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Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became…

Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading… (2008)

by Dan Barker

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An interesting perspective because of the sincerity of each end of his experience, and the rarity of this sort of "tell-all." Unfortunately suffers from some injections of personal vitriol or poor/irrelevant little side arguments and quips.
  chronoceros | Jul 15, 2016 |
I really wanted to like this book, but in my mind there was too much stacked against it. I had no problem to the first part of the authors upbringing in Christianity, but it kind of went downhill from there for me. As a person who is also finding their way out of Christianity I found the part of his questioning and leaving the faith lacking. He didn't really go into how he started questioning or his process at all. He talked about it, but i felt kept it very vague.

Part 2 of this book was way over my head and felt like a lot of double talking and rambling to me. Part 4 I found very boring and felt like one long commercial for his organization. ( )
  BookReaderHere | Jul 27, 2014 |
As Barker himself says, once a preacher, always a preacher. In good evangelical style he starts his book with personal testimony and then proceeds to proof texting to make his points about atheism vs. Christianity. (There is, however, a good bibliography if you want more orderly, thoughtful critiques.). He then ends with more testimony about the atheist life and comes close to ending with an altar call.

I didn't like this style of preaching when I was a Christian, and it doesn't impress me any more as an atheist. I'm not sure why anyone thinks that preaching to evangelicals about atheism and matching them proof text for proof text is a useful thing to do. If you do want to do this, Barker provides you with lots of ammunition.

However, if you want to understand evangelicals and why they believe what they do, despite large amounts of evidence to the contrary, I would suggest reading Jason Rosenhouse's Among the Creationists instead. ( )
1 vote aulsmith | Jul 15, 2014 |
It's hard to imagine a more fervent believer than Dan Barker, a born-again Evangelical preacher and missionary from the age of 17. You might expect he'd be the least likely to lose his faith, but lose it he did -- from coming out as an atheist on Oprah in 1984 to becoming co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The initial autobiographical portion of the book eventually gives way to both philosophical arguments (e.g., how a being cannot be simultaneously both infinitely merciful and infinitely just), appeals to logic, and detailed descriptions of biblical inaccuracies and contradictions that refute the idea that it is the word of an omniscient, divine being.

I listen occasionally to the FFRF's weekly podcasts, but I'm not a particular fan of Barker as a host. I find his smug personality and flat humor rather off-putting and, while he's admittedly a gifted musician, I find most of his compositions almost unbearably corny. If it weren't for the show's fascinating guest interviews I wouldn't be listening at all. That said, Barker is much more likable and convincing on paper, and I wholeheartedly recommend this book. I enjoyed the philosophical reasoning, and I was also particularly fond of the chapter titled 'Dear Theologian,' a monologue of existential questioning directed from God to his human creation. ( )
  ryner | Jun 12, 2014 |
Godless by Dan Barker is an update of his lesser-known 1992 book, Losing Faith in Faith. According to Barker himself, the original was published in-house by his own organization because no other publisher wanted it. Losing Faith was a bestseller year after year, but only within the small groups of secularists and freethinkers who touted it. In the years since, interest in non-religious viewpoints has grown exponentially thereby prompting another publisher to ask for an update and release it again.

At a young age Dan Barker committed himself wholeheartedly to being a Christian. His specific beliefs were evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal, but from his own viewpoint he was simply a humble follower of Jesus, living according to the gospel. This is perhaps the most important part of Barker's case against belief and religion. Very few form their spiritual beliefs from a position of reason and logic, and therefore criticisms of one's religion often comes across as heartless and missing the point. As the argument goes, belief in God is a deep spiritual and emotional connection which non-believers don't experience and therefore cannot possibly understand. Dan Barker does understand because he lived the life. And if you read his story you'll see that he lived according to the Bible more closely than probably any person you know. His journey from Christian to atheist happened over many years as, one by one, each of his deeply-held beliefs shifted from literal truth to metaphor, and eventually to not worth his time. Barker is also a skilled debater and much of this book focuses on arguments against faith from the hundreds of debates he's participated in.

I read the original book several times when I discovered it over 10 years ago so I was curious how much this new release resembled its predecessor. His personal story is expanded to include more detail which I appreciated, and a few of the chapters containing arguments are refined, no doubt from his debate experience. Much of the material though is essentially the same, which makes sense because most of the arguments haven't changed in decades. ( )
  Daniel.Estes | Jan 24, 2012 |
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Foreword ~

It isn't difficult to work out that religious fundamentalists are deluded — those people who think the entire universe began after the agricultural revolution; people who believe literally that a snake, presumably in fluent Hebrew, beguiled into sin a man fashioned from clay and a woman grown from him as a cutting: people who find it self-evident that the origin myth that happened to dominate their own childhood trumps the thousands of alternative myths sprung from all the dreamtimes of the world. It is one thing to know that these faith-heads are wrong. My mistake has been to naively think I can remove their delusion simply by talking to them in a quiet, sensible voice and laying out the evidence, clear for all to see. It isn't as easy as that. Before we can talk to them, we must struggle to understand them; struggle to enter their seized minds and empathize. What is it really like to be so indoctrinated that you can honestly and sincerely believe obvious nonsense — believe it with every fiber of your being? ~~~~ (Richard Dawkins)
Introduction ~ The first time I ever spoke publicly about my atheism was on Oprah Winfrey's AM Chicago television show. That was in 1984 and less nine months earlier I had been preaching the gospel to appreciative audiences. Now here I was, about to attack everything I had once professed. I was nervous. I had been on television before as a Christian musician, but this was entirely different. ~~~~ (Dan Barker)
The motivation that drove me into the pulpit is the same one that drove me out. i was a minister because i wanted to know and speak the truth, and I am an atheist for the same reason. I have not changed; my conclusions have changed.
One question I often ask of religionists is, "I will happily change my mind if I am proved wrong. Will you?" Most of them proudly say, "No way!"
Truth does not ask to be believed. It asks to be tested.
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From Amazon: Review
Conversions on the road to Damascus are for those who hear voices and fall prey to delusions and who would be better off seeking professional help. Much more valuable in the human story are the reflections of intelligent and ethical people who listen to the voice of reason and who allow it to vanquish bigotry and superstition. This book is a classic example of the latter. --Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

I think Godless is fabulous. It came on Friday, and I spent much of the weekend reading it. It was a revelation to me. Others have made the journey ('faith to reason,' childhood to growing up, phantasy to reality, intoxication to sobriety -- however one likes to put it), but I don't think anyone can match the (devastating!) clarity, intensity, and honesty which Dan Barker brings to the telling. And the tone is right all the way through -- not belligerent or confrontational (as is the case with so much, too much, of the literature on this subject -- on both sides). I think Godless may well become a classic in its genre. -Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
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Barker describes the intellectual and psychological path he followed in moving from fundamentalism to freethought. Godless includes sections on biblical morality, the historicity of Jesus, biblical contradictions, the unbelievable resurrection, and much more.… (more)

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