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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Using reason, we can rise above religion
It's hard to think of a book that "has caused more confusion than the bible" and harder still after reading Dan Barker's remarkable account of his leaving evangelical Christianity for the freedom of unbelief. That he chose the word "confusion" rather than, say, "evil" is important: even the newest of atheists - the stable boys and girls of the Four Horsemen - must concede...
Published on 16 Nov 2009 by Sphex

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37 of 64 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Exactly the kind of thing human progress doesn't need.
I am a Christian. In the last year I have really been shaken in my faith, and so decided to do a lot of reading around faith and atheism, and have got through authors such as Dawkins, Hitchens, Freud, Nietszche, Pinker, Nagel and Dennett among others, as well as authors throughout the spectrum of faith. It has been a challenging but fulfilling journey, and I intend to...
Published on 26 Oct 2010 by mike


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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Using reason, we can rise above religion, 16 Nov 2009
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It's hard to think of a book that "has caused more confusion than the bible" and harder still after reading Dan Barker's remarkable account of his leaving evangelical Christianity for the freedom of unbelief. That he chose the word "confusion" rather than, say, "evil" is important: even the newest of atheists - the stable boys and girls of the Four Horsemen - must concede that not all Christians are evil, but the claim that all religious people are confused - insofar as they rely on faith - is more defensible.

Barker did not lose his faith - he gave it up on purpose once he rejected "the very concept of faith as a valid tool of knowledge." He "made made the leap, not to atheism, but to the commitment to follow reason and evidence wherever they might lead" and he realized that faith - "intellectual bankruptcy... the evidence of non-evidence... a free lunch, a perpetual motion machine" - was only ever going to be an obstacle to his search for truth.

His Christian friends at first thought he might be having some sort of spiritual crisis, but he was not seeking "inner confirmation" - he wanted the "objective, external evidence" that he'd always assumed was there. While at college and studying the bible he'd thought that the "Christian evidences" could be left to the experts, who "had already figured it all out and who could provide the historical, documentary and archeological evidences if anyone ever asked. (No one ever did.)" That parenthesis is telling, since so much of the success of religion relies upon obedience to authority, on people not asking questions. (Children, and most adults, who do ask questions are easily palmed off with half-truths and lies or ignored or intimidated.)

Once he began looking for himself he discovered that "there is not a single contemporary historical mention of Jesus, not by Romans or by Jews, not by believers or by unbelievers, not during his entire lifetime". What about the Gospels themselves? Biblical scholarship, kept from the average churchgoer, has revealed a wealth of surprising facts. The last twelve verses of Mark, for example, are not original but were added later. Even if we considered the Gospel accounts to be historical (which for many other reasons we can't), "they tell us that the earliest biography of Jesus contains no resurrection!"

It isn't just the historical and scientific inaccuracies that lead Barker to describe the bible as "the Bad Book". Reading any number of verses - Numbers 15:32-36, Psalm 137:9, Isaiah 45:7, Luke 12:47-48 (which shows that the impulse to abolish slavery arose out of human not Christian values) - without the blinkers of faith should lead any decent rational human being to that conclusion. ("There are some good teachings in the bible, of course, but is a garden overrun with weeds still beautiful?") In stark contrast to the much repeated lie that you cannot be moral without religion is Barker's view that "the bible does not have a grasp of ethics" and that humanism "is the only way we can be moral" - and this from someone who was a committed evangelical Christian for many years!

This is a tough subject made tougher by ingrained habits of thought or rather non-thought. How many of us reflect upon where we get our values? We spend more time researching which toaster to buy than whether the golden rule really is a good ethical principle. Barker does a great job elucidating some very thorny issues. He confidently speaks for all atheists (a rare point of agreement?) when he says that we "find our basis for morality in nature". Moral values are real, but that does not mean they are "objective" in the sense of existing "independently of a mind" ("objective value" is an oxymoron). However, values "can be objectively justified by reference to the real world. Our actions have consequences, and those consequences can be objectively measured." The takeaway message? "People should be judged by their actions, not by their beliefs" (contrary to much of the history of institutional religion).

As if wanting to make up for years of evangelical preaching, this book is a model of clear thinking and concision. Here are a few standalone sentences, each of which contains more sense than the average sermon: "Theists do not have a god: they have a belief." "Transcendent does not equal supernatural." "God belief is just answering a mystery with a mystery, and therefore answers nothing." "Atheism is exquisitely vulnerable to disproof. Theism is not." "Theists are afraid people will think for themselves; atheists are afraid they won't."

Few atheists will have had quite as much contact with theists as Dan Barker, and fewer still can draw upon an earlier career as a preacher. His knowledge of the bible and his confidence as a public speaker, formerly used to bring "lost people into the kingdom of heaven", now serve a very different purpose. He is ruthless in demolishing groundless religious beliefs and exposing the cruelty and barbarity of the bible, but he never forgets that there is a human being in thrall to those beliefs and that book.

As co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, his continuing advocacy of separation of church and state ought to be a doddle in a country founded with this principle built into its constitution, but if so many Americans can deny the truth of evolution then we should not underestimate the ingenuity of the faithful when it comes to denying the plain facts of history. In a country where atheists are a lower form of pond life than bankers, we should admire and support Dan Barker for taking such a public stand for humanist values.
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87 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a book that I can recommended to christians, 21 Nov 2008
I have read dozens of books exposing the problems with christianity in search of a book that I could recommend to my family, all of whom are staunch christians. Many of the books out there are written by people that do not have a strong personal experience of christianity themselves and though they may be brilliant books, the christians I know could dismiss them all because the writers haven't "received the calling of the holy spirit". The few books that I have read on the subject that have been written by ex-christians may have excellent content but contain angry undertones which I know would turn the christian reader off.

Enter Dan Barker, a man who was a true believer who has escaped from the prison of christian thinking into the real world with an appreciation for the importance of genuine humanistic morality and the credibility and beauty of observable reality. He has a deep and thorough knowledge of the bible and has truly beheld the christian "experience" first hand. He cannot be accused of taking scripture out of context. He also knows much about the background of the various translations, including the original Hebrew and Greek.

I bought his previous book, "Losing Faith in Faith" hoping that it would be the book that I could pass to my family but though it had great content, I wished that it had been written as a single piece of work rather than a collection of essays and short articles.

In this new book, "Godless", he retells the best parts of "Losing Faith in Faith" as well as newer content and contains a greater emphasis on what I think is important for christians to understand about christianity. His writing was always very good, but 20+ years after his first book, it is even better and this time it is structured as a single, flowing work.

I have bought copies for my family and hope they will read this book with an open mind, if not to liberate themselves from christianity, then at least to understand that there are valid reasons for rejecting it and that life, truth and morality can be appreciated and enjoyed without religion.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Parable of the Lost Sheep, 26 April 2010
By 
Timothy J. Haigh "Tim Haigh" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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Not the elegant prose of Dawkins or a Hitchens, but still a heartwarming story of a man seeing the light. The middle section where he does a philosophical number on Christianity is forgettable, but his discussion of the inconsistancies of the Bible is valuable and entertaining. It goes without saying that he knows his stuff, since peddling this nonsense was his business until he started thinking about it. And his attitude to the still-deluded is rather sweet - still wants to be friends, and doesn't really blame them for not catching up. On the whole - a good read.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts from a reluctant Atheist, 2 Jan 2009
By 
Amazon Customer "Rob" (Buckinghamshire, England) - See all my reviews
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I have a lot of respect for Dan Barker. He was the real deal. He lived a genuine life of faith until his restlessly insatiable mind got the better of him. He scratched beneath the surface, began to engage with the numerous problems with Christianity, and emerged from a long and painful journey convinced that God was a myth. This is the kind of book that theists should read, yet one that I fear that few will. My message to them is simply this; challenge your own assumptions. Spare this book a few hours of your life. It might just change it.
I describe myself as a reluctant atheist because I would love to be able to believe in Christianity as I once did. The Christians I know are a fine bunch, loving and generous and outward looking. Alas I fear that the central tenets of their belief are not historically grounded, whilst problems such as the doctrine of hell, the problem of suffering, and the absolute certainty of the truth of evolution further add to the likelyhood that the existence of God is but a man made myth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. Must read., 4 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists (Kindle Edition)
A powerful and moving account of the transition from fundamentalist Christian to 'evangelical' Atheist. Showing what can be achieved by the simple decision to follow the evidence, where ever it may lead. Includes a wealth of unanswerable arguments against biblical inerrancy and simple refutations of arguments for gods. For example, the oft-repeated claim that so-called prophesies in the Bible prove it is divinely inspired is actually an argument against the biblical god. A god which is able to make accurate prophesy would exist in an unchanging and unchangeable universe in which the future is known and fixed. Such a god in such a universe would be incapable of changing anything, even it's own mind, and would thus be entirely impotent and indistinguishable from a non-existent one. Nor could freewill exist in such a predestined universe, and with no freewill, the concept of original sin, the need for 'salvation' and the entire rationale for Christianity disappears.

With similarly simple, unarguable logic, he also destroys the idea than a god can be both infinitely merciful and infinitely just.

Guaranteed to cause a nasty case of cognitive dissonance to any Christian, and especially any fundamentalist Christian, who has the courage and integrity to read it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey from evangelism to atheism, 16 July 2010
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If you've read Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris (and Stenger is in a similar vein, and also Dennett, but he's a bit of a harder read) then this book is something different. It's about the new atheism but,unlike Dawkins, Barker is someone who has experienced the hard core of evangelical Christianity. His evangelical activities are well described in the first part of the book. So it is something of a shock to see in the second part of this book an exceptionally intellectual critique of many aspects of the Christian religion. In some respects Barker has made a similar journey to that of Ehrman but with a less academic background.
If, like me, this is a journey that you are making then this is absolutely essential reading. It is well written and by someone who is obviously exceptionally intelligent. Unlike Dawkins he really does know his bible (Dawkins does make himself something of a target for Macgrath is this and other respects) and sometimes goes to extremes in theological argumentation. Because of all this, Barker is in some ways more convincing to a reader with some background in the Christian religion - but all the authors mentioned here are worth a read for the different perspectives they bring to this subject.
Having highly recommended this book, I should perhaps mention a couple of minor points that occurred to me on reading it. The first is that I would have liked a much more detailed and properly in-depth account of how Barker's viewpoint came to change. This would have been very difficult subject for him to cover, especially as memory and understanding of such a change must be very difficult - and would have doubled the length of the book! The second point that struck me was the apparently (worryingly) rapid change from evangelical Christian to evangelical Atheist, although the apparent rate of transformation may be due to the fact that the change itself is less well documented. However this is perhaps ungrateful to mention as Atheism does need its evangelists to make choices clear to the rest of us. He is obviously a very brave man to operate in the environment that he does.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Godless Brilliance, 22 Dec 2009
Easily the very best book I ever read on this subject. This man has an exceptionally good command of the arguments both for and against religion. He knows scripture inside out and is far the best qualified to critically appraise all aspects of it. We must respect his courage in changing his opinion from one extreme to another. I am glad I read several other authors on the same subject before reading this one. I definitely saved the very best till last!
This book should be read by anyone who has any interest in the subject even if they have read other authors already.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Deconversion!, 22 Jun 2012
This was purchased by a friend from Amazon for me as a gift. Barker tells his life story from a young child brought up in a Christian household, through his years as an evangelistic preacher to atheism. His deconversion to atheism was no easy pathway and certainly not one of choice. The book is divided into four sections: 'Rejecting God', 'Why I am an Atheist', 'What's Wrong With Christianity?' and 'Life is Good'. Barker displays no malice towards Christianity, however, by reasoning and rationalisation he realised there is no historical basis for the biblical god. He illustrates how morality was present within humanity long before Christianity was heard of. The reader is given the full explanation of the number of contradictions are contained within 'god's inspired word' ,there are thousands. Barker writes about the number of explanations he receives from Christians attempting to explain these contradictions, he says they are lengthy and lacking in logic. Barker illustrates how difficult it is to break away from what one has been led to believe by tradition. He also tells of how he was treated when he left the faith/cult! However, most importantly, he shows how it is possible to live a fulfilling life without being bereft of morality. As Richard Dawkins says 'You can look at a beautiful garden without believing there are fairies at the bottom of it!! (Dawkins, The God Delusion)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad. Enjoyed it. Wanted to skip parts though. :-/, 2 Nov 2014
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I enjoyed reading Dan Barkers book, but on the whole, I must admit. I got this book to read his personal account of how he came to loose his faith and his journey....

The first part of the book often touching on his life as a believer, which intrigued me, and also relatable as a once believer. However, it seemed alittle rushed over, of why he lost his faith, and quickly went onto arguments against the reasons of faith.

I did not want to hear arguments against the religious faiths, there are other books for that. I wanted more about the man Dan Barker and his personal journey.
At least more about Dan Barkers journey, not arguments that he finds compelling for the disbelief in a god. I already know, and agree with them all as an atheist. Perhaps this book is best suited to a religious believer, and not a preach to the choir type as I thought it might be. To give more insights into why he lost his faith, in more detail. As would be fitting for atheist readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars for me.. the final nail in gods coffin, 27 Jun 2013
By 
C. J. Boorman "Clive" (Reading, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists (Kindle Edition)
I don't know if this is everyones perception.. but for me this was groundbreaking. I have read the God Delusion.. the works of Bart Ehrman.. Nieztsche and Michael Shermer (the believing brain) ..but this book transformed my life. Autobiographical in scope this book is a journey from deeply held evangelical 'spiritual' faith to atheism. It was the the affirmation of the thought processes.. inspired by other authors.. and the last nail in the coffin of my faith (in the idea of god or a spiritual realm). Having heard the voice of god and spoken in tongues.. these 'feelings' and 'spiritual gifts' were the last remnants of an intellectually dead faith. This book led me from doubt about reconciliation (or being weird and alone) to the realisation that my delusion was shared by many. To hear his decription of the realisation that his conversations with god were all in his mind and that the spiritual remnants remained even in the absence of belief.. enable me to admit to myself that I was already an atheist and to ignore the remnant echoes of a delusional relationship with my own mind (labelled god in my imaginary world view). It is a shared personal experience for me (though I wasn't an evangelical preacher as this guy was). I highly recommend it to those of an evangelical or charismatic christian background.. especially those who just can't accept the so called proofs, reasons and evidences anymore. Other readers will probably not relate to the theology or the emotions or the depth of commitment. ..but for me it will be as precious as 'finding Darwins God' was. His reasoning is clear and well presented even if you can't agree with his stand. I for one will look upon him as my non-spiritual mentor that led me to peace of mind.. took me where the God delusion never could.
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