Shai Reads "Godless"
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30-08-2017, 11:34 PM
Shai Reads "Godless"
After the Case for Christ, it was recommended I try an atheist book next instead of Evangelical apologetics. Was tempted to do God Delusion, but not feeling Dawkins. So I plopped two books down, Godless and God is not Great, and used a random number generator where I gave odds to Godless and evens to God is not Great.

Godless wins, thus spoke the RNG. So let's go down the counter-apologia rabbit hole and look at the tale of Dan Barker, co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, atheist activist, accomplished pianist, man who met his second wife on Oprah's show when she only had a local one in Chicago, and former Evangelical Christian Pastor who spent much of his life trying to Save souls. At this point, before we begin, I feel the need the need for speed to admit a minor conflict of interest here, similar to my caveat about loathing Evangelicals in CfC; I've got a copy of FFRF's "Freethought Today" on my desk next to the computer and Godless right now..

Skipping mostly over the Introduction and the Foreword here. They mainly give other suggestions on what to read and describe how he met his wife, Annie-Laurie Gaylor (other Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation). Though the end of the Foreword gives a word of warning to those of us who haven't read the Table of Contents, as Richard Dawkins says on page xii, "Deconversion stories occupy only the opening chapters of this book. Just as Dan's religiously doped youth gave way to a more fulfilled maturity, so later chapters of his book move on, and give us the generous reflections of a mature atheist. Dan Barker's road from Damascus will, I predict, become well trodden by many others in the future, and this book is destined to become a classic of its kind."

Part One: Rejecting God
Chapter One: The Call

So Part One of the book Rejecting God, Chapter One, The Call is where we're going to begin. In 1964, when he was 15, Dan Barker felt, as expressed on page 3, "the call to the ministry." It was at Anaheim Christian Center, at a Charismatic Christian event. It was a new phenomenon to he, his parents, and many mainline Christian churches, and it seemed to be a "living Gospel". He says on page 3, "the meetings at that 'spirit-filled' church were intense, bursting with rousing music and emotional sermons." He talks of Tongues, weeping, waving arms to Heaven, faith healing, prophecy, discerning the spirits, and other such things. It was, "the night that changed my life".

Now I've been to a few Charismatic events, and even as a Baptist, they freaked me out. As a Catholic, I've once been talked into going to a Charismatic Catholic event, and was prayed over by a priest. I was the only person who didn't fall backward after he prayed over me; it was quite awkward for both of us.

Anyhow, Dan lays out how he had already been Saved, because you have to make faith your own, you just can't be raised in it, in most theologies. Interestingly enough, even as a Catholic, I notice a lot of people who have stayed in the faith, are those who had a "being Saved" type moment similar to most mainline Protestants or Evangelicals. Those who don't, tend to be Christmas and Easter sorts at best, or usually never come to church again. Anyhow, Dan goes on to say he thought he felt the spirit of God in that place, and that he had been wondering about what to do with his life, when he feels the Call. The sermon only cemented it, being about how Jesus would come back at "any moment" to judge the Earth, and how Christians needed to spread the Good News and save as many people as they could.

Dan muses how his change mirrored his own father's 15 years before, when his father had been a 'wordly' musician in the 1940s, playing all across the state of California for the USO during the Second World War. His dad was apparently pretty good, even appearing as a trombone player with a solo in the background in a 1948 Irving Berlin movie called "Easter Parade" when Judy Garland was singing her first song, her hand resting on his dad's shoulder. However, Dan's father basically said 'screw that' when he met his wife, Dan's mother, in a dance band. After getting married and having kids he went Super Christian Conservative, threw out his worldly music, renounced dance-bands, and enrolled in Pacific Bible College. He wanted to be a preacher, but when you have 3 kids, sometimes you can't keep up with college costs, so he dropped out to become a police officer in Anaheim.

Barker makes it clear on page 5, "I didn't think I was fulfilling my dad's dreams - I was certain that God was calling me, personally - but looking back on it, I'm sure there must have been some influence from my parents." His mother taught Sunday School, his dad did some lay preaching without a seminary degree, and both of his younger brothers were involved in lay Christian ministries as well. Barker was even, at 13, part of a family Christian band!! Yes, the man who would one day write songs like "Nothing Fails Like Prayer" and "Stay Away Pope Polka" once toured with his family band as they played and sung Christian music. (As an aside, he would later write Vacation Bible School music and other things.) His dad played trombone and preached, his mom would sing, with a specialty being "His Eye Is On The Sparrow". His brother Tom played trombone, his brother Darrel played trumpet, and he played piano. Confession? I capitalized trumpet at first due to typing Trump so much lately.

Anyhow, that night in Anaheim at 15 years of age, Dan was convinced Jesus would come so soon that there wouldn't be time for him to go to college or get married. He had to start preaching right then! And quite frankly, sounds like he was super annoying. Carrying his Bible to school each day to browbeat his friends with his evangelism. Joining youth teams to take missionary weekend trips down to poor Mexican villages just south of the California border to save my fellow heathen Papists from their fake Christianity. Dan preaches his first sermon in Mexico at the age of 15, next to an irrigation canal in the village of Ejido Morelia.

The summer of his 16th year he ends up joining a traveling Gospel preaching group and is made one of the team leaders, over three girls who were older than he was - because patriarchy - and went preaching at Hispanic churches and neighborhoods and helping to run Vacation Bible Schools. He and his fellow "California Evangelists" taught local teens the Roman Road to Salvation; he uses a different term, but my ex-Baptist is coming out here. Basically that the path to Salvation is laid out by Paul in the book of Romans.

Dan's first victim convert was one of my fellow Catholics who apparently sucked at his catechesis classes, because when Dan asked if he was Christian, he replied Catholic instead of saying 'yes'. Dan then goes on, in page 7, "Great! Then you know about the plan of Salvation?" The kid again repeats he's Catholic. If you've ever seen one of Ray Comfort's 'man on the street' videos, you now know the rest, except Dan didn't go into "So you broke Commandments X, Y, and Z" and he leads the Catholic kid to be "born again". Dan was elated, now he was, as he says on page 8, "a real evangelist, an active participant in God's holy cause, a soldier of the cross." At this point, we're maybe a fourth through the chapter, so I'd like to remind everyone, this man becomes an atheist activist later in life. This man becomes the boogeyman to so many small towns and Ken Ham.

He goes on to become choir librarian at the Anaheim Christian Center Choir, and was there for Kathryn Kuhlman's regular Los Angeles faith healing services at Shrine Auditorium. He remarks on pages 8-9 how, "I would often watch her as she stood backstage, nervous yet determined, possessing a holy mixture of humility and pride, like a Roman or Greek goddess in her flowing gown." She held she didn't do healings, it was God and His choice (a sort of convenient out, if one's going to be cynical, as to why some healings wouldn't work). As an aside, this is the point where my iTunes began to play, from Dan's album "Adrift on a Star" the song "Get Off Your Knees" and the chorus, "get off your knees and get to work". Before local ministers came, the choir got to sit behind her, and watch people fall as they were 'healed'; the catcher always managed to get folks though. Should probably say, a Catcher, in Charismatic or Pentecostal circles, is exactly what it sounds like. It's that person's job to catch people so they don't hurt themselves when they're "Slain in the Spirit".

Internal healings were the most common, people claiming their cancer was gone. Following that was deafness, where people would cover the "good ear" and she'd yell in the "bad" one, then walk away waving her arms, then turn back and walk up and whisper into the 'bad' ear, and the person would excitedly shout that they could hear her. People would go wild in the audience, he says on page 10, after all, "miracles do that to people." Seeing miracles affirmed his faith, but looking back, he finds that he was helping dupe people by setting the mood with the music. No limbs grew back, it was all things that wouldn't be visible for the most part, other than a discarded crutch.

He goes on to talk about how after the decision to remove mandatory teacher led prayer from schools, he converted his Spanish teacher by reading a Spanish Bible in his "free reading" time for Spanish literature. Together they created a Bible Study and Prayer group on campus, but said it was an advanced study in Spanish literature, it just happened that the only Spanish literature was the Bible in Spanish, "this was a front, folks" he assures us on page 13. It's almost like Dan, later in life with FFRF, knows what to look for, because he did all this stuff violating church-state separation himself, doesn't it?

After graduating, he still returned to speak to their Christian group they founded, which had grown large enough to move to a choir room instead of a classroom. In fact, Mr. Edwards, his Spanish teacher, was so devoted after being Saved, that 25 years later, he was still holding those Christian meetings at the school. Barker then talks about how he spent two years trying to convert Catholics into "Christians" and how it was culture shock. At one point he yelled at a small child to wear shoes in church, and the child replied that he had no shoes. In another case he told some young men he was there to talk to them about Jesus, did they know Jesus? One of the men replied, according to page 14, "Yes. He lives down around the corner beside the pharmacy."

In 1965, is when Dan first met Manuel Bonilla, and later, he would help produce and record one of Bonilla's first albums. Bonilla would become a rather big deal in Latin American Christian music. Their recording together of "Me Ha Tocado" or "He Touched Me" is still generating sales today, with now atheist Dan Barker, playing the piano for Bonilla. Up into the 1970s, Barker did not charge, or charged little, for music production, because it was an honor and duty to serve God. He discusses his travels across the U.S. and how he did stupid things like trying to convert a motorcycle gang in Arizona and holding anti-drug rallies at schools (as a front to invite them later to evangelistic rallies...again...he really did do everything he goes after people for now). He goes into sleeping on church pews, roofs, and a Volkswagen van roof. How he'd try to convert people on the bus using a tried and true method of generalities that would make people wonder "how does he know?". Dan says on page 17, "Do it with confidence and style. It works. (Just like anyone in sales will tell you.)" No one in his 19 years of ministry ever asked him for a source apparently.

In summers with a ministry run by Frank Gonzelz in Mexico, he pushed himself for the Gospel, ending up dehydrated with an IV drip in a hammock for days at one point, and going into some form of shock and being medicated and out like a light for two days in a medical clinic in Zacapu.

Between 1968 and 1972 he studied religion at Azusa Pacific College, which was little more than Sunday school classes. However he came to believe education secondary to calling, and spent most of his college time doing ministry related things like Christian Life Director for student government and arranging Christian Speakers. He heard Hal Lindsey assure him Christ would return no later than the mid 1980s and the general reaction was, "that late?" In Mexico one of his singers from Azusa lost his voice and he shouted while laying on hands, "Gary, in the name of Jesus, be healed!" and Gary went on to sing and preach that night. Gary would also later throw away his glasses because God healed his vision, and ten a few weeks later went to his optometrist for a new prescription apparently.

Nine credits short of graduating, Dan decided to stop going, because Jesus was coming soon. He says that in 1988 he managed to get them to transfer the credits to the University of Wisconsin system and got his degree in religion at last. Quite frankly, as someone who has done a, pardon the vulgarity, shit ton of advising, I am amazed by this. Usually even the same institution won't accept credits after that many years, and there had to be some serious goings on behind the scenes to transfer those credits without an articulation agreement in place.

He also met his first wife at Azusa, and they married in 1970, having 4 kids over the next 9 years. He became an associate pastor in three churches in California, his first at the "Friends", or Quakers. Joy Berry was at that church at the same time, she later sold over 80 million copies worldwide of Christian children's books, then became an agnostic later. The pastor of the church, Ted, told him that only once, with Dan's hand on his shoulder, did he ever feel God's presence in life, instead taking it on faith. Ted would die in 2006, having left the ministry, family life in shambles, as an alcoholic. Dan remarks on page 21, "and although his final tragic years clouded the memorial, no one forgot the truly loving, vibrant man he used to be."

Next Dan moved to Glengrove Assembly of God in La Puente, California. Where his wife had grown up Quaker, this was more up Dan's alley; Charismatic Pentecostals! Exorcisms, Tongues, Deliverances, and arms waving, oh my! During this time, directing the adult choir, he had one of his most awkward ministry moments, berating the tenor men for not coming in with the word "happiness" but rather "piness" which he proclaimed loudly to red faced women, people looking away, and angry men. Neither he, nor his wife, were that comfortable there, so lo and behold he got another "call from God" and moved to Standard Christian Center in central California. His old ministry fellows at Glengrove didn't think it was a real call, until one, Dave Dustaveson, was praying while peeing in urinal and saw the word "Standard" on it and decided it was a sign from God. No joke. It's page 23 at the top if you have the book.

At Standard he was "ordained" by a Pastor named Bob and for the next eight years became a traveling evangelist based out of that church. They went across the country in a Chevy Nova, accepting "love offerings" but not charging for ministry, raking in $100 on a good day and many times, not a cent. After a week of meetings was canceled in Ohio, they were sitting in the home of a family letting them stay there, and he saw a sign next to a clock, "Do the next thing" and has kept that motto with him ever since. He went down to the basement and wrote a music for children based off of an idea his wife had the year before. He thought he could use it if they went back into local church work. His wife, liking it, said she'd heard that Manna Music, a Gospel music publisher, was looking for children's music for Christmas. He drove to Burbank and presented it. Halfway through the Intro to the first song, Manna bought it. Carl, the man who first heard that musical, has stayed his friend all these years, though their friendship suffered some with Dan's deconversion. Thus in 1976, Manna Music published Mary Had a Little Lamb, the musical for kids, because Mary's little lam was Jesus. Wink It stayed at the top of their charts for years and, according to page 26, "I'm still getting royalties from that musical to this day." he wrote a sequel, "His Fleece Was White As Snow". He's now embarrassed by the lyrics and that he killed off the star, Snowy.

While guest conducting one of his musicals in East Los Angeles at a church, something happened that stuck in his mind. He saw a cross and a huge painted sign, "Jesus Is Coming Soon!". Its paint was cracked and it was dusty, cobwebs gathered around. One of his adult octavos, "There is One" was sung by televangelist Robert Schuller's Hour of Power choir on national TV. Also around this time, he cowrote some songs with Manuel Bonilla including "No Vengo Del Mono", or, "I don't come from a monkey", a song that mocks evolution. He also helped produce things for Gospel Light publications and Living Skills Press. On page 28 though, he wryly remarks, "I didn't pretend to be the best producer in town, but I was dependable, sincere, on schedule, never over budget, and I communicated well with the religious clients. I was also cheap." He also toured as an accompanist for Jimmy Roberts from The Lawrence Welk show for 2 weeks, played piano once for Pat Boone, and for a few years with a Christian rock band named Mobetta. For years he produced Mini-Musicales for kids with Gospel Light Publications, one of the world's leading Sunday School publishers at the time. Again...now co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

He says that as an atheist, he often now has believers tell him he could have never been a true Christian and left the faith. He notes he used to preach a sermon on that exact topic. How he thought he felt God's presence, and if what he felt was phony, why would God allow him to be deceived? How do others know they're not deceived also? How he spoke in tongues, how he was known by his 'good fruits' in the converts that were made, in the people who told him they felt God's Spirit upon his ministry, how there are ministers today who credit him with getting them into the ministry, how he was invited and re-invited to hundreds of churches to preach, how he had a healthy prayer life, etc.

This chapter, about his Calling ends with an ominous note, almost mournful as well, despite the fact Dan is now happy as an atheist, and on page 32 he says, "The reason I rejected Christianity was not because I did not understand or experience it. It wasn't because I despised God or hated the Christian life. I loved what I was doing and never imagined throwing it away. If I was not a true Christian, then nobody is."

And thus ends chapter one. It's a length roller coaster of ministry that zig zags the continent of North America and focuses heavily on personal experiences as a source of divine revelation. However, while this chapter focuses upon "The Call" in the next we will see "The Fall". That said, this first chapter lays out things pretty nicely to show how deep a belief that Dan Barker had in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. How he felt the touch of God upon his life, and how he was raised in a Christian environment, possibly indoctrinated even. How obnoxious an evangelist he was.

In the next chapter we'll explore the seeds of doubt...but, in the meantime, I want to close with Manuel Bonilla's Me ha tocado, with a certain now atheist activist playing the piano behind he and the backup singers:



Need to think of a witty signature.
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31-08-2017, 02:17 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
(30-08-2017 11:34 PM)Shai Hulud Wrote:  After the Case for Christ...,

If this didn't do the trick I wouldn't bother with the atheist stuff Wink
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31-08-2017, 03:59 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
(30-08-2017 11:34 PM)Shai Hulud Wrote:  So let's go down the counter-apologia rabbit hole and look at the tale of Dan Barker, co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, atheist activist, accomplished pianist, man who met his second wife on Oprah's show when she only had a local one in Chicago, and former Evangelical Christian Pastor who spent much of his life trying to Save souls.

Why do I get the feeling that just like Dan Barker made a meal of Christianity, he might be making a meal of atheism too? Is that the right approach to anything?

Huh
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31-08-2017, 06:56 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
(31-08-2017 03:59 PM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(30-08-2017 11:34 PM)Shai Hulud Wrote:  So let's go down the counter-apologia rabbit hole and look at the tale of Dan Barker, co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, atheist activist, accomplished pianist, man who met his second wife on Oprah's show when she only had a local one in Chicago, and former Evangelical Christian Pastor who spent much of his life trying to Save souls.

Why do I get the feeling that just like Dan Barker made a meal of Christianity, he might be making a meal of atheism too? Is that the right approach to anything?

Huh

T could you elaborate on that? I want to follow but maybe a bit cryptic...?
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31-08-2017, 07:08 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
(31-08-2017 03:59 PM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(30-08-2017 11:34 PM)Shai Hulud Wrote:  So let's go down the counter-apologia rabbit hole and look at the tale of Dan Barker, co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, atheist activist, accomplished pianist, man who met his second wife on Oprah's show when she only had a local one in Chicago, and former Evangelical Christian Pastor who spent much of his life trying to Save souls.

Why do I get the feeling that just like Dan Barker made a meal of Christianity, he might be making a meal of atheism too? Is that the right approach to anything?

Huh

Right or wrong, he's the type of person that puts a hundred percent into anything he's passionate about.

Can't fault a person for enthusiasm, as long as he's genuine. And I think he is.

Can't say I'm always a fan of his approach, but it is a weird wild world we live in. Shy

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

~ Umberto Eco
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31-08-2017, 07:18 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
Dan Barker gets on my nerves a bit. I used to listen to a podcast or show of some sort hosted by him and his wife, that was several years ago. It got a bit to smarmy for my taste. His songs set my teeth on edge...they are just annoying.

I do appreciate the work done by FFRF but there are others I prefer to read or listen to.

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF

We're all mad here. The Cheshire Cat
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31-08-2017, 07:55 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
(31-08-2017 06:56 PM)jerry mcmasters Wrote:  
(31-08-2017 03:59 PM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  Why do I get the feeling that just like Dan Barker made a meal of Christianity, he might be making a meal of atheism too? Is that the right approach to anything?

Huh

T could you elaborate on that? I want to follow but maybe a bit cryptic...?

At what point does adopting a cause become self-promotion by whatever means? There are certain types of personalities who just like attention, and are really quite amoral about getting it.

That's not to say I know anything about Dan Barker himself. It's just a suspicion from limited information.

You would think someone who found out he was so disasterously wrong in promoting Christianity would retire from the public view altogether, abashed.
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31-08-2017, 08:00 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
(31-08-2017 07:55 PM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(31-08-2017 06:56 PM)jerry mcmasters Wrote:  T could you elaborate on that? I want to follow but maybe a bit cryptic...?

At what point does adopting a cause become self-promotion by whatever means? There are certain types of personalities who just like attention, and are really quite amoral about getting it.

That's not to say I know anything about Dan Barker himself. It's just a suspicion from limited information.

Okay thanks, I thought that was generally what you meant but didn't want to assume. Like he's found a niche and is milking it. My disagreement would be that A) like evenheathen said, he seems sincere, and B) is this not the case with any artist, or musician, or...heck anybody who finds that not only do they love a subject but they can make a living off it?
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31-08-2017, 08:07 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
(31-08-2017 08:00 PM)jerry mcmasters Wrote:  My disagreement would be that A) like evenheathen said, he seems sincere, and B) is this not the case with any artist, or musician, or...heck anybody who finds that not only do they love a subject but they can make a living off it?

I would guess he was sincere when he was promoting Christianity too, but I personally wouldn't trust my own sincerity given that kind of history.

And yes, I guess you could extend that to a cultural criticism of various other self-promoters.
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31-08-2017, 08:22 PM
RE: Shai Reads "Godless"
(31-08-2017 08:07 PM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  I would guess he was sincere when he was promoting Christianity too, but I personally wouldn't trust my own sincerity given that kind of history.

How can you not trust your own sincerity? He believes he was wrong but now believes he is right.
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