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If one has a friend who's and atheist--someone who believes in evolution, big bang, etc--what methods can you use to convince him to abandon his old ways and start keeping some of the mitzvot?

Bible codes can be chalked up to coincidence. Proofs from the laws of the kashrut can be said to be generalized and not conclusively proven. Predictions prophesied can be retorted by saying that if you look for something in such a vast collection of texts anything could be found. If you try to suggest torah lectures for them to watch, they will say that they don't have an hour to listen to nonsense.

Granted atheism can be used as a device to rationalize not following the Torah or God, can any method in particular penetrate this particular mindset?

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  • Simply don't. A true friend should accept his friend for what he is. I don't like what you wrote at all. You state that someone is an atheist, if he believes in evolution? These two concepts do not mutually exclude each other.
    – mike
    Sep 18 '13 at 13:18
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    I thought atheism meant believing that no god exists.
    – Double AA
    Sep 18 '13 at 13:34
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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/5521/2
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 18 '13 at 13:39
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    Is your friend disinterested (in which case Isaac's link should help), or hostile? Sep 18 '13 at 14:31
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    @MonicaCellio, I would actually submit that the disinterested/hostile distinction would be how to decide between the more active approach you wrote in response to the other question and the more passive approach I wrote here. I think that simply being an example of how you think people ought to be has potential to help even people who are hostile to Judaism be less so, if they love and respect you.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 18 '13 at 14:45
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One of my teachers at KBY told me the following story:

A chossid went to his rebbe and asked for a segula for his son to grow up to be a talmid chochom.
The rebbe said "Go, sit down, and learn."
"I'm sorry, rebbe, I didn't say that clearly enough. I'm looking for a segula for my son to be a talmid chochom."
"Go, sit down, and learn."
"But rebbe, I'm not asking for myself; I'm asking for my son!"
Finally, the rebbe explained, "Don't you understand? The most important thing you can possibly do to get your son to devote himself to learning Torah and becoming a talmid chochom is to do that yourself. Your example is the most powerful influence you have on him."

I think this principle applies to influencing friends, as well. The most powerful tool you have for inspiring others toward belief in God and observance of His Torah is to strengthen your own belief and observance as much as possible. You probably don't have a connection with your friends like a father has with his son, but to the degree that you are able to maintain a relationship of mutual love and respect, your friend will have a chance of being influenced by your example.

טוב לצדיק טוב לשכינו
Good for the righteous one; good for his neighbor.

Abbaye, Sukka 56b

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  • This answer would work well for two neighbors or co-workers that see each other frequently. However, for acquaintances, that converse once a month or so, a snapshot of a jew living righteously might not be enough. It would be greatly influential if something to think about was implanted in the non-observant jew that would make him start thinking objectively and considering all the schools of thought out there.
    – Ani Yodea
    Sep 18 '13 at 19:19
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    @Ramin, I really doubt that such a magic bullet exists.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 18 '13 at 19:28
  • Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi (divineinformation.com) does just that but you have to first get the person to listen to him
    – Ani Yodea
    Sep 18 '13 at 20:02
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You mentioned that your friend "believes in evolution, big bang etc.". I believe a first step in dialogue with non religious individuals is to do away with the false notion that certain "beliefs" are inconsistent with Torah. The "big bang" is a great example. Big bang describes the development of the universe AFTER the creation of yesh me'ayin and is NOT in conflict with Torah. Similarly non religious individuals like to argue that the universe is 15 billion years old and not 5781 years. It may be an eye opener to point out that the age of the universe is NOT dogma. Neither the Talmud nor the Rishonim (to my limited knowledge) make this point central to Jewish belief. There is an amazing essay by Rabbi Shimon Schwab Z"L in a publication called "Challenges" that addresses this issue. Once your friend realizes that he/she may have misconceptions about Torah beliefs, the door may be open for further dialogue.

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I don't think anyone "believes" in the Big Bang and evolution etc. I think they believe in the lifestyle that takes these elements as a given and which is based on the weltanschauung that follows these ideas (see Michtav Me'Eliyahu - me'olam lo haya apikorus amiti et al.) I am also not convinced in makes very much difference what a person believes in (vis-a-vis these sort of things) relative to their Torah observance.

However, regarding postmodern idealogues, a summary of their claim to fame can be stated as, "We have created a new world of love and we have left behind your anachronistic world of lovelessness and strictures."

In which case I would say it is more relevant to point out that the new world which has been created based on evolution and the Big Bang is not quite as loving as people think it is and that you are far more likely to find love within the walls of the beis ha'medrash than you are to find love at a Rolling Stones concert (or whatever the modern equivalent is (may be showing my age)).

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