This must have been a fun evening at the UA student union.
Elizabeth K :D
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
By Seth Mauzy
Media Credit: Jake Lacey
Dan Barker, author of ‘Losing Faith In Faith,’ spoke in the North Ballroom of the SUMC yesterday about his conversion from an evangelist to an atheist. Barker is a guest speaker of the Center for Inquiry Community of Southern Arizona.Students and Tucsonans gathered in the Student Union Memorial Center North Ballroom last night to hear the story of a minister’s fall from grace and denial of God in the name of logic and reason.
About 100 people attended last night’s event, which was sponsored by the Geniuses of Diversity: UA Freethinkers and the Southern Arizona chapter of the Center for Inquiry, an organization devoted to reason, science and the freedom to question religious dogma.
"We believe that we can lead full lives without believing in supernatural beings," said Jerry Karches, program chairman for the Center for Inquiry’s Southern Arizona Chapter. "We feel we are able to be moral and ethical without those things hanging over our heads."
The evening focused on the story of Dan Barker, a former evangelical minister ordained by several California-based ministries who began a career of preaching and "soul winning" at the age of 15.
"I felt the Holy Spirit within me," Barker said. "I knew that (Jesus) was coming any minute, and it was so tragic that there were so many people out there who didn’t know Him; I had to show them," Barker said.
Barker described himself as a relentless proponent of the glory and unerring truth of the Bible; a true fundamentalist who saw the world in absolutes.
"I was the kind of guy you would not want to sit next to on a bus," Barker said.
By the age of 30, Barker had developed a successful career as a preacher and composer of religious songs. He traveled throughout the U.S. and Mexico, at times "living by faith" from church to church.
Barker described how as his travels brought him in contact with more and more liberal Christians, he began to realize the problems inherent in adhering to strict fundamentalism.
"I began to realize that just because these people disagreed with me, it should not get in the way of our fellowship as Christians," Barker said.
Barker gradually came to see more and more problems with Christianity and organized religion in general, until he finally came to the conclusion that he no longer believed in God, though he continued to preach.
"I guess if there’s a secular humanist sin, that’s it," he said.
Barker eventually left preaching and found his way to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a lobbying group dedicated to maintaining the separation of church and state. The group has recently challenged a number of the Bush administration’s faith-based initiatives.
"Church/state cases affect all of us, but they especially affect those of us who are in the minority," Barker said.
Barker has gone on to become co-president of the foundation. He has also written a book documenting his story called "Losing Faith in Faith" and has appeared on a number of TV and radio broadcasts, including the Oprah Winfrey Show.
After his story, audience members had the opportunity to question Barker about his beliefs and work both for and against religion, a chance relished by Yali Corea-Levy, a philosophy senior who said he loves to debate people about their beliefs.
"I think it’s great to see someone like this on campus," Corea-Levy said. "It would have been even better to get someone from the other side and get a debate going."
The event also attracted a small group of students from Campus Crusade for Christ, who said they went to hear from someone at the opposite end of the spectrum of beliefs.
"I actually think it’s really sad just to think that a person could become so distracted and lose their faith," said Hilary Lucero, a pre-public health education freshman and member of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Laura Manuele, an accounting junior and Campus Crusade member, said she was not convinced of Barker’s "faith" in his atheist beliefs.
"It’s crazy how he was a full-fledged extreme Christian, but he still admits he’s not as set in his disbelief as he was in his belief," Manuele said. "He kept saying the Bible was false, but then he’d say some of it wasn’t; so is it true or is it false?"