Barker: pastor turned atheist

Things can always change.

This is especially true for Dan Barker; Once a conservative evangelical preacher, he is now an atheist, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and author of books such as “Losing Faith in Faith,” “Godless” and “The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God.”

He discussed the series of events that led to the irrevocable shift in his beliefs in a presentation in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall on Friday, Nov. 14. The Saginaw Valley Secular Student Alliance hosted the event.

Throughout the evening, Barker performed original songs to convey his personal beliefs and arguments regarding religion.

Barker described himself as once being a true and fundamental Christian. He was raised in a conservative Christian family and became a minister at 15 years old.

As a young minister, he had to “live by faith.” Explaining that he had no permanent residence, Barker would go from church to church across the country, relying on the money he received from congregations to live.

While practicing ministry, Barker also pursued a degree in religion from Azusa Pacific University and became a formal pastor at various church communities in need of pastoral care.

Barker said his faith and Christian beliefs began to change when he was in his late 20s and his Christian music career took off.

After a series of successful performances and recordings, Barker was frequently asked to play small concerts for congregations. Many members of these congregations were not fundamental Christians; these “more liberal” Christians believed much of the Bible was symbolic, only used for allegorical purposes.

Those liberal views began to change the way he thought about Christianity and his faith. Over the course of five years, Barker slowly transitioned into a more liberal Christian. He began interpreting the Bible symbolically rather than literally.

Then, at 34 years old, Barker realized he had slowly become an atheist and no longer fell within the spectrum of Christianity to which he had devoted himself for 17 years.

Despite his atheist beliefs and leadership roles in the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Barker still maintains the relationships he has with many of his religious friends he met as an evangelist.

Barker works with secular and religious leaders to ensure the separation of church and state, mainly working through the legal system and bringing about lawsuits when this separation is violated.

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