I have a very good friend who, for the last few years, has been a father figure to me. A while back he found out I was an atheist and since he's a pastor he wants to sit down and talk with me about why I don't believe. He also said it would be ok to bring a list of questions to ask and see how he answers them.
He invited me to lunch this Friday to do this and I want to do it so he knows I have legitimate reason why I don't believe. I care about him and I care that he knows that I have those legitimate reasons. Since I'm an introvert, I tend to forget what I'm going to ask when faced with the anxiety of asking the questions so I'm going to write them down but I'm not sure what to ask.
I would be appreciative of some ideas that aren't rude or condescending.
If god is all knowing and all powerful, and responsible for everything that happens to us, then why does he let good people suffer and children die of tragic illnesses? They wave it off as god's will, but why would he will it so? God gets the credit for everything good that happens, but none of the blame for the atrocities that occure in people's lives.
Oh so many questions!
If God exists, who then created God?
If God was created in man's image, does god have a belly button? Same question if man was created in God's image.
If Jehovah is just one of many gods, as is stated in the bible, then what happened to the other gods? Why is there no information on those other gods and why Yahweh/Jehovah is the one the Israelites should worship? If the other gods mentioned are "fakes" then couldn't this god also be fake?
If Jesus is really the son of God, then why isn't there more written about him for historical reference? Could it be that he was the "Son of Mankind" and that the "Kingdom of God is spread upon this earth, but Man does not see it." as this comment attributed to Jesus states?
Since there are so many errors in the bible, would he admit that it's not meant to be taken literally, but more in a literary sense as a depiction of life as it was 2000 years ago, and perhaps we are do for a refreshed creation story and instructions for living a good life?
Since neither God nor Jesus seems to be all knowing or all perfect, how are we to know which actions we should emulate and which we should abhor... Shall we drown all people we consider to be sinners, as God did with the flood? Shall we instruct our congregations to "hate our mothers and fathers" as Jesus said?
Does this pastor believe in the equality of the genders, neither male or female being more important? If so, why isn't there more prominence in the bible of women, such as Mary (mother of Jesus) and Mary (lover/partner/wife of Jesus?)
What does this pastor think of the sexual preference of Jesus? It would be odd if a man his age was not married or seemingly interested in women... so how does he feel Mary of Magdala interacted with the group of men associated with Jesus? Was she a confidant and springboard for the ideas of Jesus, presuming he was a real person in history? Why does he feel all references regarding Mary of Magdala in the bible are of jealousy or insulting. If she was the one to anoint his wounds before burial, wouldn't that make her significant, like perhaps his wife? (Read "The Lost Gospel" by Jacobovici and Wilson and many other books on the subject.)
If it was me, I would bring up the Problem of Divine Foreknowledge, or the Problem of Instruction.
The first tells me that an all-knowing God with perfect foreknowledge of the suffering that would be brought into existence by the sheer act of creation would therefore become morally responsible for that suffering.
The second tells me that the knowledge of Salvation must be revealed equally to all in order to maintain the Justice and Goodness of God. This can only be achieved thru Simultaneous Direct Revelation. That way all peoples in all cultures at all times would get the exact same message, thus eliminating other factors such as culture or family influence
I would also point out that Freewill is incompatible with the Doctrine of Eternal Damnation. If you have a gun pointed at your head (Hell) then you are subject to coercion. If you are subject to coercion, you cannot freely choose.
This last one probably doesn’t apply to you, but I would absolutely explain to my host that I am a Mythicist and that I believe Christianity came into existence as follows:
So the Gospels are not therefore historical memories of eyewitness testimony overlaid with mythology. They are religious literature written in the form and style of a biographical history. This is why you are not required to explain such “events” as Jesus fulfilling OT prophecies, the transformation of the apostles from cowards into champions of the new faith, or any of the miracles associated with Jesus, including the Virgin Birth or the Empty Tomb. You are not required to find alternate explanations for these things anymore than you are required to explain how Dorothy got to Oz, how she defeated the Wicked Witch or how the Cowardly Lion became a Courageous Cat. They’re just plot elements in the story, is all. You can write whatever you want when you’re creating a work of fiction, right? It’s called creative license
So that would be my last and most important piece of advice to you. If he starts quoting to you from the Bible feel free to be unimpressed and to call his bluff, because it doesn’t really matter that it’s been accepted as Gospel Truth by millions of believers over the course of 1000’s of years. Truth isn’t determined by a head count.
Why does God need animal sacrifices?
Was Jesus God? How could God die on the cross? Is God capable of suffering?
Is evolution a conspiracy?
Did Adam and Eve exist? Or Moses? Or Jesus?
If Adam and Eve never existed (symbolic), what is Adam's Fall?
If the Bible is the word of God, why so many contradictions?
How could Christians commit so many horrific acts in the name of Christianity?
How is it that American Christians support a Russian asset?
How is it that Christianity is so unenlightened (starting with LBGTQ, slavery, & other bigotry)?
Here are some questions for your friend:
It's a very long, difficult conversation to have, and would be most difficult for you if you didn't believe it yourself (though you may), but explaining that no one can control what they believe or don't believe is what got you where you are (and, incidentally, him where he is).
My experience with talking to friends or family about belief or lack of. For me it's best to start off by clarifying you want your relationship to stay the same and to not think differently of the other person, and if it start to go there it's best to drop it. I personally find it easy to defend my lack of belief by using logic and logic alone. For most believers their argument usually circles back to faith or their emotional connection with god. I prefer to love my friends or family as they are and try not to debate religion or politics with them. I hope any of this helps.