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Question: How do I help people that won't be helped?

I received a question from someone today. I've stripped the details out of their question and posted a modified version of my answer to them below in case it is helpful to others.

Q: Over the last few years or so I have known several individuals who have stopped believing in God as the result of faith crises. 

I have tried to help them see the evidence for God in spite of the bad examples by many religious people and institutions.

What do you do with people like this? How do you reach them? Is there anything that can be done besides "be patient"?

A: If by being patient you mean doing nothing, that's always a terrible idea.

Religions tend to teach that righteousness is a binary attribute. It isn't. It's continuous. We don't have to worry about people being 100% or 0%. Hardly anyone is either.

Instead, we ought to think in terms of shades of improvement, or improvement as a series of contiguous, successive steps. 

Everything is connected to everything. People who lose all hope in God tend to have bigger problems in their lives than belief in God. In order to discredit or disregard the volumes of evidence supporting his existence, they must be turning away from what they know in significant ways in other aspects of life.

Righteousness means "in accordance with reality" or "believing and behaving in the best way given how things really are" or "living after the manner of happiness" or "living to have the greatest happiness given how things really are." 

If you want to help them, apply your understanding of what is best to their lives. For any person, think "what is the very next smallest step they can take towards improvement?" Then, do what you can seen and unseen to make that change easier for them. If they embrace, repeat with the next higher step. If they resist, downshift to the new smallest step you can think of. If you can't think of a smaller step, do nothing until you can.

Note that improvement is a very broad topic. It is highly likely that for these three people you know, the smallest thing has nothing to do with religion. Maybe it is taking responsibility to mow the lawn instead of waiting till their wives nag them about it. Maybe it is spending more time with their kids. Maybe it is watching less TV. Whatever it is, you can bet it is a much smaller thing than religion, writ large.

I hope that helps.