form I often get into arguments about the faith with atheists and find that sometimes I don’t do very well. Is it better just to keep quiet and pray?
Taking exaggerated positions in debate is part of the process of maturing for intelligent young people and there is no reason why you should not try to answer attacks on the faith.
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST
As disciples of Christ, we are not trying to win an argument for the sake of personal pride, but to win souls for Christ, an act of charity by which we seek the good of the other person. Don’t be despondent if you come away from a discussion feeling that you have ‘let the side down’.
WINNING SOULS FOR CHRIST: AN ACT OF CHARITY
Use this opportunity to look up more information on the internet or in good books. Perhaps consult a priest or another person who can help. Take advantage of the motivation to be better informed in the future, and always keep the principal goal in mind, that of bringing the truth to others in a way that will most help them to be open to Christ. Young people are the best apostles to other young people and you will know how best to talk to your peers.
BRINGING THE TRUTH TO OTHERS IN A WAY THAT WILL HELP THEM TO BE OPEN TO CHRIST
When we debate with others, our Christian courtesy should be evident, but this does not exclude a spirited defence of the faith. Atheists will sometimes poke fun at your beliefs. It is legitimate to use amusing examples in reply, always retaining respect and good humour.
The experience of the cut and thrust of debate is valuable in your own formation as an apostle. As you gain experience in the kinds of argument that your atheist friends use, you will become more confident in answering them.
GAINING EXPERIENCE AND CONFIDENCE AS A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST
Gradually you will find that because your love of the faith is a part of your life, rather than a passing enthusiasm for a popular fad [atheism] you will become an apologist, not concerned with beating others down but with bringing them to the truth. Always keep in your heart the words of St Paul: ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel.'”
– This article by Fr Tim Finigan entitled “Catholic Dilemmas” [text in brackets and capital headings added afterwards] was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue October 18 2013. For subscriptions please visit http://www.caatholicherald.co.uk (external link).