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Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists

Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists

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For 19 years, Dan Barker lived as a missionary, an evangelist and a Christian songwriter. Decades after, he became one of the most prominent advocates of atheism and free-thought. This book is, in his own words, Dan Barker’s journey from fundamentalism to atheism.

Christopher Hitchens, who was a notable author and journalist, believes that Barker's book is a classic example of how reflections of intelligent and ethical people who chose to stick with logic could conquer bigotry and superstition. Richard Dawkins was also quoted as saying that Barker's account of internal delusion is eloquent, adding that the author is one smiling and triumphant refugee from the crazy and bizarre world of fundamentalist Protestantism in America.

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Zaphod's picture
Dan Barker is someone I would

Dan Barker is someone I would like to read more material from.

firebolt's picture
Then give Just Pretend a read

Then give Just Pretend a read. I think you will really like it.

LivingApostate's picture
I have heard his name several

I have heard his name several times. I think it might be time to read this book. I have read Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris and watched Dennett debate, and the others aforementioned, but have yet to read anything by Barker. Once I have done this, I'll post a response and perhaps we could discuss his transformation from brainwashed evangelical (and brainwasher to others!) to dedicated atheist. That'd be interesting, I think. Give me some time to find and read it and I'll be back soon. Cheers.

Zaphod's picture
Cool, I look forward to

Cool, I look forward to hearing what you'll have to say on the subject!

SammyShazaam's picture
Also looking forward to

Also looking forward to hearing your repot :) I'm not as well read on this subject apparently, what went on in the Dennett debate?

SammyShazaam's picture
I think it's just a bit

I think it's just a bit ironic how this man spent 19 years preaching, and even once discovering his atheism, still feels the need to preach.

Zaphod's picture
Yeah I hear what you are

Yeah I hear what you are saying, but I have said it before I often find the most dedicated to the faith (religious) people, and by this I don't mean people who think they are and don't know anything about religion like many so called religious people are, to be the most interesting people after they have converted to being atheist

efpierce's picture
It must be in his blood, you

It must be in his blood, you know the old saying about bad habits are hard to break or something like that.

ginamoon's picture
I have read stories of some

I have read stories of some religious people who shift beliefs and become atheist. And reading Dan Barker used to be a missionary for years, it is really interesting to know how he become an atheist after all the works he have done.

JahLive's picture
I also find it interesting

I also find it interesting how people can end up swinging from one end to the other of the religious and non religious spectrum..
I really dislike fundamentalism because I think it does the religion itself a lot of injustice and harm.. But it bothers me when someone like Christopher Hitchens makes it seem as if ALL religious people reject logic and are unintelligent.. I mean, C.S Lewis was an Atheist who became a devout Christian and wrote a lot of intelligent theology about his conversion.
Richard Swinburne and Dr. Cornel West are critically minded Christian thinkers as well.. They just don't make the news.

Pathway Machine's picture
I'm not impressed by Dan

I'm not impressed by Dan Barker. The interesting thing about Christians who become atheists is that they weren't very knowledgeable on the subject of the Bible as Christians and this doesn't improve with their status change. I think the problem is the pagan influence remains.

Here is my response to a few points of contention Mr. Barker considered important.

1. Matthew was the only one to mention dead people emerging from their graves upon Jesus' death. It is assumed that these resurrected dead were walking around.

The omission of the dead people emerging from the graves by the other writers does not, of course, mean anything. Matthew was the first gospel to be written. In De viris inlustribus (Concerning Illustrious Men), chapter III, Jerome says: "Matthew, who is also Levi, and who from a publican came to be an apostle, first of all composed a Gospel of Christ in Judaea in the Hebrew language and characters for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed." So this (Matthew having been the first gospel) might be a reason for the others having not included the dead people emerging from their graves.

Any serious scholar of the Bible could tell you that at Matthew 27:52-53 the Greek egeiro means simply raised up rather than resurrected back to life, and in addition to this "they" (meaning the bodies that were walking around) is a pronoun, and in Greek all pronouns have gender and "they" is masculine whereas bodies" (the bodies that were lifted up) is in the neuter. They are not the same.

Adam Clarke: "It is difficult to account for the transaction mentioned in verses 52 and 53. Some have thought that these two verses have been introduced into the text of Matthew from the gospel of the Nazarenes, others think the simple meaning is this: - by the earthquake several bodies that had been buried were thrown up and exposed to view, and continued above ground till after Christ's resurrection, and were seen by many persons in the city."

Theobald Daechsel's translation: "And tombs opened up, and many corpses of saints laying at rest were lifted up."

Johannes Greber's translation: "Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried there were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city."

2. At Matthew 28:2 there was an "earthquake" and an angel rolled back the stone slab that closed the tomb off. The other gospel writers don't mention this. Some Bible defenders suggest past perfect, but as the author points out the passage is in the aorist (past) tense.

The Greek word seismos means quaking, shaking or trembling. (Matthew 27:51, 54; 28:4; Revelation 6:13) The earth quaking from the moving of a rather large stone, for example, might have been trivial enough for some not to mention it.

A Grammar of New Testament Greek, by James H. Moulton, Vol. I, 1908, p. 109, "the Aorist has a 'punctiliar' action, that is, it regards action as a point: it represents the point of entrance . . . or that of completion . . . or it looks at a whole action simply as having occurred, without distinguishing any steps in its progress."

Aorist is a peculiar tense in the koiné Greek which means "not bounded" as to time. Verbs in the aorist tense can be rendered in a variety of ways depending upon the context. They could mark a definite occurrence of something at an unstated time in the past, such as with Matthew 28:2. An example of a similar case would be in Matthew 17:3 where the voice announced that the son had been approved. Many translations often miss the exact meaning of texts where the aorist tense is used. Matthew, understood correctly, indicates that the stone had been rolled back before the women arrived, he only mentioned that the stone had been moved and how it was moved whereas the other gospel writers do not.

The author considers the following as discrepancies. Each of them will be addressed below.

What time did the women visit the tomb?

They all convey the idea that it was dark and getting light. Dawn.

Matthew: "as it began to dawn" (28:1)
Mark: "very early in the morning . . . at the rising of the sun" (16:2, KJV); "when the sun had risen" (NRSV); "just after sunrise" (NIV)
Luke: "very early in the morning" (24:1, KJV) "at early dawn" (NRSV)
John: "when it was yet dark" (20:1)

Who were the Women?

Some Bible writers mentioned the names of certain women, others do not. The various accounts do not indicate any of the women were not present, they only vary in which names are given.

Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10)
John: Mary Magdalene (20:1)

What was their purpose?

Mark 15:47 and Luke 23:55-56 clearly state that the women were there the night before and rested for the Sabbath, then the following morning (the ancient Hebrew night was divided into "watches" each about 4 hours long. The third and final watch was from about 2:00 a.m. to sunrise. Called the morning watch. By Jesus' time they had adopted the Roman division of 4 watches, the final one being from about 3:00 a.m. to sunrise, though the Hebrew day began at sunset or evening and ended the following sunset or evening.) These verses, as well as John 19:39-40 took place before the morning of Jesus' rising from the dead. They are considered here, even though outside the conditions of the challenge, because the author has confused them for having taken place that morning. At John 19:39-40 upon Jesus' burial it is mentioned that the body had been spiced, but since it was a Sabbath, and the burial was done in haste, the women had returned to do a more thorough job.

Matthew: to see the tomb (28:1)

Mark: had already seen the tomb (15:47), brought spices (16:1)

Luke: had already seen the tomb (23:55), brought spices (24:1)

John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived (19:39,40)

Was the tomb open when they arrived?

Matthew gives the account of the stone being moved before the women arrived where the others do not. See 2. above.

Matthew: No (28:2)
Mark: Yes (16:4)
Luke: Yes (24:2)
John: Yes (20:1)

Who was at the tomb when they arrived?

Angels are spirit form and so in order for them to be seen by humans they have to assume physical form, so some see them as men and others know that they are actually angels. They are, in a sense, both angels and men.

(Genesis 29:1-5) Many of the details of the account given by the four writers of the gospel differ in a way that depends upon who is telling the account to them. There were people coming and going over an indeterminate amount of time, and where one person would see one thing another would see something different from their own perspective of where they fit in the stream of time.

For example, the guards were there during the night, and some of the women were there. The women left first and then the soldiers left sometime not long before the women returned. The soldiers left when the angels arrived and moved the stone. Mary arrived but left to tell the others what had happened; the apostles arrived - John being younger and faster arrived first, before Peter. The arrival of the others isn't specifically mentioned but they were there. If the Bible skeptic, who seems to expect all four of these accounts to be identical thus defeating the purpose of giving a varied witness account, was set down at any given point within my brief description of a part of what happened it would differ from any other point. Was Mary there or not? Depends upon when you got there. The same applies to Peter and John, and the angels and the guards and Jesus. And their positions.

Matthew: One angel (28:2-7)
Mark: One young man (16:5)
Luke: Two men (24:4)
John: Two angels (20:12)

Where were these messengers situated?

See the point directly above. In seeing these small details that differ among various witnesses one could either come to the conclusion that these things didn't take place as the Bible says they did, or that there was an attempt to give accurate accounts from various perspectives in the stream of time which must have been a tremendously exciting and confusing period. And they differed slightly. It would have been easy enough for four Christians to come together and create one account that didn't differ in any way, but what would have been the point? The skeptic would have to take the position that they were so similar they must be fraudulent, and in thinking this they would be right.

Matthew: Angel sitting on the stone (28:2)

Mark: Young man sitting inside, on the right (16:5)

Luke: Two men standing inside (24:4)

John: Two angels sitting on each end of the bed (20:12)

What did the messenger(s) say?

Each of the accounts that are given convey the same message. If one tells another what yet another says the words may become ones own but the message is the same. These quotes themselves change over time and translation but the message is the same.

Matthew: "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you." (28:5-7)

Mark: "Be not afrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." (16:6-7)

Luke: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." (24:5-7)

John: "Woman, why weepest thou?" (20:13)

Did the women tell what happened?

There are two things to consider here. First of all, the possibility that since Mary had left to tell the apostles what she had seen, these other women are the ones that Mark is referring to. Mark's account of the events that took place are somewhat more limited than the others and he doesn't mention Mary having left, but the others do. That doesn't mean that he meant to imply that she hadn't, but only that he didn't mention it. Also note that the second half of verse 8 it seems to contradict itself saying that the women did tell Peter. This brings us to the second point of consideration. The second half of verse 8 of Mark chapter 16 to the conclusion of the book is spurious. It was added on later.

The Codex Regius of the eighth century includes both the short and the long ending adding that they are current in some quarters while not recognizing either as authoritative.

The Greek Codex Alexandrinus, and Ephraemi rescriptus from the fifth century C.E., as well as the Greek and Latin Bezae Codices from the fifth and sixth centuries C.E., Jerome's Latin Vulgate c. 400 C.E., Curetonian Syriac, Old Syriac and Syriac Peshitta, Christian Aramaic both from the fifth century C.E. add the long conclusion, but the Greek Codex Sinaiticus and Vatican ms 1209, both from the fourth century C.E. as well as the Cinaitic Syriac codex from the fourth and fifth century C.E., and Armenian Version from the fourth to thirteenth century C.E. omits them. It would seem, especially when examining the context, that these verses were added sometime during this period.

Matthew: Yes (28:8)

Mark: No. "Neither said they any thing to any man." (16:8)

Luke: Yes. "And they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest." (24:9, 22-24)

John: Yes (20:18)

When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?

During the confusion of the events at the tomb Mary may have had, at any given point, some confusion about what was going on. That is completely understandable. Another point to consider is the body of Jesus itself. Jesus had one body which was sacrificed for all time. That body was now lifeless and taken away by angels, because, what is the point of sacrificing the body only to bring it back 3 days later? The man Jesus had died and was no more, but the spirit form that had existed before the man was alive again and had to take on another body in a similar way as all of the angels that were there at the tomb. This is why Mary and others didn't recognize him at first; she thought that he was the gardener.

Matthew: Yes (28:7-8)

Mark: Yes (16:10,11)

Luke: Yes (24:6-9,23)

John: No (20:2)

When did Mary first see Jesus?

Notice that Mathew 28:9 doesn't mention Mary, only the women, and John mentions that Mary had left to tell Peter what had happened. Mark 16:9-10 are spurious. (See above "Did the women tell what happened?"

Matthew: Before she returned to the disciples (28:9)

Mark: Before she returned to the disciples (16:9,10)

John: After she returned to the disciples (20:2,14)

Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?

In some older translations the Greek hapto which can mean "touch," but also "cling to, lay hold of" in English. Since Jesus allowed others to touch him it appears that in the case of Mary, she had been clinging to Jesus. She no doubt had been upset that he had died and didn't want to let him go, not understanding that he was going to go to Heaven with his Father to fulfill the purpose he had told them about, which is why he explained to her that that is what he needed to do. The German Elberfelder and Luther translations, the French Crampon and Liénar Bibles, Italian Riveduta and Diodati and Spanish Moderna, Valera and Nácar-Colunga translations all use the term "touching" as well. The New English Bible, Catholic La Bible de Jérusalem (The Jerusalem Bible) in French and English use the more contextually accurate "stop clinging" or "let go of" terminology which agrees with An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, Vol. IV, p. 145. The Spanish Ediciones Paulinas uses "Suéltame," meaning "Let go of me."

Matthew: Yes (28:9)

John: No (20:17), Yes (20:27)

efpierce's picture
On the opposite side of this,

On the opposite side of this, are there any atheists who have gone from die-hard atheism to born again Christian?

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