This might sound like an odd question, but I hope it's on-topic.

Say an atheist/agnostic approaches you and asks, "how can I get to believe in God?". Out of instinct/experience, you can say things like "pray, read, talk to a priest, go to a church, etc".

I wonder if there is some sort of "official guide" in the Catholic Church directed to non believers, so they can get to know God. I'm thinking in terms of encyclicals, exhortations, pastoral documents, or even something based on doctrine. Any ideas?

  • This is a great question, however, terms like "Believer" at least in my experience, don't ring Catholic. For example, if a non-Catholic comes up to me and says, "are you a believer?" I'd have to think about it. First of all, chances are they believe in a whole bunch of stuff I can't imagine believing in. As a Catholic Evangelical Christian, I would consider it a quest to "Getting to Know God". To that end, there are many ways, it often takes times and exposure to the Charity of the Church.
    – Marc
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 14:07
  • @Marc Yes, to believe is indeed very broad. I am not concerned here with full belief in e.g. the dogmas of the Catholic Church, but in the core of things, i.e. in God. Atheists deny (the Christian) God. Agnostics state it's impossible to know anything, even if (the Christian) God exists.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 14:13
  • I think you will find general answers to this "there is a God size hole in all of us" that kind of thing. My experience as someone who reaches out to both separated brethren and the Athiest and/or Agnostics is that each individual is different in not only knowledge but intellect. The greatest tool an evangelist can have is patience and empathy. We live in a confusing world where, to the misfortune of the cause, Christian can and are the worst examples of Christ. This is our failure, as Christians.
    – Marc
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 14:18
  • @Marc I'm sure there are tons of opinions and examples that can provide an answer the question. But I am particularly asking for an "authoritative" document by the Church, or the closest thing to it. Otherwise this end up being an opinion-based question, and therefore off-topic.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 14:21

2 Answers 2


St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa contra Gentiles ("Summary treatise against [the errors of] the pagans") was written precisely to convert those who do not accept the authority of the Christian Holy Scriptures. From bk. 1 ch. 2 ("The Author's Intention in the Present Work") [3]:

…the Mohammedans and the pagans, do not agree with us in accepting the authority of any Scripture, by which they may be convinced of their error. Thus, against the Jews we are able to argue by means of the Old Testament, while against heretics we are able to argue by means of the New Testament. But the Muslims and the pagans accept neither the one nor the other. We must, therefore, have recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent. However, it is true, in divine matters the natural reason has its failings.

cf. this bibliography for the English translations of the Summa contra Gentiles

  • heh, so that's St. Thomas Aquinas' sales pitch for the Summa Apologia?
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 17:44
  • @PeterTurner Yes, marketing skills are useful in academia. ☺
    – Geremia
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:01
  • Aquinas, of course! This passage in Chapter 3 is at the heart of the matter: "But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like. In fact, such truths about God have been proved demonstratively by the philosophers, guided by the light of the natural reason." As far as I know, that is actually Catholic doctrine (that reason can, through the explorations of nature alone, arrive to the conclusion that there is a God). Which again brings to my mind this talk.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:22
  • I'll certainly have a look at that work. Thanks!
    – luchonacho
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:22
  • @luchonacho "that is actually Catholic doctrine (that reason can, through the explorations of nature alone, arrive to the conclusion that there is a God)." Yes, that was defined at the First Vatican Council. See the quotes in this answer.
    – Geremia
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:17

Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical God is Love is a good start, it offers the once guiding principle that Christianity is an Encounter with a Person, Jesus Christ.

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction

The Gospels are the best way to get to know about Jesus and the shortest Gospel, Mark is the best one. A priest told a Cathechism class I taught that the thing that took him from business to the priesthood was reading Mark's Gospel on a trip one night, start-to-finish.

So it's gotta be a personal encounter and the Church helps. But the manual for conversion is the Bible and prayer (or spouses). That's one reason the Catholics don't go door to door proselytizing. The examples of authentically practiced Christianity should be enough for anyone to want to join up. Just shine, as the Newsboys' would say. Given the right circumstances, we'd be canonizing St. Mahatma Gandhi who said:

I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Which is the ultimate cop-out. If a person can't find enough good examples, there's always the Lives of the Saints, which is like, the best Christmas present for athiests.

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