Godless, Dan Barker

When I wrote the entry titled your Inner Fish way back in 2009 about the book by Neil Shubin by the same title, I intended to do the same with every book I would have acquired since then. That plan obviously fell though - it didn't happen at all. So let's see I can revive that a bit.

One of the books I acquired in 2010 is Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, by Dan Barker.

As I am already an atheist when I read the book, some portions were pretty much preaching to the choir from my view. For a religious reader though, in particular Christians, will get loads of information about this preachers deconversion from Christianity.

The book is divided in to 4 parts. The first part, Rejecting God, provides the story, Dan Barker's life story from being a Christian to becoming an atheist. The second is called "Why I Am an Atheist" and it deals mainly with the arguments against god. The third chunk is about "What's Wrong With Christianity". And lastly, "Life is Good!" ends the book with his adventures as an activist and his thoughts about atheism.

Amongst the chapters, I enjoyed the ninth one titled "Dear Theologian" the most I think.

Here's an excerpt from "Dear Theologian" where Dan has God writing to a theologian about the problems He faces. This one is regarding the idea of atonement by the death of Jesus Christ.

Beyond that, it is entirely incomprehensible to me why you think I would accept the blood of one individual for the crime of another. Is that fair? Is that justice?" If you commit a felony, does the law allow your brother to serve the jail sentence for you? If someone burglarized your home, would you think that justice was served if a friend of the burglar bought you new furniture? Do you really think that I am such a bloodthirsty dictator that I will be content with the death of anyone for the crime of another? And are you so disrespectful of justice that you would happily accept a stand-in for your crimes? What about personal responsibility? Should I welcome believers into heaven who avoided the rap for their own actions? Something is way of kilter here.
Chapter 9, Page 153

I also like this bit about hell and omniscience. This should matter but it doesn't seem to faze any believer...

How would you feel if you had brought some children into the world knowing that they were going to be tormented eternally in a place you built for them? Could you live with yourself? Wouldn't it have been better not to have brought them into the world in the first place?
Chapter 9, Page 151

The final chapter of the whole book, "Life and Death Matters" is one that I found most meaningful. Here's one nugget:

"If there is no hope of eternal life, then what is the purpose of life?" is a question we atheists often hear. My response is that there is indeed no purpose of life. There is purpose in life. If there were a purpose of life, then that would cheapen life. It would make us tools or slaves of someone else's purpose. Like a hammer that hangs on the garage wall waiting for someone to build something, if we humans were designed for a purpose then we would be subservient in the universe. Our value would not be in ourselves. It would exist in our submission to the will of the toolmaker.  That is slavery to a master, or infant dependency on a father figure. Besides, if there is a god, what is the purpose of his life? If he doesn't need a purpose, why do we? Doesn't a father need to have had a father? A true father does not want the child to remain forever subservient, finding purpose in pleasing the will of the parent. A true father expects the child to become a peer, with its own purpose, even if it disagrees with the parent. If I raise a child who is eternally dependent on me for meaning, then I am an inept parent.
Chapter 19, Page 344

This one is about meaning of life as well.

In the booklet, Craig writes that belief in God makes a difference because " If God does not exist, then life is ultimately meaningless." Well, yes, Bill, life is ultimately meaningless, and we should not want it any other way if we value life. If you have to resort of the rhetorical device of appealing to the reader's dissatisfaction with reality, fear of mortality and a desire for something "ultimate", simply assuming that such wishful thinking confers automatic credibility or dignity to the larger question, then you're admitting that your basic evidences for a God are no strong enough to stand on its own. You don't need any reasons at all, with that logic. You can simply say, "Being a mere mortal mammal makes me feel unimportant, so I'm going to believe in God."

Truth is truth. It shouldn't matter what any one of us wants to believe. The fact that life is ultimately meaningless does not mean it is not immediately meaningful.
Chapter 19, Page 347

Okay, one final bit about "salvation".

We atheist possess "salvation" not because we are released from a sentence, but because we don't deserve the punishment in the first place. We have committed no "sin". Sin is a religious concept, and in some religions salvation is the deliverance from the "wages of sin" -- which is death or eternal punishment. Sin has been defined as "missing the mark" of God's expectations or holiness, or "offending God," so it follows that since there is no god, there is no sin, therefore no need of salvation. How much respect should you have for a doctor who cuts you wit a knife in order to sell you a bandage? Only those who consider themselves sinners need this kind of deliverance -- it is a religious solution to a religious problem.

If salvation is the cure, then atheism is the prevention.
Chapter 19, Page 355

For atheists who are well read on arguments against god and Christianity, this book won't provide you much new information but it will be an entertaining read. For life-long atheists, the first part might be valuable too.