Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
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21-04-2010, 08:03 AM
Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
So I think my wife's pastor is trying to start a dialogue with me. There is an upcoming debate between Christian apologist and Southern Evangelical Seminary Professor Dr. Richard Howe and Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of Skeptic magazine, on the subject "Does God Exist?"

The debate is April 30 in Colorado Springs, but is being broadcast live in 4 areas and live streamed on the internet. Cost varies from $5.00 for the live stream to $10 for an in-person ticket, I believe. Info here: http://northeast.churchforallnations.com...age_id=388

Anyway, this pastor sent me (and me alone) an email stating: "I received this info about a great theological debate that you might find of intellectual interest." He then changed the subject to mention my daughter's softball team and how he'd like to come see a game (I'm coaching the team this year). So there's nothing wrong with this email per se, except a few things. 1. I have never discussed theology or belief of any sort with this man, so the fact that he's aware that I'm a skeptic comes directly from my spouse. This leaves me feeling a bit violated honestly, but I'll get over it. She thinks this guy is some authority on spiritual matters, so sharing with him that her husband is a non-believer is understandable. It still pisses me off. Oh well. 2. I actually have little interest in paying to see this debate. Not sure where the money goes, but it is hosted by the Southern Evangelical Seminary, so I can assume it goes into a religious institution's coffers. Also, I'm cheap and just don't really have any interest in paying to see it anyway.

The only debate I could find with this apologist was a snippet from one between him and Dan Barker from 1997, but it was a transcript, some words were garbled, and I wasn't much impressed with his opening statements. His first step was the Cosmological argument, and on to philosophy, which sometimes I find quite dense and really not all that interesting. I haven't really read or watched anything about Shermer.

So, to the matter at hand. Technically I have an opportunity here to talk with this pastor. On the surface, it really doesn't interest me. I don't particularly like this individual or have much respect for him. I've heard some of his sermons and he often makes me quite angry with his opinions and presentation of scripture. In fact, I would say that this man was inadvertently a catalyst that led to my atheism. Preachers like him who like to pass off belief as knowledge irritate me to no end.

The reason this matters is my spouse. She has wanted me to talk to this man for two years now. Apparently he convinced her (though she believes it was God, of course) that she should recommit her life to Jesus and all this other stuff - so I should ask him my questions about the Bible and God (many of which I no longer hold - once you stop believing the God of the Bible is real, you kind of stop caring about a lot of his theology). So I've decided I should try. At best, she might at least begin to understand some of my opinions through this and gain some knowledge. At worst, things stay much as they are now, but hopefully my stances on things become clearer.

My question now is, how to approach it? The email he sent really wasn't open to much of a response with the exception of "not interested" or "thanks, I'll check it out." I'm tempted to write one to him and my wife and just start rattling off the questions I used to have. Even though I don't like this man, I don't really want to be rude, mostly because my family is unfortunately involved with him and his church.

For the record, what I would LIKE to do is ask him why the hell he thinks such a debate would interest me, why the hell it is of any concern to him what I think or believe, and what damn business it is of his to be speaking with my wife regarding my beliefs, or non-beliefs. But I'm not going to do that.

Thanks for reading all this, input is much appreciated.

Our brains deceive us on a regular basis, so we have to find ways to fight back.
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21-04-2010, 09:25 AM
 
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
Well my advice if you do face him is to turn the tables on him.. ask him what HE believes and WHY.

If he comes to try and convert you then he is the one making claims and he is the one that must offer proof for what he is saying. Try to make the least amount of statements as possible. Like I said turn the tables on him and don't let him get into his scripted theologic mumbo jumbo.
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21-04-2010, 09:43 AM
 
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
My thoughts (take it as advice at your discretion Smile):

IMHO, it sounds like he wants to talk to you with the hopes that anything he says will help you 'see the light'. There is one of two ways to handle this:

1. Hear him out. I actually enjoy listening to priests perform their sermon because it helps me point out the 'facepalm' moments. Smile I attended two baptisms in the past two weeks and, for both, I left shaking my head thinking 'I can't believe people believe in this stuff'. I also couldn't help but notice the priest in the first baptism (who presented the sermon in English instead of an ancient language) appeared to be 'faking it'. You know the type...you look into their eyes, their body language, and it seems as if they are just 'going through the motions' rather than actually believing what they are saying.

2. Tell him 'no thanks'. There is no harm in doing this, as long as it is kept diplomatic. This way, no one can come back to say you were 'intolerant' or 'irrational' in your response. From your own personal perspective, do what you think will satisfy you, without giving anyone else a bad impression about you or Atheism in general.

Good luck with whatever approach you do take. Ultimately it is up to you to share, but that said I would love to hear the outcome/decision you made.

Cheers.
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21-04-2010, 10:08 AM
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
Well, his tactic now is just "opening the door" - he sends me this little message but without any direct questions or anything. That way he's not rocking the boat, or forcing anything on me, which is respectable.

I think I could probably keep this regulated strictly to email, which is good for me as I tend to experience almost constant brain farts in face to face time. I don't do well with personal conflict, even if the conflict is nothing more than me saying "sorry, I don't believe that."

I guess I'm looking more for ways to open this conversation. I guess the best way, since he sent me info on a debate regarding the existence of God, is for me to simply ask him why he believes God exists, and take things from there.

Our brains deceive us on a regular basis, so we have to find ways to fight back.
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21-04-2010, 10:36 AM
 
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
In simple terms, just simply say "I'll think about it".

What I would suggest in the meantime is getting to know Michael Shermer (BTW, he's a skeptic who converted from fundamentalist Christianity and is now an atheist, with a focus on humanist philosophy), maybe even understanding Michael's point. There is nothing more powerful than knowledge, and understanding why you would potentially agree with Michael would make for the best fodder in your discussion (assuming it becomes a debate).

I think articulating your own position in a diplomatic, non-confrontational way is the best approach. If the pastor starts down the road with proselytizing, stop him by saying "I have no interest in any theology, thank you".

I, too, used to get major brain farts when being confronted (one of those "I could have said this, I could have said that" situations) but, when I started reading and equipping myself with the knowledge of any given topic, I found I did a lot better with my retorts.
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21-04-2010, 10:42 AM
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
The problem with debating theists real-time, without internet access, is that you're expected to back up your arguments with fact. The theist, meanwhile, can just quote scripture without having to give any supporting evidence. Unless you know the questions that are going to be asked and have answers, with relevant sources, prepared beforehand, it probably won't go well for you simply because the bar is held much higher for the atheist side.

"Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness."
- Terry Pratchett
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21-04-2010, 10:56 AM
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
(21-04-2010 10:42 AM)Unbeliever Wrote:  The problem with debating theists real-time, without internet access, is that you're expected to back up your arguments with fact. The theist, meanwhile, can just quote scripture without having to give any supporting evidence. Unless you know the questions that are going to be asked and have answers, with relevant sources, prepared beforehand, it probably won't go well for you simply because the bar is held much higher for the atheist side.

True, which is why this has the potential to be ok - it would pretty much be regulated to email. If I start this, I expect an ongoing correspondence of some sort. Full internet access and all. Though if the face to face time came up (of which there wouldn't be much - I only go to this church when I absolutely have to or when I'm pestered enough) - I would be more than willing to give an honest "I'll have to research that and get back to you" if it's something I don't know. This guy's not interested in bashing me over the head, I don't think - he'll certainly do his best to remain respectful, as my wife is a full blown, baptized member of the church.

And if it turns into nothing but scripture quoting, I'll just tell him the basic reasons why there's no evidence to indicate the Bible is divine, and end it.

Our brains deceive us on a regular basis, so we have to find ways to fight back.
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21-04-2010, 11:00 AM
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
Then full steam ahead, says I.

"Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness."
- Terry Pratchett
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21-04-2010, 05:30 PM
 
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
You are not going to change him as he thinks you're are foolish, he will not convert you because you think he's foolish. How about the truth. You don't believe in God, you are not interested in talking about it, and while you don't believe hell exists you appreciate him and your wife from trying to keep you from going there. Go to her church and support her and bring her to atheist events so she can support you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhG-tkQ_Q2w

Atheists think it is you against them. Penn had it right, they want to keep you from spending eternity in hell, doesn't matter if that place does not exist, it does to them, and out of love your wife does not want you to go there.
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22-04-2010, 07:48 AM
RE: Potential Conversation With a Pastor - ADVICE NEEDED
Well technically my wife doesn't think I'm going there - she subscribes to the "once saved, always saved" doctrine. Though we haven't had that specific conversation since I told her I was an atheist, so it's possible that she doesn't quite believe that.

However, I do know that the pastor believes that "Satan really has his claws" in me. So I'm curious as to who would really be in the "us vs them" mindset.

I'm not interested in changing the pastor's mind, though I'm sure he's interested in changing mine. The potential benefit of starting a discussion would be for my wife. As is often noted, the benefit of a debate is rarely to the debaters, but to the audience and bystanders.

I do love my wife, but I am in the unfortunate position of not agreeing with the way my children are being raised. This is my primary issue and hangup with the churchgoing in general.

Thank you all for the input.

Our brains deceive us on a regular basis, so we have to find ways to fight back.
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