How do I respond to verse quoters?

I have discussions with religious people and have noticed that some of them will quote verse ad nauseum to support their argument. It’s as if the book’s opinion stops all rational argument. Are there ways to encourage discussions of religion and morality while discouraging verse quoting?

Posted: July 20th 2009

Dave Hitt www

Such folks have pat answers to most questions, and unless you are an expert with the Bible, trying to get the upper hand is like trying to con a used car salesman. You don’t have enough experience to do it.

Unless you hit them with questions they don’t have pat answers for.

I have a whole routine I go through with them, and it only requires you to remember one spot in the Bible: Genesis, chapters 18 and 19.

First, tell them you have a problem with God having inconsistent morals. This will shock them. Then borrow their Bible and turn to Genesis 18.

Ask them if you can negotiate with God. They’ll say no, of course. Then start reading about half way through chapter 18, at verse 20. Abraham asks god if he’ll save Sodom and Gomorrah if he can find 50 righteous men in the city. God agrees. Then he says “How about 45?” God agrees again. Abraham then gets him to agree to 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. Say, “So Abraham, father of the entire Jewish race, got an 80% discount from God.“ They never laugh at this joke, but I can’t resist telling it. Now discuss their error – you can negotiate with God. This throws them off balance.

Now ask them if they have kids. Ask them if they had friends over, and a mob of rapists gathered at the door, would they send their kids out to be raped? They’ll be appalled at the very thought. Then read on, (this is the beginning of chapter 19) where Lot does exactly that. God then blinds the rapists, but never condemns Lot for offering his virgin daughters to the mob. And one more question: These were angels visiting Lot. Couldn’t they fend for themselves?

Now ask them why Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed. They’ll tell you it was for homosexuality. Ask if it was just for homosexuality. Get them to include incest in the list of evils.

Continue on to where Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for just looking back at the destruction. Does the punishment fit the crime?

Now for the pièce de résistance. Lot and his daughters go into the mountains and live in a cave. They decide to get him drunk, have sex with him, and keep doing it until they both get pregnant. God doesn’t punish Lot or his daughters for this. He does not condemn them anywhere in the entire Bible. But wait, didn’t he just destroy two entire cities for sins like this?

I recently did this routine with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses who visited my in-laws. The conversation lasted about a half hour, and they were pretty rattled when they left. It was great fun. And maybe, just maybe, it will get them to think.

Posted: September 16th 2009

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George Locke

If you don’t mind questioning the very basis of their worldview (which is a different discussion than religion or morality per se), try asking, “Why are you quoting the Bible?” If they’re treating the Bible as an infallible source, just ask them what makes it infallible.

Posted: August 19th 2009

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Verse quoters aren’t generally interested in discussion, but in evangelism, but if you want to anyway…

I would find a nice quote about slavery –

Ephesians 6:5-9: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.”

Then ask them whether they agree or not. If they don’t, ask them how they decide what in the bible is true and what isn’t.

Posted: July 22nd 2009

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George Ricker www

As others have suggested, it’s always possible to respond with a verse that contradicts the one being quoted.

For some religionists, a quote from the Bible really is a thought stopper. They believe the “good book” contains answers to all the really important questions.

One way to counter that sort of thinking is to try to get them to explain to you exactly what they think the words they are quoting mean. Often, these people throw out biblespeak without really thinking about it, and if you can get them to actually think about what they are saying, it can be a revelation to them.

Another approach is to talk about the history of the book they are quoting. The many translations, the copying errors and so on.

The most important thing in all of this is to have your own facts straight. Know what you are talking about before you start challenging them. The biggest problem with the “quote exchange” tactic is that it seems to lend an authority to the Bible that it really doesn’t possess.

Posted: July 22nd 2009

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Reed Braden www

I’ve found the best way to deal with Bible thumpers is to speak their language. When they quote verses, quote back some verses that conflict with that verse. Almost everything the Bible says, it recants or revises at some point.

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible is a great source for this.

Posted: July 22nd 2009

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brian thomson www

There are verses you can quote in return: for every John 3:16, you can quote most of Judges 19. There are many more such verses discussed on this page. Do those religious people really know what they are following?

Posted: July 22nd 2009

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SmartLX www

Question the texts from which the verses are taken. “Verse quoters” are working from the premise that their books are the word of God, which in a way is begging the question if they’re arguing for God. Research the origins and general credibility of these books, and make the quoters defend them.

Posted: July 21st 2009

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