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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Guest Post: The Most Honest Conversation With a Pastor, Ever

This is a guest post from Darth Skeptic: A friendly, non-combative atheist. I also like Scotch, and beer. I am a fierce pursuer of truth. I’d rather accept an uncomfortable truth instead of a comfortable life. Sub to his blog:

This atheist is no stranger to church. I actually rather enjoy church, believe it or not. I enjoy the company. The people there are, in general, on fire with love and compassion. I also enjoy hearing the sermons because it helps me to keep my critical thinking skills sharp. Also, who doesn’t love free coffee and donuts?

southern baptist

Church also gives me an opportunity to ask my favorite question; why do you believe what you believe?

I have asked this question of thousands of people in the last few years from all manner of belief systems around the world. Asking this question helps me dive straight into people’s thought processes and is an instant gauge of their rationality. At this point, I feel like I have heard everything. In most cases, I feel like I can predict what someone is going to say before they say it just from a very short interaction prior to me dropping my epistemology-bomb on them.

I had this pastor all measured up. This guy is a true believer. Never a shred of doubt in this guy’s life has he ever experienced. I’m sure he is going to tell me the Bible is true because he knows beyond all doubt it’s true because of the witness of the Holy Spirit, or whatever. I was sipping my coffee preparing myself to go through to motions and add one more deluded, unquestioning proselyte to my collection of people questioned. I did not find this guy particularly compelling or interesting.

I was wrong.

I began our conversation as usual. I explained to him I don’t believe as he does and I’d like to know why he thinks his belief is true and more importantly why I should believe it. He began with a little bit of a curveball out of the gate. He said to me, “you know I went through a period of serious doubt when I was in college and pretty much threw the Bible away.”

All right, well I wasn’t expecting that, but how many times have I heard this tired story? Oh yes, I’m sure you used to be an atheist but now you’re a believer. But the conversation took a turn I did not expect.

“I eventually came back to my belief after some honest inquiry. A few things convinced me. First was the archaeological support of the Bible."

Archaeology supports some claims of the Bible, granted. Most notably the destruction of Jericho and the rebuilding of Jerusalem as described in Zecheriah under the reign of Cyrus. Archaeology also disagrees with some claims of the Bible, but I did not want to get into that with him. I find it better to just let him talk.

“Also the literary support and ample copies of the apostolic gospels is really overwhelming all things considered.”

I agree, actually but that does not make their claims true, I thought to myself. His next statement was stunning.

“Now I admit, that does not make them true.”

“Really?” I said.

“No, definitely not. The archaeology, the historical support for the existence of Jesus, the ample literary support of the New Testament. None of these things actually confirm the Bible is the word of God, I freely confess. For me, it only makes it reasonable to believe.”

“I see,” I said. “That’s a very fascinating and honestly unexpected position coming from the pastor of a Southern Baptist church.”

“Yes, I know,” he replied. “But it’s honest. And frankly, the American church is not very well equipped for people asking these kinds of questions. The church is really good at talking to people who walk through these doors who already believe in God. We are inept at dealing with people who have questions about God and the truth of it all. Admittedly these are all difficult things to ask. If I’m being honest, I still have some serious questions myself. But I trust the message is good, and it’s beneficial, and I see a lot of good people become great people by following it.”

“That’s fair,” I said actually somewhat impressed by his candor. “You understand, surely, why people like me who possesses a skeptical mindset has difficulties believing something without any good evidence. All of the arguments that you can and do make for God; appeals to faith, holiness of scripture, the wonder of creation, etc. countless other competing religions use the same arguments. So from my perspective if I accept one set of religious claims over another, it basically boils down to where I was born or how I was raised as to what I’m mostly likely to believe.”

“Very true,” the pastor stated. “Believe me, I have given that a lot of thought in my life. And again, if I’m being perfectly honest if I were born to a Muslim family, I’d probably be a Muslim today. If I were born to a Mormon family, I’d probably be a Mormon today. I don’t know.”

I was totally flabbergasted he said that. I could not believe it. That was by far the most honest thing I had ever heard a man of faith say, and he was right. It also struck me that he said several times during this discussion ‘if I’m being honest.’ Yes, these are hard truths. Things that pastors and other people of faith don’t like admitting. Having doubts and questions is not very popular, especially among a strong literalist flavor of Christianity such as Southern Baptist. All in all, I came away very surprised, pleasantly so. We talked for about 30 minutes. It truly was a pleasure and also helped remind me that I too, am certainly capable of being prejudiced. I had this pastor measured up the moment I met him from the way he looked and talked, and I was flat wrong.

As a skeptic, being reminded that I’m capable of being completely and unequivocally wrong from time to time certainly aids in keeping me humble.

This is a guest post from Darth Skeptic: A friendly, non-combative atheist. I also like Scotch, and beer. I am a fierce pursuer of truth. I’d rather accept an uncomfortable truth instead of a comfortable life. Sub to his blog:

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