Losing faith in faith: Barker to speak
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 00:02
This Saturday, an evangelical minister of 19 years turned atheist is coming to the University of Southern Mississippi to tell his story.
Dan Barker will be speaking at 3 p.m. in Gonzales Auditorium, Room 108 of the Liberal Arts Building. He will also be available for a question and answer session and a book signing. The event will be hosted by the USM division of the Secular Student Alliance and is free and open to the public.
“Barker is going to be speaking on behalf of what caused him to go from being a devout Christian to a prolific atheist,” said SSA President Melanie Green.
Barker has authored such books as “Losing Faith in Faith” (1992), an autobiographical chronicling of his personal story of de conversion, and a critical analysis of Christianity and the Bible; “Godless” (2008), an update on his previous book, including a foreword from Richard Dawkins; and “Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children” (1988) that compares God and Santa and myth with reality and celebrates atheism and freedom of thought, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s website, of which Barker is the copresident. He has also authored several other books.
FFRF is the leading group fighting for church/state separation, according to Green.
Barker has a long history with the Christian faith. He was a teenage evangelist at age 15. He received a degree in religion from Azusa Pacific University and was ordained to the ministry by the Standard Community Church of California in 1975.
Barker is also a successful Christian musician. For more than two decades he was an accompanist, arranger and record producer for Manuel Bonilla, “the leading Christian singer in the Spanish-speaking world,” according to ffrf.org.
He has also worked with such Christian personalities as Pat Boone, Jimmy Roberts and gospel songwriter Audrey Meier.
Even after renouncing his faith in 1984, Barker is still receiving royalties from his popular children’s Christian musicals “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (1977) and follow-up “His Fleece was White as Snow” (1978), both published by Manna Music and performed all over the world, according to ffrf.org.
Barker is also cohost of the nationally syndicated weekly talk show on the Air-America network and Freethought Radio and a contributing editor for Freethought Today.
Following years of extensive reading, Barker began to outgrow his religious beliefs. “If I had limited myself to Christian authors, I’d still be a Christian today,” Barker said. “I just lost my faith.”
“It is the first time that someone of this caliber is speaking in Mississippi in regards to the subject matter,” Green said. “We want anyone to come out. I think it is important for all people to hear different perspectives.”
That is essentially the goal of the SSA: to promote acceptance and diversity among religious beliefs, according to Green.
“By having this group on campus, we are trying to change any negative stigmas associated with nonreligious people,” she said.
The USM division of the SSA was the first to be established in Mississippi and became official in the fall of 2011.
“It was pretty difficult [establishing the group] based on locality, as you can imagine,” Green said. “I pretty much had to barter with Student Activities for six months, as far as atheism is concerned, to expose people to it.”
After that, Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, Millsaps College and Pearl River Community College followed rank.
For more information on the SSA and the upcoming event, visit facebook.com/usmssa. Questions can be emailed to USM.SSA@gmail.com.