Book Review – “Godless” by Dan Barker – “How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists”
I recently received a letter from a College student who had just read my previous blog “Why I’m not a Believer in Any Religion”
Apparently she had been struggling with what she learned at church and at home as opposed with what she was learning in College, from her courses and from friends. It is a dilemma that many college students face. And, it’s a dilemma for religious parents who willingly pay their children’s tuition but would rather not pay for their deconversion, from Christianity to atheism. I can’t blame them. But, these parents should have known better. Either send your kids to a religious college that will control their thoughts, or send them elsewhere and risk having them exposed to free thought, science, and atheism.
This college student, I shall call Joan, came from a religious family. Her Great Grandfather as an itinerant Preacher, her Grandfather was a deacon and church elder with a MA in Education. Her mother was a devout Christian, with several degrees, who I guess would be upset if she knew her daughter was straying from the fold.
Joan’s comment concerning my blog were honest and open. I was impressed. She did not say when she began having doubts about religion and the existence of God, but I expect it was a gradual change. Fast deconversions unlike conversions, seldom happen. Usually the process is slow after exposure to college friends and professors, and in Joan’s case someone recommended a book to her. The title was “Godless” by Dan Barker.
I must admit I was surprised when she asked if I had read the book. It so happens that I had read “Godless” and Barker’s first book “Losing Faith in Faith”. Barker has three other books and many magazine articles and papers on his beliefs, his deconversion and the Freedom From Religion foundation (FFRF), of which he and his wife Annie Laurie Gaylor are co-Presidents. (I strongly recommend every one join this organization, it’s a real winner and a proactive force in preserving our constitutional rights.
Both Dan and Annie Laurie have visited Indianapolis on several occasions and I have had the honor and pleasure of having spent an evening with them when they spoke to CFI Indiana. Dan lectured for an hour and performed his music for an hour, singing and accompanying himself on a keyboard. He is a talented, soft-spoken, and extremely intelligent person, as is Annie Laurie.
Getting back to Barker’s book: If any serious persons with doubts about their religious beliefs asked me to recommend a good first book for a doubter, “Godless – How an Evangelical preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists,” would be the book I would and have recommended. Joan was fortunate to have picked the very best book for someone with doubts like herself.
Let me tell you a little about this very unusual and persuasive book: Advance praise for Godless tells the whole story.
Oliver Sacks, author of several books about the workings of the brain in relation to music, “Musicophilia,” writes: “call it what you may, faith to reason, childhood to adulthood, fantasy to reality, intoxication to sobriety, but I don’t think any one can match the devastating clarity, intensity and honesty… of the telling. Godless may well become a classic in its genera.”
Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, columnist for Scientific America; author of “How we Believe,” “Why Darwin Matters,” and many more. “Barker recounts his journey from evangelical preacher to atheist activist, and along the way explains why it is not only okay to be an atheist but it is something of which to be proud. Barker defends the civil liberties of godless Americans.”
Christopher Hitchens, author of “God is Not Great,” “How Religion Poisons Everything” and so many others. “Valuable in the human story are the reflections of intelligent and ethical people who listen to the voice of reason and allow it to vanquish bigotry and superstition.”
Julia Sweeny, comedian, actress. Saturday Night Live alumnus. This book profoundly affected me. It’s funny, its poignant, and most importantly, true. You must read this book.
Richard Dawkins wrote the Forward. “This book is destined to become a classic of its kind.”
Need I say more?
The table of Contents tells it all.
Part 1 – Rejecting God
Part 2 – Why I am an Atheist
Part 3 – What’s Wrong With Christianity?
Part 4 – Life is Good
Dan Barker had a dilemma. How does one come out of the closet and tell his family, friends and Christian brethren that he no longer believed in what he had been preaching? It is the same problem all new atheists must face. Those who face a similar problem will take heart and find courage in Dan’s experience.
Barker’s observations about religion, especially Christianity will arm you with more arguments than you will ever be able to use in defending your new atheism and pointing out the deficiencies of religion. His familiarity and understanding of the bible will blow you away along with fundamentalist bible scholars. Barker can quote chapter and verse of every contradiction and atrocity in the scriptures. He philosophizes, he quotes, he turns the scriptures on their head. His knowledge of the bible will astound you. I have listened to many debates where he politely but vigorously overwhelms his opponents with bible fact and history, and pure logic. The readers of Godless can easily and quickly arm themselves with strong arguments defending atheism and attacking religious superstition and dogma. Inevitably, all atheists will have to confront an evangelical nut. Barker book offers you all the ammunition you will ever need.
Above all, this is a fun book. You will laugh, you will be delighted, you will be amazed and above all, you will be grateful to Dan Barker for writing this expose and critique of Christianity that no one else could have written. There is no better intellectual attack on superstition than one written by someone who has been deeply imbedded inside faith and organized religion.
If you wish to discard the last remnants of your old faith or strengthen your new atheism, this is the book for you. I recommend that the reader underline, bend page corners, and use stickies as he/she reads. There will be passages that you will want to return to and use as needed. Good reading to all.