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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.

Jurnee 5 Mar 14
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Just say that you have doubts and need to work it out by yourself

bobwjr Level 10 Mar 15, 2022

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If Jesus is really the son of God, then why isn't there more written about him for historical reference?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.)

Julie808 Level 8 Mar 14, 2022

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:

  1. The first X-tians (as encountered in the earliest NT literature: the Pauline epistles) believed in a Celestial Christ who did all of his incarnating, suffering, dying, and rising in a sublunar heavenly realm.
    2)This Heavenly Christ was believed to communicate with his followers thru a revelatory process: dreams, visions, and hidden messages in Scripture.
    3)Eventually, stories came to be told and written down, placing this Celestial Jesus on earth, in history, in the form of a divine man; complete with friends, family, enemies, deeds, sayings, and an earthly depiction of his heavenly ordeal.
    4)These allegorical stories, the Gospels, eventually came to be believed in and promoted as real history by later generations of X-tians, replacing the original mystical Pauline beginnings

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)?

racocn8 Level 9 Mar 14, 2022

Here are some questions for your friend:

  1. If there is a creator of the Universe, that creator created 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. Why would the creator of the Universe be so interested in the Jews on Earth? They only make up about 1/1000th of the population on one of the planets orbiting one of the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. That seems extremely unlikely.
  2. There is overwhelming evidence that the Universe is 13,500,000,000 years old and that the earth is about 4,300,000,000 years old, and that modern humans have been around for about 100,000 years. The science tells us that it took around 13,500,000,000 years for humans to evolve. The Genesis story of creation happened in 6 days. Why would you believe the Genesis story of creation with no evidence to support it, vs. the Big Bang science and the fossil records and carbon dating which all the evidence supports.
  3. There is no evidence that the story of Noah's ark and the great flood ever happened. If it did, every single species on the planet would have the same genetic diversity because every animal on the planet would have descended from a pair of reproducing adults starting at the same time. The amount of genetic diversity varies tremendously from species to species, so every time they sequence the DNA of an animal, it gives more backup that Noah's Ark did not happen.
  4. How could the Star of Bethlehem guide the three wise men to a particular house without burning up the entire Earth?
BD66 Level 8 Mar 14, 2022

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).


You have no reason to accept the existence claim of his god or of any other gods. You might also comment that the scientific method produces far better models of the real world than any religious methods.

anglophone Level 9 Mar 14, 2022

Ask him since God created Satan , why do Christians think atheists believe in Satan , when Christians are the only ones who do .

Cast1es Level 9 Mar 14, 2022

That's a decent one, but I think it generalizes too much. It doesn't necessarily follow that Christians think that atheists believe in Satan. I agree that a lot of them do, but just ask why Christians in general believe that?


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.

Tejas Level 8 Mar 14, 2022

Yeah, I'm not going to debate. That's where I'll draw the line. I just want him to know that I have reasons to not believe like he has reasons to believe. And maybe talk about why we believe what we believe.


you're under no obligation to explain what you believe or why

TheDoubter Level 9 Mar 14, 2022

I know this. But like I said, it's important to me that he knows that my disbelief is not due to a hatred of a god I don't believe in or something of that sort, that I have legitimate reasons for not believing like he may feel he has legitimate reasons for believing.

@Jurnee His belief in his god is based on two things: his indoctrination, and logical fallacies.

@anglophone that's why I said he MAY FEEL like he has legitimate reasons. And maybe he does. You don't know that.

@Jurnee You touch upon the tension between feelings on the one hand and the cold hard facts that emerge from critical thinking on the other hand.

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