Evangelist Billy Graham was asked by a reader in his syndicated column on Feb. 15 why the reader's atheist friend was kind while some Christians are "difficult and unpleasant."
Graham appeared to struggle with his answer about atheists, whom he said have "little reason to behave sacrificially toward others":
Why is your atheist friend like this? By God’s grace, some people simply have been blessed with a sunny and kind personality, or they had parents who taught them to be kind. Perhaps this was her situation. But I do know this: your friend isn’t this way because of her atheism, but in spite of it. A person who doesn’t believe in God has little reason to behave sacrificially toward others (although it may make them feel good inside if they are kind).
I also know this: If your friend ever opens her heart and life to Jesus Christ, she’ll become an even kinder and more loving person than she is right now. God will come to live within her by His Holy Spirit, and her life will begin to change. The Bible says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).
Don’t let the bad example of a few weak Christians keep you from Christ. Instead, by faith commit your life to Jesus Christ, and ask Him to change you into the person He wants you to be. Then pray for your friend, and ask God to make you an example to her of Christ’s life-changing power and love.
The Friendly Atheist countered Graham's answer:
That’s not true. You know how I know that? Because the original letter talks about a Christian who’s difficult and unpleasant. Turning to Jesus doesn’t make good people better. In plenty of cases, it makes annoying people even more insufferable.
I’ll take the kindness of someone who isn’t doing it for an eternal reward over someone who’s generous in order to please God any day.
Graham’s response is also foolish because he suggests the only reason people like him are kind is because God’s forcing them to be that way. (Also, if his son Franklin is supposed to be a walking, talking example of that kindness, it’d be news to a lot of LGBT people whose lives have been ruined because of his rhetoric and influence.)