4.0 out of 5 stars
An interesting read, Feb. 16 2004
An interesting read. Dan Barker and I both changed from fundamentalist Christian to atheist within a few months of each other in 1983. We both did so for the same reason: the Christian doctrines didn't make sense and we couldn't compartmentalize intellect from religious belief. I was 20 when I loosed those ties. Barker was 34 and had spent almost 20 years in the ministry.
Maybe that's why, unlike Barker, I don't care to proselytize the believer. I didn't have as much invested. If one hasn't figured it out for himself after well into adulthood, he is unlikely to do so. Also, religion gives many people comfort, and I'm not sure I'd want to be responsible to taking that from them. At the same time, I recognize the danger of Christianity run amok:
"I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."-- George Bush
In general, I believe religion to be kind of like a mental virus that mankind will always suffer. You can look at it like herpes. There are the common and less bothersome forms like herpes simplex I (Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians) and the more annoying herpes II (fundamentalists). Fortunately, unlike with herpes, some people seem to be able to completely rid religion from their system.
But Barker seems intent on persuading the devout. The fervor he once had for converting people to Christianity has changed to a fervor to persuade people to leave the faith. While some of Barker's arguments are strong, I find others weak. I feel confident I could successfully defend the Christian position against some of his arguments (especially against some of the "biblical contradictions" he claims exist). If they are unconvincing to me as an unbeliever, they have little chance to persuade the devout. And all it takes is one or two unconvincing arguments and the believer will dismiss the whole book (they probably would anyway, but why make it easy?). But others seem strong, such as the illogic of an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God. Ultimately, for me, it simply required too much mental gymnastics to believe the Christian story. I enjoyed reading Barker's book as it made me revisit many of the intellectual battlefields I lived in 20+ years ago. And it made me appreciate the intellectual freedom I enjoy from having won the war against religion.