460 of 497 people found the following review helpful
Barker is Still Preaching Today!,
This review is from: Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists (Paperback)
Dan Barker's life is an amazing testimony to the power of reason and science over the delusion of believing in Christianity. As an influential Christian evangelist and song writer he shares in this book why he could no longer remain a Christian, and why he became an atheist. It is a powerful and profound story that almost brought tears to my eyes, having experienced a similar change of mind as a former minister and apologist for the Christian faith.
If a skeptic wants to get into the mind of a Pentecostal Christian then she needs to read Barker's story. Dan tells of how everything that happened had a "spiritual significance" for him, even to the point of following so-called divine hunches while driving, to turn right, and then left, wondering if these hunches were actually voices from God. Dan tells of a time when he followed them and found himself at a dead end in the middle of a cornfield! He concluded God had merely tested him to see if he'd be faithful! Isn't that the hoot!
If a Christian wants to say people like Dan and I leave the faith because we just didn't want to believe, then she needs to read Barker's story. Dan tells us that this process "was like tearing my whole frame of reality to pieces, ripping to shreds the fabric of meaning and hope, betraying the values of existence...It was like spitting on my mother, or like throwing one of my children out a window. It was sacrilege." Right that.
As he became an atheist he went through an "awful period of hypocrisy." Especially moving was when Dan, who had recently become a closet atheist, was asked to preach in a service where an openly atheist person named Harry was in attendance. Dan shares how he wanted to say, "Harry! You are right, I'm sorry. There is no God, and this is mumbojumbo nonsense." That was his last sermon. This story highlighted for me how hard it is to leave that which we had invested so much of our lives in. It can be very painful to leave what you've believed so fervently and preached with such intensity for many years. You feel lost. It's a real struggle. You don't really want to leave. But leave it he did.
Dan has some interesting and creative arguments as well, when it comes to the Kalam argument for the existence of God, and the resurrection of Jesus, two kingpins of William Lane Craig's apologetic. He critiques the coherence of the concept of the theistic God too. In one chapter we find a letter written by God to theologians where he asks them to explain where he came from, how he decides what is right and wrong, and even who he is.
Many skeptics merely list some Bible contradictions, as if that's all they need to do to debunk the Christian faith, and Dan lists plenty of them. But he also goes into some depth in a separate chapter on one of them, to show he could do that with the others he merely listed. He focused on the discrepancy between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9, with regard to whether the people with Paul on the Damascus road heard the so-called heavenly voice, or not. Dan made his case.
I don't think he made his case that Jesus was not a historical person though, and I think such an argument will put Christians off. Only skeptics who do not accept the Christian faith will consider it, and it indeed is a worthy question. Also, I think there are several other issues Dan could've dealt with that he didn't, like the coherence of the concept of a triune God, the incarnation, the atonement, the devil, and the resurrection of the body.
While I myself am quite familiar with the arguments in the book, I especially liked his personal story from being an evangelist to one of America's leading atheists. He is a great writer, a creative writer, and it shows in this book. In it he talks about his subsequent debates (64 of them so far!), the debate tactics he's used, as well as some of the court cases he's been involved in on behalf of the separation of church and state. He also shares a personal painful story of when his pregnant wife, Annie Laurie, had an eclamptic seizure (look it up) and survived, giving birth via c-section to their daughter Sabrina. At no time during this traumatic experienced did either of them pray to god for help. "We didn't even consider it," he wrote.
While Barker says that "atheism has no hierarchy, no clergy and no chosen people more `holy' than anyone else," he is surely to be considered the reigning bishop of those former Christians and ministers who have "lost faith in faith." This is his new church, and he's still preaching today. Instead of being "brothers in Christ" we are now "brothers in reason." I greatly appreciate my older brother.
When you add to his book my comprehensive approach to debunking Christianity in which I spend over half of my book defending an anti-supernatual bias before examining the biblical evidence in the last half of it, I consider us to be brothers in a tag team wrestling match made in hell against believers.
The question for Christian believers is why God let Dan slip out of his hands if he knew in advance he would lead others "astray" from the fold like he has so effectively done. He's now preaching a new message, a powerful message, that God does not exist and that we can do better without such a belief.
Preach on brother! Preach on!
I'm the author of "Why I Became an Atheist," and the edited books, "The Christian Delusion" and "The End of Christianity."
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Showing 1-10 of 114 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 4, 2008 12:57:59 AM PDT
KC James says:
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2008 12:02:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 30, 2008 6:30:40 PM PDT
John W. Loftus says:
So, what you're proposing KC_James is that Barker and I are deceiving people when we say we don't believe?...that secretly we believe? Or, that if anyone changes his mind on anything we cannot believe that he is dealing with matters honestly?
Such idiocy baffles me to no end!
To suggest instead that we don't believe the arguments we make in our books doesn't matter anyway, for even if we didn't, which is complete and utter nonsense, the arguments stand on their own. You see, it makes no difference who uses modus ponens. You must still honestly respond to people who play the "Devil's Advocate."
You'll probably respond. I'm sure what you say will fare no better. You have faith. Why should you worry about trifle things like logic and evidence?
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2008 8:50:38 AM PST
J. F. Halsey says:
Hello KC James,
Please do yourself a favor and look up the definition of "ad hominem". Then please explain why your comment has anything at all to say about the veracity of any arguments made in John Loftus or Dan Barker's books.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2008 10:22:40 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 25, 2008 3:04:10 AM PST
I am so glad that I read your review, after seeing both your names brought up in an Amazon discussion. I have recently gone through a loss of faith, not really brought on by any adverse experiences or a process of intellectual alienation--more like a reverse conversion experience--a sudden and permanent loss of "spirit" during a prayer, accompanied by the very sudden realization of the actual possibility that there really was no one there listening--very, very odd, and a perspective that I had never seen or felt before and didn't think I ever could--on the other side of the "wall" where both options are equally possible.
I had had days when I was "not sufficiently in tune"--plenty throughout my life--when temporarily my prayers felt like they might be "bouncing off the walls," but I knew that was "my fault" and I just needed to do more to regain the spirit. And that had ALWAYS, even if sometimes it took awhile, after I had slacked off, giving attention to other things more than I "should."
Before the change, I had thought I could imagine how the atheist must feel, not feeling God's spirit and therefore not understanding, but I could never have imagined that place where the possibility that the Christian admonition to avoid such thoughts--that they were the influence of satan--was very convenient, since if there truly was no God, it would be a very effective way of protecting the believer from losing faith, but not because God was real--because, perhaps he wasn't, and if he wasn't, without continued self-convincing that might become more apparent. And I had had plenty of difficult experiences in the past with no trouble maintaining strong faith. Hard to ignore the implication of the fact that once I considered the real possibility that God was not their, sincere and prolonged intensive effort to regain that spirit never again succeeded, in spite of sincere desire to return to God.
As you have described, when reviewing this book, it was heart-wrenching and reality-shattering. The most difficult experience of my life. All that you have described. I think that those who have not been through it themselves would no more be able to understand the pain or the reason for it than I was able to imagine the frame of mind of the atheist before that "revelation."
It has been 3 1/2 years and it is much easier now, but will never be easy, since I remain part of a family immersed in and strongly committed to religion--and through my teaching, as far as the kids are concerned. And I would not wish this pain on anyone who is still happy in their belief--a difficult source of ambivalent feelings. It is so frustrating to know how I would have viewed myself before and to hear some on the Amazon discussion boards insist that I must have ulterior motives for "wanting" to be an atheist. The truth is, I am now torn between wishing I could go back and a strong commitment to absolute truth that I have had all my life--feeling very "inborn." Not that it is possible to go back in time, but it is difficult to recognize a wish for deception that is against my nature.
I am very glad that the Amazon poster I mentioned directed me to these books (yours and Barkers). I wish they were available as audio downloads. I am sure my husband would be very,very angry if he saw those titles in our home, and I respect that, but I would really, really like to read them. But I think I will read them (privately--part of the difficulty after life is set up a certain way, hoping it would be that way forever). I think they would be very helpful to me.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2008 1:55:39 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 9, 2011 6:35:01 AM PDT]
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2008 11:55:27 AM PST
KC James says:
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2009 8:40:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2009 8:42:37 PM PST
Paul Beaird says:
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2009 11:43:53 AM PST
I have read Atlas Shrugged. I read it relatively shortly into my transition. It is certainly a very thought provoking book. So much that I really realte to, yet some that I can't, still.
Thanks for you comments and best wishes to you also.
Posted on Feb 28, 2009 10:56:02 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Mar 9, 2010 1:07:08 PM PST]
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2009 11:13:17 PM PDT
>>>Dan tells us that this process "was like tearing my whole frame of reality to pieces, ripping to shreds the fabric of meaning and hope, betraying the values of existence...It was like spitting on my mother, or like throwing one of my children out a window. It was sacrilege."
When one does such a paradigm shift in adopting a worldview that was antithetical to their current one, it would only make sense that they would go through such feelings. Hard-care atheists that have converted to Christianity or any other religion report the same sort of feelings. This is because Worldviews become tautologies and as such take a huge toll on the psyche when one changes.
>>> He focused on the discrepancy between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9, with regard to whether the people with Paul on the Damascus road heard the so-called heavenly voice, or not. Dan made his case.
The problem with biblical difficulties being a strong case is that they play to one's particular worldview. If you are an atheist you automatically come to the conclusion that all bible difficulties are unsurpassable and prove the bible wrong. If you are a Christian you automatically come to the conclusion that there is a logical answer.
In this particular case this is a well known difficulty that, at least in my mind, appears to be rather weak. I am sure you know that two different Greek words (I have several degrees in ancient history and enjoy Greek and Hebrew, although I am not a linguistic scholar by any means) that are used and each has a specific meaning, Greek is a very precise language.
It is just my opinion that this argument is a very weak one and there are far stronger ones that could have been highlighted.
>>> I don't think he made his case that Jesus was not a historical person though, and I think such an argument will put Christians off.
Not only does the mythological Jesus argument put of Christians it a laughable argument in the secular historian's world. There is a panoply of evidence that a person existed, probably named Jesus, that the Christian religion was patterned off of. To deny this evidence is to hope that most people are shockingly ignorant and borders on being deceitful. Far better to take the high road and admit that there is more then enough evidence for a belief in Jesus as a man, but not enough for you to believe he is God.
>>> The question for Christian believers is why God let Dan slip out of his hands if he knew in advance he would lead others "astray" from the fold like he has so effectively done.
While I do not pretend to answer for the Christian believers, I think the standard answer is that of free will. If God had forced Dan to continue preaching or done a super-natural act to show him that he was real, then Dan would not have free-will or he would have been given/shown something that other people had not and God would have played favorites.