Jesuit father: Like Pope Francis said, proselytizing to atheists is 'pious nonsense'

Father James Martin said Tuesday night that he has no interest in beating nonbelievers over the head with his Christian faith.

During an appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word," Martin was asked to attempt to convert atheist Penn Jillette, who was sitting beside him.

"I have a lot of friends who are atheists and agnostics so it is not some new thing to me," he replied. "I think it is hard to convert people, other than to invite them to have an experience of God. I think the thing that I would probably do -- not here -- would be to talk to you about possible spiritual experiences that you've had and just listen to where you are. But I think conversion... Pope Francis himself called conversion 'pious nonsense,' proselytism is 'pious nonsense.'"

Martin, who like Pope Francis is a Jesuit, said Jesus simply invited others to follow him. He did not try to force them to become believers.

"Atheism is, to many respects, a reasonable thing to sort of posit from looking around at the world," he added later in the segment. "I don't posit that and I don't believe in that but, yeah, it is perfectly reasonable for people to think that, and I think it is important to accompany them and not hit them over the head with something because, really, that does no good."

"That is not the way Jesus acted and that is not the way Christians should act."

Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC, below: