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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I would ask him why he believes.  Then ask him with 38000 Christian Denomination of which many disagree on things like the rapture, once saved always saved, women clergy, etc. how can he be sure his interpretation of the scripture is the correct one.  Since he is a minister and probably went to seminary he can quote scripture from memory so take references with you including the bible and don't let him intimidate you just because he's a minister.  He may use some of these arguments or fallacies to so listen closely to his questions and answers.

Argument from ignorance (appeal to ignorance, argumentum ad ignorantiam) – assuming that a claim is true (or false) because it has not been proven false (true) or cannot be proven false (true).  i.e. The bible say's god made everything so evolution is false. Remind him he doesn't KNOW everything or he would be god.

Cherry pickingsuppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. It is a kind of fallacy of selective attention, the most common example of which is the confirmation bias.  i.e. Picking specific scriptures to support the existence of his god or use scripture to scare or intimidate you.  Ignoring or trivializing the horror of scripture i.e. slavery, misogyny, infanticide, rape and murder.

Argument from scripture (Spider-man fallacy) - claiming that because there is some truth in a piece of text (such as a factual city or factual historical figure), that everything mentioned in the text must, by default, be "historical fact. i.e. The bible says it true so it muse be true.

Special pleading – where a proponent of a position attempts to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule or principle without justifying the exemption.  Ask him if he believes that Superstition is a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation -- unless it is written in the Bible, then it is reasonable faith.

Argument from authority or appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative.  i.e I'm a Minister and I know or I know it's true because it's in the bible.

Circular reasoning/Begging the Question 

An argument is circular if its conclusion is among its premises, if it assumes (either explicitly or not) what it is trying to prove. Such arguments are said to beg the question. A circular argument fails as a proof because it will only be judged to be sound by those who already accept its conclusion.  Example:  

(1)The Bible affirms that it is inerrant.

(2) Whatever the Bible says is true.
(3) The Bible is inerrant.

Hope this helps



LOL! I completely agree on the Job comment. But there was no convincing the pastor of that. Nice view of morality! I will look into Steve Shives' views of the Case for Christ. I actually did watch the DVD for the case for christ a couple years ago. I know Strobel's book is all crap. I remember disagreeing with all of it because he basically did not have decent points at all. But I'll read it and review what Shives says and get back to the pastor on it.

Of course we also talked about Gay people and Abortion. The possibility of having a Mormon President vs a Democratic President. Apparently he's willing to have a Mormon president... I knew he didn't like democrats very much. He admitted that much. And I told him he puts all his faith in one book, which could possibly be! That didn't phase him. 

Fun times!

All of the responses to your post thoughtful and well reasoned (I particularly like Michael black's post) and seem to be saying 'stick to the facts Jack' and don't be a dick. may i suggest a possible tool? A laptop and a link to the Skeptics Annotated Bible.

Good luck, have fun


I forgot to ask, you will let us know how it went....right?

Hey! I posted how it went today at the end of the first page  :)

Hey - do you mind if I share this on my FB page?

Oh really? Yes! Please do share it!  :D


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.




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