HELP! I have to talk with a Pastor about Atheism tomorrow!!!!!

I really am sort of freaked out about this whole thing. You guys have always had my back and given me good guidance on here. So please tell me what you would say...

I've daydreamed about how a conversation with my old southern baptist pastor would go... I would give him plenty of facts, he would have no good arguments in return and revert to his poor excuses for arguments he has used a thousand times before. But I did not think my dad would actually set up a meeting for me with the pastor after I mentioned how I could set the pastor straight the other day. Sigh...

I don't want to turn down this opportunity though. I'm curious of what he will say about some things and I'm wondering how well I can do holding up my end of the argument as well. Who knows... Maybe both of us will get something useful out of our conversation.

So here it is. If you were face-to-face with a southern baptist pastor you didn't really know, what would you say to him about atheism vs christianity?

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You must have done pretty well, if he got desperate and pulled the What if your Wrong quote. 

Pascal's wager is stupid. Even IF there was an entity capable of creating the whole universe, and everything in it, why would it care what a insignificant life form would think. If there was something capable of punishing you for what is basically a form of thoughtcrime, than it would be immoral and not worthy of worship. 

 “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.”  Marcus Aurelius

LOL! So true! And I love that quote!

Good job, Keri.  It takes a lot of courage to stand your ground and defend your views.


I'd steer away from the comparisons of Jesus with other deities like Horus, Mithra, etc., though.  This is a controversial area of discussion, as most mainstream scholars discount the Christ-Myth Theory.  Atheist Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman even wrote a book recently called "Did Jesus Exist?" in which he argues for the existence of a historical Jesus (though one very different from the picture one gets of Jesus in the gospels).  That isn't to say that good arguments can't be made in support of Jesus being a myth, but in having a discussion with a pastor, I'd stick with arguments about which secular scholars and liberal Christians are in a general concensus.


Speaking of Ehrman, if you haven't read his books like "Misquoting Jesus" or "Forged", I'd recommend them.  He also has some more scholarly works like "The Orthodox Corruption of Scriptures" and "Lost Christianities".  These books will help you pin the pastor down on the reliability of the gospels.  Ask the pastor if he attended a seminary and, if he did, what they taught there about questions like who wrote the gospels, whether the pastoral epistles were written by Paul, etc.  I'd also be interested to know if he knows about and/or has an opinion on the Documentary Hypothesis (that the first five books of the Old Testament were compiled from 4 independent sources with varying traditions). 


Additionally, I'd recommend watching the course lectures on New Testament Studies from Yale University:


Another avenue of argument I'd pursue is what John Loftus calls "The Outsider Test For Faith".  Basically, the idea is to have the pastor look at Christianity from the perspective of an outsider who knows nothing about the religion.  Loftus gives the following arguements:

1)  Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and cultural heritage.

2)  Consequently, it seems very likely that adopting one's religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions to an overwhelming degree.

3)  Hence the odds are highly likely that any given adopted religious faith is false.

4)  So the best way to test one's adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism used to evaluate other religious faiths.


For instance, pretend you were born in India to Hindu parents.  All your family and friends are Hindu (and maybe a few Muslims).  All of your life, you've been taught that Hinduism is the true religion and it dominates your country's culture.  You may have heard of Christianity, but generally think it is something people believe "over there" (Western nations - Europe, US, Australia, etc.).  Given all of this, if you met a Christian and they gave you a Bible and said how Jesus changed their life, what are the odds you'd accept his/her beliefs as something worth believing yourself?


By the way, I'm currently reading "The Case For Christ" right now as well.  I'd recommend getting the book "Challenging The Verdict" by Earl Doherty, which is a refutation of Strobel's book.  I'm reading one chapter of Strobel's book and then going back and reading Doherty's counter to the arguments in that chapter.



The responses here are great; can't add much. I wouldn't worry about details; he may twist you up on that. Just get across to him that you find comfort in the real world, and not the supernatural world.

I think you should pray about it.

HA!  :D

Roland... you are totally taking the wrong view of this whole thing. I'm a college student, nearing graduation. I've been debating with my christian parents a lot since I got back home for summer break. My dad arranged for me to have a meeting with the pastor. I didn't turn down the opportunity because I love a challenge. Also, I wanted a religious debate with someone with a lot more experience to put up a stronger fight for Christianity. My religious family and friends just avoid my arguments against Christianity. Granted, I was a little disappointed of how flawed the pastor's arguments were. I didn't expect good arguments, but I expected them to be better than what he gave me.

And I live me life completely for me... Playing with fire is just my style. And trust me... when you're in the bible belt and you're an atheist... it's fire.

Actually... That is something I've been approaching..... Let me explain. So, ever since I got back here for the summer, there has been a lot of religion debate. I haven't really debated these things with christians I knew before. But it's getting a little........ Too much, annoying, pointless, dragging on... etc. So I've decided I should drop the whole thing. Problem is, my whole family doesn't know I'm an atheist yet. So... maybe I'll manage to spread the word soon. I do feel obligated to do the case for christ though, since it was a deal with the pastor watching an atheist movie on his end. Maybe I'll watch the case for christ movie and then end things with him. But I really do see myself ending these debates in the near future.

Hi Keri,

Like you, my christian  family doesn't know I am an atheist, although my wife knows I am not really a believer. I also had a a good long time friend who was "born-again" pull out his stack of "the case for Christ" books that he had on hand for all of his non-believer friends. Christians really think Strobel's books are a slam dunk for evidence.Read it and you will see it is really a primer on fallacious argruments. If you do go back to have another discussion with that pastor after reading "the case", it may serve you to first read a few of the excellent critical commentaries on the book that you can find on the web.They do a pretty good job of exposing that book in particular for the fraud that it is. I also think it is a good idea to debate, because if there is the chance you can plant just one small seed of doubt in a believer, then it is worth it.

Hey Mark! Nice thought about planting a seed. I'm not counting on that though since most christians are pretty stubborn and brainwashed. But I have watched the movie for case for christ before. I thought it was all crap before. Problem is, I don't really remember what it's about. So I'm basically gonna review it again and get back to the pastor about WHY it's crap. Lol! But I will definitely check the net too.

don't do shit, they're just looking to make entertainment outta ya if you're who you say u are
fwd them to hell, i mean Richard Dawkins

I'll move on from all of this soon. But I'm not even a fan of Richard Dawkins. I love Bill Maher though!  :D  And a few nobodies on youtube.


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