Losing Faith in Faith

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Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist is a book by Dan Barker.


Part 1: Losing Faith[edit]

Spreading the Good News[edit]

In this chapter, Barker gives a brief autobiography, from the age of 15 when he felt called to preach. He describes his career as a musician and preacher, and finally a thirst for knowledge that eventually eroded his faith and turned him from a fundamentalist to a liberal Christian and finally into an atheist.

Ripples: From Faith to Reason[edit]

Wanting to make a clean break with the past, Barker sent a letter to his family, friends, and business associates announcing his deconversion, and got a wide variety of reactions. Some friendships survived, others were destroyed. He sees this as a crucible that showed him which friendships were solid and which ones were not.

As a result of the discussions resulting from this letter, both of Barker's parents became atheists. His story was featured in a newspaper, which led to correspondence with his current wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor.

I Just Lost Faith in Faith[edit]

This chapter is a reprint of an article that Barker wrote for the June 1984 edition of Freethought Today, his first article in that publication.

He describes his deconversion and the effect that it had on people around him. In particular, he says he was quite happy as a Christian; it was not unhappiness but rational inquiry that led to his deconversion. There are big problems with religion, but the answers proffered — especially "faith" — are unsatisfying and shallow.

Standing on the Premises[edit]

This chapter is the text of a talk Barker gave at the Freedom From Religion Foundation convention in 1984.

He begins by recounting how he won his first soul for Christ. He then explains that evangelization works by capitalizing on certain assumptions, such as:

  • Life needs meaning
  • Man has a soul and/or a spirit
  • Man is basically evil

and others. But many of these beliefs are accepted for no good reason, and by questioning them or pointing out their flaws, it is possible to undercut the evangelist's message.

From Martian to Earthling[edit]

The difference between a theist and an atheist is not simply a matter of drawing different conclusions from the same data; it is a difference in worldview. Switching to a new worldview is similar to learning a new language, except that one leaves the old worldview behind.

Deconversion proceeds through a stage of growing awareness of other points of view; a stage of consideration of these other points of view, and confronting the problems with one's existing worldview (which can be painful); and finally, a stage of incorporation: one has made the transition to the new worldview, but has yet to fully work through all the consequences and integrate them into one's new worldview.

The transition from theist to atheist is a frightening leap into the unknown, and during this time it is helpful to have a community of people with whom one can discuss religious issues.

When All Things Worked Together for Good[edit]

(Originally published in Freethought Today, 1985.)

Barker recounts his experiences working with a preacher who performed "miraculous" healings, as well as his own experiences performing them. One time in particular, he prayed over a woman with arthritis; then, when nothing seemed to happen, told her, "Woman, according to thy faith be it unto thee", as a way of shifting the blame for the lack of recovery from God to the woman.

He ends by explaining how believers are more than happy to count the hits and ignore the misses, praising each successful healing as a miracle, and forgetting or explaining away the many that fail.

Ministers I Have Known[edit]

(Originally published in Freethought Today, 1987.)

Barker presents a patchwork collage of ministers and preachers he encountered during his time as an itinerant minister. While some are con men, others are simply inept, and all have their quirks.

He tells of the sense of rivalry between ministers, and how they feel the need to brag to each other about how much their congregation has grown, or how much money they've raised. But as a result of this, and of their position of authority within their own churches, they have few opportunities to open up to another person.

Some Mistakes[edit]

(Originally published in Freethought Today, 1985.)

Shortly before his deconversion, Barker heard a preacher mention the name of Bob Ingersoll. Wanting to know more about this critic of the Bible, to see where and how he was wrong, Barker read a collection of his essays and found a kindred spirit and an honest critic.

Part 2: Finding Freethought[edit]

Why I Am an Atheist[edit]

Barker is an atheist because there is no evidence for God. Facile accusations by believers are untrue, and many of the arguments presented for God apply equally well to Santa Claus. Evidences such as revelation, accounts of miracles, ontological arguments, etc. are found wanting. The Bible and people's faith can be explained naturally.

Defenders of the faith want atheists to study the Bible before committing themselves; yet millions are accepted as Christians despite having only a passing familiarity with the Bible; and it is acceptable to reject other faiths without having read their holy scriptures. The important thing is not what we believe, but how we go about determining what is true. Pastors are not necessarily wise or good at thinking critically. Theists tend to consider wise that which reinforces their existing conclusions, not that which uncovers uncomfortable truth.

Inaccurate Conception[edit]

(Originally published in Freethought Today, 1986.)

Words like morality, love, humanist have different meanings inside and outside religion. Agnosticism is "the refusal to take as a fact any statement for which there is insufficient evidence." Atheism is merely a lack of belief in any gods; it does not imply morality, motives, political views, or anything else. For those, something else must be added, such as "humanist" or "feminist".

The Great Escape[edit]

(Originally published in Freethought Today, 1991.)

Faith is not a way of knowing, it is a cop-out. It is not necessary to proclaim faith in that which exists; the evidence should suffice. The Bible admits that God cannot be known, but must simply be believed in. Unlike conclusions drawn from evidence, faith remains strong even in the absence of evidence.

"What If You're Wrong?"[edit]

(Originally published in Freethought Today, 1991.)

Barker explains some of the problems with Pascal's wager.