How Can Christians Witness to Atheists? One Pastor Thinks He Knows

In his “Ask a Pastor” column, Pastor R.A. MacDonald answered this question from a reader: “How can I witness to an atheist?”

I understand why someone would want to ask that question, but MacDonald didn’t give him a well-thought-out answer. Instead, he tossed out a series of straw men and stereotypes.

Like when he explained what atheists believe:

An atheist is someone who denies the existence of God. However, before one can be an atheist and positively assert “there is no God,” (which most of us don’t) he must presumptuously assume for himself the wisdom and omnipresence of God (We don’t. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to detect religious bullshit). He must essentially be everywhere and know everything to have any confidence in his theory (Again, no). You might say that, in order to prove there is no God, you would have to be God (Nope… Does MacDonald get paid by the word?). Therefore, even the atheist believes what he believes by faith. (It takes no faith to point out what’s right in front of you: Nothing) And so the bottom line is actually, whom are you going to believe: man’s reasoning or God’s Word? (Or: Common sense or a book written by men thousands of years ago?)

The fun didn’t end there:

The Word of God makes no effort to prove God’s existence; that fact is taken for granted. The very first verse of the Bible refutes atheism

That’s circular reason used to perfection: The Bible is true because the Bible says its true.

Finally, MacDonald gets to the question at hand. How can Christians proselytize to us?

So in order to witness to an atheist, you must use the Bible. He may not want to read it, but you can slip it in from time to time in your conversation. As is said of the beautiful, “It may be shown but not proved,” so we say of the existence of God.

That’s just bad advice.

If you’re trying to convince someone who doesn’t think the Bible is the Word of God that the Bible is the Word of God, quoting the Bible isn’t going to do the trick. Damn near every atheist can laugh off your cherry-picked verses and respond right back with others that are far more despicable, disturbing, and damning.

My experience has been that most people who claim to be atheists do so for the shock value.

And my experience has been that most pastors who claim to “know” about atheists have never spoken to any who are open about it. Because if they did, they wouldn’t have to make up reasons for why we’re atheists.

Finally, MacDonald plays his trump card:

You might use some logic.

The logic he’s referring to includes everything he learned in Apologetics 101. Like the Cosmological argument, easily refutable and very unconvincing.

I guess we should be happy that MacDonald knows of no decent way to witness to atheists because the methods he has in his toolbox are worthless.

He would have saved himself a lot of time and embarrassment if he had just responded, “Don’t bother. It won’t work.”

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Gus Snarp

    As an atheist and former evangelical, here’s how I think Christians should “witness” to atheists:

    1. Set an example. Live a good, moral, and loving life. If that is the way you are going to describe Jesus’ example, try to follow it. Demonstrate by your behavior, not your words, that living this life makes you happy.
    2. Occasionally mention your beliefs when it is appropriate to a topic of conversation and in a natural and conversational way, but make no special effort to demonstrate your religiosity.
    3. Answer any questions honestly and to the best of your ability. If someone asks you for more information, provide it or tell them where to get it. Make your case if someone asks you to.

    That’s all. Don’t do anything else. There’s really nothing in your book that suggest anything more than that, and hundreds of years of Christian dominated culture in the West has already established that anything more than the three points above is rude.

    • imjustasteph

      I have some Christian friends who do this- they just, live and love and give of themselves and be kind and fair to everyone, even those who believe differently or don’t believe at all. They aren’t perfect people, and don’t claim to be- but they’re people who try their best and try to improve their own flaws, and who forgive others for their failings as well. They’re human, and they accept that I am, too.

      The difference between them and other Christians I know is, the ones as described above are the ones I call friends. (Repeat the above with any other faith or lack thereof replacing the word ‘Christian’ and it’ll be about equally accurate.)

    • JohnnieCanuck

      That advice would be very good, not least from the point of view of the Atheist.

      However, evangelicals make much of the Great Commission, as found in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-18, Luke 24:44-49 and other verses.

      Words like “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” could reasonably mean something like ‘convert as many as you can’.

      It’s how you make a religion grow and its hierarchy prosperous. Besides, if you really believed in Hell, how could you not try as hard as you could to ‘save’ as many souls as possible?

  • TiltedHorizon

    “However, before one can be an atheist and positively assert “there is no God,” he must presumptuously assume for himself the wisdom and omnipresence of God”

    Clearly if one is a pastor, then one must presumptuously assume for himself the wisdom and omnipresence of god to commit one’s life to this higher power. He must essentially be everywhere and know everything to have any confidence in his theory. You might say that, in order to prove there is a God, you would have to be God.

    Makes sense to me.

    • Derrik Pates

      Kinda like how you have to examine every square inch of the planet before you can say that unicorns don’t exist, right?

      • TiltedHorizon

        Exactly like that. The problem is, like all lines in the sand, no answer is good enough. If you actually spent the rest of your life examining every square inch of the planet before claiming unicorns don’t exist. They would still dismiss it, claiming: “Did you check Mars?”.

  • Gus Snarp

    I do wish that we could just convince these people of what we consider reasonable standards of evidence and why the Bible doesn’t cut it. That’s the fundamental difference that separates us in reality. They’ve received the Bible as authoritative truth from their pastors and parents and believe that it must be so, we understand that a millenia old collection of stories has no authority or evidentiary value, nor does the received tradition and authority of pastors and parents, particularly when it conflicts with historical and scientific evidence that is corroborated from multiple sources.

  • Anna

    Egads. This is extremely poor, even for evangelical apologetics. You’d think a pastor would be embarrassed to write something like that.

    • Artor

      If said pastor had the tiniest grain of self-awareness sure. Do you think that’s the case here?

      • Anna

        Apparently not! It’s embarrassing given that this man is a leader in the religion, so one would assume he’d at least attended some kind of seminary. I guess he isn’t one of those “sophisticated theologians” the more educated evangelicals are always going on about.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          In America most theists live in a bubble. They never meet anyone who expresses nonbelief. They encounter nonbelievers all the time but as with members of most nonbelievers, a lot of nonbelievers are going to do their best to fit in so they can work and live in peace. When their beliefs are challenged at all or even if their entitlement is called in question they feel persecuted. So, yes, I believe that this is for real and if not it’s close enough. It sounds exactly like the kind of thing every preacher I heard growing up would say.

          • Anna

            Oh, I don’t doubt it’s real. I would just expect a little more from a pastor. This article looks like it could have been written by any run-of-the-mill fundamentalist. At least with William Lane Craig and company, they put some effort into their arguments and try to make them sound sophisticated, even if it’s just so much fancy window dressing.

            • The Other Weirdo

              Why? What does it take to become a pastor? Catholic priests go to seminary to get educated, and even that doesn’t take them all that far. As far as I understand it, pretty much any Tom, Dick and Jane these days can get ordained online and become a “pastor”. We see terrible pastory arguments on this site all the time. Driscoll comes to mind, and many others.

              • Anna

                Well, I know it doesn’t take much to become a pastor, so maybe it’s more of a comment on evangelical seminaries than anything else. If he did attend one, and this is what they teach, then I’d ask for my money back. This guy doesn’t sound any more educated than some random person you’d find in a Walmart parking lot.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  Apparently God values faith much more than virtue, intelligence, honesty, and all those other traits we normally associate with “goodness”. So I’m not surprised.

  • C Peterson

    It’s dangerous for a Christian to “witness” to an atheist, because there’s a sort of trapdoor there, and it’s a lot easier (and a lot more common) for the Christian to fall through to atheism than the other way around.

    (It’s interesting that you can take the first passage- the one marked up in red- and change “atheist” to “theist”, along with any necessary modifiers to keep consistency, and it reads about the same, although arguably more accurate.)

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      The difference is that I don’t know of a single atheist who goes door to door trying to convince people not to believe in god. I never discuss my lack of belief unless someone else brings it up. If only Christians would do the same.

  • eric

    I don’t need to meet any particular level of certainty to be a non-believer; I just have to realize that empirical and scientific methods for coming to conclusions are more accurate than revelatory methods.

    There is no way to tell with absolute certainty which methodology is going to win this horse race (i.e., predict have the right answer). But there are good, rational, objective ways to decide which horse is the favorite: you base it on past racing record. The emprical horse has won millions of races over thousands of years. The revelatory horse has won none. The favorite in this race is clear; empiricism. The two methodologies’ records aren’t equal, they aren’t even close to equal.

    • Gus Snarp

      This. It’s so simple for me. My atheism is based on four basic facts:

      1. There is absolutely no reliable, first hand, corroborated evidence for the existence of any kind of god that has any tangible effect in the real world.

      2. Every religion on earth has made claims about reality that have since be solidly proven wrong by science.

      3. At least every religion ever on the face of the earth minus one is wrong about the existence and nature of its god(s). It is far more likely that all of them are equally wrong than that one of them, which makes at least some claims that have been disproven, somehow has the truth about a being for whose existence there is no evidence.

      4. All modern ideas of some kind of more nebulous “god” existing that doesn’t correspond exactly to any world religion are so nebulous as to be useless and are still founded on a previous belief in one of those more defined gods.

      Evidence. It’s all about the evidence.

      • Miss_Beara

        Evidence is planted there by Satan to test the faithful, like fossils.

        • SeekerLancer

          I knew a daughter of a pastor who told me once that Satan traveled back in time and wrote the Epic of Gilgamesh to try and trick us into thinking that there were other stories before the Bible.

          • Marie the Bookwyrm

            Did she explain why Satan needed to travel back in time? Isn’t he supposed to have existed almost as long as god? (Halfway through the 19th century, he realizes he forgot to plant the evidence, & has to go back & do it. :) )

            • aaa

              I would like to see this done as a movie, perhaps the sequel to “The Butterfly Effect”

              • meekinheritance

                Or the prequel.

            • SeekerLancer

              Basically what you already guessed. Apparently there was a timeline where the old testament was the first thing ever written and Satan went back in time to try and fool us into thinking that wasn’t so.

              It’s worth mentioning her father the pastor was a failed science fiction author. No he wasn’t L. Ron Hubbard.

          • The Other Weirdo

            Did he do it with God’s permission?

          • Gus Snarp

            Whew…. It really perfectly shows why we should trust evidence over the Bible every time. Because if you have to go to that extent to justify your beliefs, then you can justify ANYTHING. It’s this kind of thinking that makes the Flying Spaghetti Monster so compelling.

    • Randay

      Maybe the revelatory horse that has never won, but there is a third possibility: the fixed race where an improbable horse wins, known as a “boat race” among bettors. The preachers like that one. Back Justinian Byzantine times chariot races were very popular. There were different groups designated by different colors. Incredibly, the ones backed by the emperor won. But he was fickle and would change his preference and then another one would win. But fans and bettors fanatically stuck to their chosen color.

  • Space Cadet

    Proof that the Pastor has little experience talking to Atheists:

    They don’t want to talk about religion and find that to be an effective way to turn the conversation.

    Does he live on an island with a population of 1?

    • McAtheist

      He’s right about that, I really don’t want to talk about religion. Or more to the point, talk with him about the religion he wants to talk about.

  • LesterBallard

    That’s why I don’t bother with them, other than serving up ridicule and scorn.

    • baal

      There are better ways of dealing with rude people than getting up in their faces. Turning and walking away is one. Stopping them and demanding them to listen to you explain how they are rude is another.

  • Taz

    What a minute – is he saying the Bible claims god exists? I’d never considered that before!

    Don’t I feel foolish.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    That’s just hilarious. Not only does he not understand what an atheist is, but he doesn’t even understand that basics of constructing a logical argument. I have read the entire Bible cover to cover twice, something the vast majority of Christians have never done. All I demand is evidence and reason. I’m not incapable of changing my mind. Just in the past year I changed my mind about 180% on an important concept concerning my field of study. I did so because I was presented with evidence that demonstrated clearly that what most of us had been taught is flat out wrong. The teacher who convinced me wasn’t afraid of questions. Quite to the contrary, he welcomed them and had answers for them. There was no “because this book said so”. yes, there were very good authorities, but also authorities that disagreed. But through scientific evidence and some simple logic it was easy enough to demonstrate that one side of the controversy was right while the other was wrong. I am happy to change my mind when presented with convincing evidence. The fact that the Bible says this or that just isn’t enough and it’s bizarre that anyone think that’s going to convince a nonbeliever.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      i put to them bluntly: i’d LOVE to believe that (some) religious claims are correct. an immortal life in a paradise, filled with love and happiness, all my relatives and loved ones around, maybe even fun sex with lots of attractive young women, no need for health care or a job, perhaps access to the sum of all knowledge in the universe…

      but then reason kicks in, and it all starts to sound not just mythological, but actually a tad boring. after the first 1,000,000 years of praising god and seeing my family and hanging out in the same paradise (or are there seasons in heaven?), i think i’d want to be sent to hell. or back to earth. anything to relieve the boredom.

      granted, i would probably have spent 99% of that time yelling at god. naming every innocent child he let die. harassing him about all the tornadoes, floods, monsoons. asking why he couldn’t have been more direct and clear letting us all know what to do and believe. asking him why dick cheney still walks the earth.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        Last fall my parents had to put down their dog. That dog was awesome. I miss him a lot. I like to think of him in doggie heaven where he can chase squirrels and have tons of children to play with and where people feed him all the bacon he wants. It’s a silly thought. I’ve long dismissed the idea of people heaven but for some reason I want to imagine the idea of doggie heaven out of some sort of guilt.

        Someone once noted that Christian heaven sounds a lot like North Korea. All day long every day kissing the ass of some insecure petty dictator. What’s so great about that? And what kind of being would want that much praise? Wouldn’t you get bored with people telling you how great you are on and on and on? Yes, it’s nice to hear every now and then but nonstop all the time? Ugh. That sounds awful from the deity’s perspective as well.

        Who made up this stuff and what were they thinking?

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Someone once noted that Christian heaven sounds a lot like North Korea.

          Christopher Hitchens

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPD1YGghtDk

        • allein

          I had to put my dog down a few years ago. I posted the story of his last day at a forum I belong to (I mentioned him lot so people there sorta knew him). Several people posted links to things about the “Rainbow Bridge” (where your deceased pets wait for you to come join them in heaven, apparently). I didn’t read most of it (and what I did I just skimmed) in part because I was too upset at the time, and in part because the whole idea, while nice in a way, kinda just makes me roll my eyes. I still miss the dog, though…he was the best (he’s my avatar here).

          • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

            This dog had cataracts that made him technically blind, profound hearing loss, arthritis and probably dementia as well. He was 17 and the vet had already informed them that he was like a person who was 100. Even so he had good days occasionally which made it seem like he was getting better. He wasn’t. It was time. It was still sad. Their house now seems oddly empty without him. What I personally found most interesting about that experience is that in spite of skepticism and nonbelief, I am still prone to episodes of magical thinking. It’s easier to believe in nonsense than accept the unpleasant reality sometimes.

            I’m intrigued by the Rainbow Bridge. I had never heard it referenced this way. I’m familiar with it as it’s the pathway to Valhalla in Norse mythology and referenced in Wagner’s Ring and Marvel Comics’ Thor. (The special effects in the Thor movie a few years ago were the best representation of the rainbow bridge I’ve ever seen.)

            • allein

              He had been having seizures for several months and that last day they just wouldn’t stop. The vet’s best guess (without a lot of expensive tests; when they first started they couldn’t find any particular cause) was a tumor on his pancreas that was producing insulin, because his blood sugar just kept dropping right back down after every dose of dextrose they gave him. He really belonged to my ex (even though my parents had had him for months; long story) and in the end it was his decision. When he asked if it was worth trying other (expensive) treatments or were we just torturing him, the vet basically said she would be as aggressive as we wanted but she wouldn’t say letting him go was the wrong decision, which I took as her not really being too convinced it would make much difference.
              .
              I actually didn’t know the Rainbow Bridge was a thing aside from having seen it in discussions about dead pets (I haven’t read much Norse mythology). I can’t say I indulged in much magical thinking; I just had this vision popping randomly into my head of him in a fire, because I knew he would be cremated (though he wasn’t actually burning in my mental picture, he was just kind of there surrounded by flames). My ex decided not to get his ashes back (mostly because he didn’t have the money) and a part of me wishes I had gotten them….then the more practical part of me wonders why, because what I would have done with them?

  • indorri

    In other words, be a presumptuous ass who disrespects atheists from the get-go. That’s such a good strategy…

    It’s like he’s a covert atheist sabotaging proselytizers by giving the exact opposite advice necessary to achieve charitable conversation with us.

    • Gus Snarp

      Except that what atheist would be so cruel as to subject other atheists to proselytizers prepared to be so annoying ;-)

      • Artor

        Oh, there’s no shortage of atheist trolls to stir up that pot.

  • JohnThorpe

    How about (a) mind your own fucking business and (b) leave me the fuck alone?

    • LesterBallard

      But I’d be satisfied if they would just ask. And take no for an answer. But when you have the only truth, the only way to live, the only god, I guess that’s difficult.

  • Art_Vandelay

    My experience has been that most people who claim to be atheists do so for the shock value.

    If I really wanted to shock people, I’d be more inclined to tell them that I think a 2000 year old Palestinian carpenter created a 950 trillion light year sized universe.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590887601 Rick Sparlock Facundo

      If I wanted to shock a pastor I would just say I’m a Satanist instead.

      • Artor

        If I wanted to shock a pastor, I’d use a choir boy with jumper cables.

        • Ted Thompson

          Welp. I just snorted some soda.

        • GwydionFrost

          Wow.

  • Tim D.

    Pastor R.A. MacDonald? Does the “R” stand for “Ronald,” by any chance? Because this guy sure is a clown! HYUCK HYUCK HYUCK

    I’m really disappointed that I didn’t see this joke here already.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The best way for Christians to witness to atheists is to magically heal the sick, drink poisons and handle venomous snakes.

    • David_Evans

      Preferably surviving the experience.

      • Miss_Beara

        and if they don’t, it was God’s will.

        • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

          or they weren’t True christians

          • Bdole

            Or they were putting god to a foolish test, tempting the lord.
            (so many outs, this can go on all day)

            • ~SoACTing

              And when all else fails, “His ways are not our ways…”

              ~ SoACTing

      • Reginald Selkirk

        You have your preferences, I have mine.

      • Gus Snarp

        Depending on whether the “preferred” outcome is from the perspective of the Christian or the atheist.

    • newavocation

      So when science finds a way to regenerate missing limbs, will Xians finally start praying for lost limbs? They certainly don’t do that now.

      • LesterBallard

        Of course they’ll give credit to god.

  • http://www.facebook.com/godlessmetalhead Scott Jarvis

    The only acceptable way to witness to an atheist, well a skeptical one anyway, is to provide evidence. Don’t simply make assertions or reference a book that can’t be proven to be divinely inspired but provide evidence. It should be evidence that can be tested. Nothing short of peer reviewed evidence will ever convince of of any god’s existence. Even if they had evidence however I would never be a part of any religion or worship their immoral and sadistic gods.

  • RedGreenInBlue

    Now if the pastor was addressing the claim, “There are no gods,” then he’d be off to a (slightly) better start. However, what he writes is, “There is no God,” i.e. there is no omnipresent, omnipotent, omnibenevolent and infinitely wise deity whose message to mankind revealed in the words of the Holy Bible. The proof of that particular assertion is so trivial as to make me feel nostalgic for a bit of William Lane Craig, who at least puts some effort into his apologetics.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    The good pastor might want to rethink passing out some of the logical arguments for God that he’s heard about. They don’t tend to be consistent with a literal reading of Genesis

    ON CREATION: We believe the Bible account of creation occurred in six 24-hour days as a direct act of God. We believe man was created in God’s image as a living soul – higher, separate and apart from all animal life.

    http://ntbcsafford.org/menu/id/4/Statement%20of%20Faith

  • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

    I would think that the best advice would be to not discuss your irrational fantasy beliefs with someone who likely is smarter and better educated about your ‘good book’ than you are. But it’s always fun to go ahead and try.

  • Jasper

    “So in order to witness to an atheist, you must use the Bible.”

    Uh, I have four bibles (including Skeptic’s Annotated), two Books of Mormon and a Qu’ran. And the New Testament on audio book (decent production quality too).

    I think I’m covered.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Including a KJV? You know, because all those other bibles are wrong. http://ntbcsafford.org/menu/id/41/More%20on%20why%20we%20use%20the%20KJB

      • Jasper

        Damn!

      • SeekerLancer

        Well technically Skeptic’s Annotated is a KJV with footnotes so he’s good.

    • Georgina

      The real eye opener is the Relience of The Traveller – Wow – talk about obscene!
      Oh yea, and don’t bother arguing with Jawehists:
      Why do you hate god?
      Exodus 22.

      • dats3

        When I’m asked that question, Why do you hate god?, I generally reply with this question: How does one hate something that doesn’t exist?

      • GD

        Why do I hate god? Interesting question – why do you hate leprechauns?

    • DavidMHart

      I tried to listen to a bit of a New Testament audiobook once. Really tedious, and yet ridiculous production values – all the demons’ lines had been processed through some kind of ring modulator so that they sounded a bit like daleks, and whenever Jesus said something in Hebrew that they then translated, they had the same actor do it in both languages, to a ridiculously hammy degree – the bit about ‘Eli, eli, lama sabachwhatever’ was excruciatingly overacted twice in quick succession.

  • Freak

    He left out “Stick to relating your personal experiences. Otherwise, you are hearsaying, not witnessing.”

  • Lurker111

    Any religion that requires apologetics may as well scream, “I am a fraud!”

  • randomfactor

    “Silently, and from a great distance.”

    • Lthomas320

      Is that a Dorothy Parker quote?

  • randomfactor

    I tend to ask anyone who wants to “debate” me to first define the word “atheist.” Most of them, like this clown, can’t even get THAT right.

    • JD929

      That’s an excellent point. They get it so wrong, so often, because jokers like this preacher have made straw men atheists in their minds and think they have clever things to say, and such fantasies lead to this preacher’s comments.

    • Gus Snarp

      After that, ask them to define “God”.

  • cipher

    You might use some logic.

    I say it all the time; they have NO sense of irony.

  • Fred

    I think atheism is a pure belief. I am one and there is no other reason that the search for the truth that has led me to this conclusion.

    However, I think a lot of US Clericals are not 100% convinced what they spewed. It has to do with the almighty $$$.. Churches are tax free, pastors are loaded….

    • meekinheritance

      I assume you mean, “a pure belief that there are no gods”.

  • Rain

    Spoken like a true Pastor living in a Baptist bubble so crippled by cultism that he is a total incompetent at clicking the ol’ google button. Or maybe he’s a con artist. Never rule out con artists.

  • Timmah

    I dare someone to try and “witness” to me these days. I know more about the bible now then I did as a kid back in catholic school getting preached to by nuns every day.

    I’d be like “Oh yeah that sounds all nice and good…. hey lets talk about the parts that talk about how you should beat your slave correctly.”

    • Miss_Beara

      Common retort is “why do atheists always take the bible literally?!” regarding things that they do not like and “you have to follow it, it is in the bible” to things they like. Or “it was different back then!” like that somehow makes it all better.

      • Alice

        Or they talk about how God’s morality was relatively better than the Canaanites’ morality…then the next hour complain how morally relativistic America is. WTF?

  • observer

    “whom are you going to believe: man’s reasoning or God’s Word?”

    By “man’s reasoning”, are you also including yours, pastor?

    • ~SoACTing

      Was Jesus speaking as a man or as a god??

      ~ SoACTing

      • Gus Snarp

        Did Jesus speak to you, or are you talking about what a number of men wrote in a book that was translated centuries later through multiple languages and interpreted by priests and other men, right down to you and the pastor?

  • SeekerLancer

    The “you have to have faith to be an atheist” argument never made an ounce of sense to me. Even if I were to agree and admit that I take everything I believe in on blind faith and that I am no better than a Christian taking the Bible on faith, you’re still doing absolutely nothing to prove why your God is a better (or rather more accurate) alternative to whatever it is I believe in. It’s like the apologist equivalent of the schoolyard taunt, “I know you are but what am I?”

    Also a word of advice to Pastor MacDonald, but the Bible is the surefire easiest way to get an atheist to stop listening to you. It’s not even that “we don’t want to read the Bible” because most of us have, many of us probably a lot more than the people in your congregation. When you argue from the Bible it’s admitting you’ve got no new evidence that we haven’t already known about for literally thousands of years. We’re not some lost civilization who has never heard of the book before and if somebody shares it with us we’ll magically turn into Christians as if by some spell. The Bible is the worst tool for evangelizing to an atheists.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

    Is this is an A-POE?

  • Drakk

    Provide evidence.

  • Jan Kafka

    I found it amusing that the piece by Mr MacDonald violates the rules for posting comments on the column.

  • Drew M.

    Animated gifs? You’re spending way too much time on reddit, Hemant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gretchen.jaenisch.3 Gretchen Jaenisch

    I have been an atheist for 35 years.

    I believe in myself and the human race

    I do not ” wish to be saved ” nor will this ever happen.
    I am a human being with a brain. If you just cannot respect that,
    I will walk away from you every time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jj.winchester.5 JJ Winchester

    so worthless way of thinking!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/travis.waters.520 Travis Waters

    I pretty much think of it like this. I believe in God mainly because if you look at everything that has ever been and is, you realize that there is no possible way that it all happened by chance. Best example I can think of to dispute evolution would be to say that if I left every piece of a truck on the ground for a couple hundred or thousand of years: that it would just somehow come together and make itself into a truck. Ridiculous, the way that everything works in perfect harmony, the way everything is. Only makes sense to me that there has to be some higher power to create all of it.

    • NickDB

      So you’re admitting that you believe in god because of ignorance? To me that’s the biggest difference between theists and atheists.

      Theist = I don’t know so god did it.
      Atheist = I don’t know.

      Religion is nothing else other than a cop out for lazy people who don’t like difficult questions. To me the fact that I might exist through nothing else but chance is far more of a miracle than god ever did.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      *Facepalm*

      Before I really rip this to shreds, can you tell me what good design looks like? Is it minimalist? No missing parts, no superfluous parts? Everything maximized for efficiency? Does it break down often? Is it easy to fix?

      People, if designed, are pretty crappy designs. We breathe and eat through the same tube, leading to choking. We get cancer, we break bones, we require a lot of calories from both plants and other animals. We get sunburned. Our chromosomes can be duplicated during conception- that’s why we have Downs syndrome and Trisomy 18. Babies are born without brains, with holes in their hearts, with holes in their spinal columns, with intestines hanging out of their open abdomens. Genetic disorders are rife- there are disorders that mess with our cartilage, muscle, nerves, bones, and brains. Our immune systems can be too weak or too strong; they can attack our own tissues sometimes, or fail to fight off a disease. Our eyes are pretty good, our noses terrible, and our hearing awful in comparison to many species. I’m not omnipotent, but I can definitely think of design improvements to humans. You must have very low respect for God’s capabilities to think we were designed.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Evolution doesn’t work by chance. If you’re interested in why the overwhelming majority (99+%) of people who actually understand evolution say it’s “the only show in town”, I highly recommend “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne. The thing is, you can only truly understand God by faith. You can understand evolution by reading about it.

    • MD

      “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!””

      -Douglas Adams

    • Timmah

      I have never understood the creationist strawman of comparing parts of vehicle coming together in some random impossible way to evolution. That is not a comparison to evolution, that would be MAGIC. Do you know how many times the answer to something we didn’t know before has turned out to be “magic”? NEVER.

    • Gus Snarp

      That’s the best example you can think of?

      Here’s the counter example:

      The Universe began with only one kind of atom in it, hydrogen. Gravity drew those hydrogen atoms together (because hydrogen is light, but it still has mass and when there’s nothing else, it’s the heaviest thing around). When enough of those hydrogen atoms accumulate in one place the gravity pulling them together becomes so strong that hydrogen atoms fuse, releasing energy and producing helium atoms. The helium atoms fuse with each other and with the hydrogen atoms and create heavier and heavier atoms releasing more and more energy, until eventually in the core of this star (because that’s what it has become), iron is produced. When too much hydrogen has been consumed the star collapses on itself and explodes, scattering those elements across a huge distance. Irregularities in the distribution of those particles lead to them accumulating under gravity into distinct objects, including planets. That’s how everything in the universe that’s not free hydrogen came into existence, and it happens simply by the working of the laws of physics. You think building a truck is difficult? Try producing a universe with 200 billion galaxies, each with 200 billion stars, many with multiple planets, literally out of thin air by the action of a couple of simple principles. After that, evolution is a piece of cake, and it happened all by itself. Now if you want to believe that a god played a role in that, or set those physical laws, or even made the hydrogen, you can believe that. But to deny that the process from hydrogen atoms to us happened is, quite simply, to deny not only reality, but the technology that makes your computer work, and everything about your life possible.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        You’ve got H and He reversed. Other than that, splendid!

        • Gus Snarp

          —Goes and looks at periodic table—- Damn it, you’re right. How’d I manage to screw that up? I’m going to go up and edit it, but these comments can stand as evidence that I made a mistake, you corrected me, and I owned up to it.

      • Gus Snarp

        And I’ll point out that while there’s a small, and highly reasonable assumption that this has been going on for 14 billion years, the fact that it goes on now is not the least historical, we know that this is happening inside stars right now. We can even make it happen on earth, but mostly we don’t detonate hydrogen bombs anymore, but experimentally, it’s been done.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Best example I can think of to dispute evolution would be to say that
      if I left every piece of a truck on the ground for a couple hundred or
      thousand of years: that it would just somehow come together and make
      itself into a truck.

      So that’s the best you can do. Tell me, do truck parts have babies?

    • Sweetredtele

      Trucks don’t have a single designer. So there must be more than one god, right?

    • Earl G.

      Travis, you know perfectly well that evolution in no way says “it all happened by chance.” And you know perfectly well that your truck parts fantasy bears no resemblance whatsoever to any principle in evolution, cosmology, geology, etc.

      And if you don’t know … well, I’m embarrassed for you that you don’t realize you’re beating up a straw man.

    • baal

      I might suggest you take some college level cell biology classes and play with a few magnets. Here’s an experiment, take the disk shaped magnets out of the bottom of a shower curtain. Put them into a sandwich baggie and shake, tada! you now have a stack of magnets. That was nice of god to stack them up totally harmoniously. Turns out cell biology uses much of the same kind of process (templating, self assembly based on physical properties etc). Really, there is a ton of good science out there and your ignorance of it is a terrible argument for the existance of your god.

  • Keulan

    Another pastor who clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to atheists. Christians like him should read this brief essay of what not to do when trying to convert atheists. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/how-not-to-convert-an-atheist/

  • Mark W.

    How Can Christians Witness to Atheists? One Pastor Thinks He Knows…then opens his mouth and proves he doesn’t.

  • rustygh

    Two things we see again and again. With out saying so they point to the bible as fact for learning. False, the bible is not fact. Two, they always ask to prove god does not exist and move right past prove he does first. Nothing new to see here, just another Christian quack!

  • compl3x

    “My experience has been that most people who claim to be atheists do so for the shock value.”

    Where I come from no one really thinks being an atheist is particularly shocking.

    • Alice

      It’s a lame idea. If I wanted to shock a fundie, then I would claim to be a Democratic lesbian Satan-worshipper who performs abortions and burns Bibles on the weekends. His last words before his head explodes would be “Why are you being so redundant?!”

  • Matt D

    I simply refuse to debate theists until they can prove they are honest about the concept of faith and religion.
    To do this, they would have to have done as I did…peruse more than one religion (major or minor) before reaching any decisions on which is correct. If they refuse, I’ll know they aren’t interested in honesty or truth, nor do they have any courage to stand for those principles.

  • ORAXX

    This pastor suffers from the same delusion plaguing believers generally, namely the idea that atheists lack information. In my experience, non believers tend to know a lot more about religion than do many of the faithful who see belief in the absence of evidence as a virtue.

  • http://twitter.com/SerafineLaveaux Serafine Laveaux

    I must admit I do appreciate it when they stick around after a car accident and witness what they saw to the cops. Beyond that though, nope not buying it.

  • Dave

    The Bible doesn’t get it. The ONLY way Christians could begin to bear witness of their belief system to atheists – who on the whole are thoughtful, logical and kind people – would be if they were obviously more loving and compassionate toward their less-fortunate neighbors than are humanists and atheists – and obviously more happy. This is where their argument falls apart, because none of that is apparent a’tall.

  • Trutherator

    So, this blogger it looks like he found somebody with weak arguments he maybe learned in Ivory Tower Seminary. Love to pick on easy targets.

    Reminds me of an essay by Isaac Asimov in a book edited by Ashley Montague that he put together that purported to be an answer to Creation science, after Montague was humiliated in a debate with a Creation Scientist (as Montague acknowledged in the intro). (That book clinched the hopelessness of anti-creationist arguments and showed why they lose the debates. “Is that all you got?” was my reaction).

    Asimov used an argument that would not be used to convince an atheist. He picked out the weakest argument to knock down. It was disappointing because when I was an atheist I had admired him and his mastery of science an d science fiction and of writing.

    Ravi Zacarias is the one that takes on the non-criticisms of atheists. Neither he nor I insult the intelligence of atheists by using the ridiculous arguments suggested by the referenced pastor, but we see that the apologists for atheism take special delight in making fun of the weak arguments.

    Antony Flew was one who engaged the debate with some seriousness and respected his debate counterparts, seeking out the best of them and their best arguments to engage.

  • Anonymous

    Just out of curiosity…why do you devote an entire site and so much of your time to arguing about something you don’t think is real? Just let it go and move on with your life.


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