Title: Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist
Author: Dan Barker
Publisher: Freedom From Religion Foundation
Many basic arguments covered
Easy to read and understand
Topics often debated get primary focus
Focuses almost entirely on Christianity
Variety of essays, some previously published
Arguments for atheism and against Christianity
Description of personal journey away from religion
Barkers Book covers two different topics. The first is autobiographical, describing what his life was like, why he became a preacher, and what it meant to him. This is an honest and open account of his religious life he really did experience what he regarded as a spiritual calling, and he developed quite a skill at winning souls. He even had a good career writing Christian music, some of which remains popular today.
But over time, he started to feel intellecutally restless, and because he was an independent evangelical preacher without a church to answer to, he felt free to expand his horizons and experiment with new ideas:
- I loved my Christian life, I believed in what I was doing, and it felt right. I just got to the point where my mind was restless to move beyond the simplicities of fundamentalism. I had become so involved with fundamentalist and evangelical matters that I had been ignoring a part of myself that was beginning to ask for attention.
Eventually he reached a state where he didnt really quite believe what he was preaching anymore, and he admits that he went through a difficult period of hypocrisy. But he had a family to feed and didnt seem to know what else to do. Eventually he did give it up, causing him to lose many friends and even his wife, but he also found new friends and built up a new marriage.
One interesting thing is how people reacted to his change: according to Barker, his old friends in the evangelical movement seemed more concerned with the psychological reasons behind his deconversion than in the truth of their own religion. They seemed certain that if they could simply remove whatever spiritual tumor was plaguing him, he would be a Christian again.
But the real key was faith, thus the title of his book. He lost faith in faith, because he came to regard it as a cop-out and an admission that religious propositions are unable to stand up to the scrutiny of reason and logic. He understands why people cling to faith, because faith can be so comforting; but he decided he needed more than just obedience and acceptance.
Much of the rest of his book goes beyond an autobiographical account and delves into critique of Christianity and Christians. Some of the chapters in this are simply reprints of articles which appeared in Freethought Today, so if you are already familiar with them, you may not find it necessary to read them again. Yet they were printed a long time ago, so they will still be new to many readers.
One of the most interesting is Chapter 9, Dear Theologian, which is supposed to be a letter from God to theologians. It asks interesting questions about Gods nature where did I come from? What is the purpose of my existence? Why did I create Hell? How do I decide right and wrong? The questions God asks make a good case for why the concept of a god fails to make any good sense.
Another important part of the book is Chapter 24, Leave No Stone Unturned, which is Barkers famous Easter Challenge. His challenge is simple: he asks any Christian to just tell him what happened on Easter day. The conditions of the challenge are to use the 165 verses found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and I Corinthians which describe Easter events. The Christian cannot omit a single detail, but also cannot add in any extra information. Barker hasnt managed to do it and I havent seen anyone else manage it, either.
You wont find much here in the way of general arguments against the existence of gods it is, instead, a book arguing against Christianity and more often against fundamentalist Christianity in particular. Even those arguments arent always the most sophisticated, but they do offer interesting insights and ideas worth pondering.