Friday, June 06, 2008

Dan Barker's new book

Dan Barker has a new book coming out, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists. It's available for pre-order on Also check out the organization run by Dan and Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Freedom From Religion Foundation.


Mariano said...

Thanks for the heads up.
I think that some day Mr. Barker will wear out his arguments form authority by repeating once to often that he is an ex-preacher.
If anyone ever specifically debated him on the biblical passages that he is constantly misunderstanding, misapplying and misinterpreting his arguments form authority would come to a screeching halt.
Besides, (1) since he does not believe that lying in absolutely immoral and (2) he recommends lying in order to avert danger and (3) he believes that religion is dangerous (4) he leaves the logical thinker with no choice be to not believe a single word that comes out of his mouth since he could lie all that he wants and not even consider it immoral.
Just some thoughts.

Jim Lippard said...


Perhaps you can point out an actual example of Dan Barker arguing from authority on basis of being an ex-preacher, as opposed to simply pointing out his experience as a former adherent of Christianity?

I think your argument is a distortion of his position. I think (1) is correct--that's also true of most Christians, as well as anyone reasonable. Wouldn't you agree that it's better to lie to Nazis to protect Jews you're hiding, than to tell the truth?

But in (2), you're probably distorting his position--I doubt he says that lying is legitimate to employ against any danger, as opposed to in very limited circumstances to stop an imminent threat to life or safety, as in the case I just described. In effect, this makes your argument based on the fallacy of equivocation on the word "danger."

Copernic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Copernic said...

Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument from authority) doesn't apply here.

First, Barker is not referring to someone else to make his point. Rather he is conveying his own experience. He's not saying "Richard Dawkins doesn't believe in God therefore there is no God"

Second, he is an actual authority on the subject of "ex-pastor gone astray" so there's no fallacy

Anyway, his story from preacher to atheist is the only reason the book exists. That's his niche. Would you read a book about your experiences in the NFL had you never had an NFL career? No. Would you say Joe Nameth wears thin his argument from authority as he publishes his 3rd book on his life experience? No

Mariano said...

Jim Lippard and Copernic thank you both for your responses;
I was not referring to his “simply pointing out his experience” as an “ex-pastor gone astray” but specifically referring on his assertions as to the Bible’s content. The authority which he is claiming is not someone else’s but his own since he is constantly stating that he is an ex-preacher and that the Bible states thus and such and I am an ex-preacher.

As for (1) the Bible itself presents a scenario of someone who lied in order to protect the life of two men who were in danger. The Bible is not blind to circumstance. For instance, there were laws against eating the bread that was meant for tabernacle usage yet, David did it when he and his men had no food. However, this is a far cry from moral relativism gone wild - and I am not here implying that either one of you, nor Dan Barker, are going wild :o)

As for (2) & (3) I did not say “any danger,” let us say “grave dangers” in which he certainly includes “religion”: “Religion is a powerful thing. Few can resist its charms and few can truly break its embrace. It is a siren who entices the wandering traveler with songs of love and desire and, once successful, turns a mind into stone. It is a Venus fly trap. Its attraction is like that of drugs to an addict who, whishing to be free and happy, becomes trapped and miserable (Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation, p. 51).

Ergo, (4).

All of this is actually secondary to the fact that he constantly displays a shocking level of lack of knowledge regarding the Bible’s contents. Thus, my point is not that Dan Barker should not speak on the Bible. In fact, I hope that he does so more and more because he betrays his lack of knowledge any time that he does so.

And here is a test of our adherence to arguments from authority: have I ever read or heard Dan Barker make a statement about the Bible? Have I taken the time to look up the passage and read for context (immediate and greater)? Or have I just taken his word for it? [ditto for any secularist, clergy or anyone at all]

Jim Lippard said...

Mariano: I'm glad we are in mutual agreement about (1).

But you've not substantiated your claim that Barker believes that lying is justified in order to combat religion, or that he has ever done so, nor have you substantiated your claim that he has betrayed a lack of knowledge of the Bible or engaged in arguments from authority.

If you're going to make these accusations, you should back them up with evidence. Right now, all you're doing is making unsubstantiated allegations. That does not seem to me to be either rational or ethical on your part.

Mariano said...

Actually, I was following the cyber-ethic of not deluging your comments section with links to my posts – until you asked me for certain proofs. Well, perhaps cyber-ethics are somewhat relative :o)

My claim about Barker lying is based on tying his statements together. It requires quite a bit more information than I have to prove that he is lying since lying is not just saying something that is not true but knowing that what we are saying is not true. Since I can only know what Barker knows if he reveals it I would not care to identify where, precisely, he has lied (or even if he actually has lied).

As far as his lack of knowledge of the Bible please consult these posts:
Dan Barker’s Scriptural Misinterpretations and Misapplications

Why Freethought?


Jim Lippard said...

I'm not a defender of relativism (though I do agree that *most* attempted formulations of absolute standards admit to exceptions). But you're a defender of a Bible that claims that God himself argues for genocide, slavery, and other acts that are clearly immoral in the context in which they are ordered.

The Bible does condone not only slavery but rape, in Numbers 31:17-18.

It appears to me that you're engaging in ad hoc arguments to try to defend indefensible statements through reinterpretation.

Mariano said...

Let me try this route:

For a moment, let us consider the question of whether the Bible is God’s word or not to be irrelevant. Let us also not disregard it because there are things in it with which we disagree (including Numbers 31:17-18 which says nothing about rape).

Now we are just reading a series of books and discussing what they state.

Having read my critiques of Dan Barker’s claims do you still consider it unsubstantiated that he betrays a lack of knowledge of the Bible?

We do not have to hold to any particular opinion about a text in order to determine whether its contents are being handled properly. Do you really not see how poorly he handles it?

You will note that the vast majority of my corrections of Mr. Barker’s misunderstandings require that I do nothing more than read one or two verses beyond that which he cites.