Following his conversion from an ardent evangelical to a staunch atheist, Dan Barker will retrace the revelations that drove him to denounce religion tonight at 6 p.m. in Embarcadero Hall.
Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, will revisit his religious rollercoaster ride and showcase his new autobiographical novel, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists. Hosted by UCSB’s Scientific Understanding and Reason Enrichment organization, the free event is part of Barker’s weeklong tour of California college campuses.
In regards to his about-face, Barker said he began doubting religion after nearly two decades of proselytizing on behalf of Christianity.
“I preached for 19 years, but it was the last four or five years that was the period of transition,” Barker said.
Garrick Garcia, S.U.R.E. president, said many religious figures find themselves in difficult situations when they begin questioning their faith and their career.
“Many of them feel trapped, for to leave their position or state that they’ve become atheists would lead to social suicide,” Garcia, a fourth-year psychology and anthropology major said.
Barker said he felt isolated after publicly announcing his atheism in 1984 after nearly two decades of touring the nation as a Christian missionary, musician and preacher.
“I felt like the only atheist in the world,” Barker said. “I just lost faith in faith.”
In 2004, Barker became co-president of the FFRF – a non-profit organization committed to a secular United States government – and vowed to challenge faith-based initiatives in order to promote a more secular society.
“I will also talk a little bit about the foundation’s legal efforts in keeping church and state separate,” Barker said. “We’re fighting the religious rights.”
According to Garcia, Barker’s organization is committed to uncovering logical and scientific explanations that often counter religious claims.
“There are others like him all over the country – preachers and other clergy – who have shed their religious ties and beliefs,” Garcia said. “We examine the claims of the paranormal, supernatural and pseudo-scientific, usually concluding that without evidence, they cannot be true.”
Garcia said S.U.R.E. hosts open discussions on a variety of issues every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Room 101 of Building 387.
“S.U.R.E. is the only freethinking group on campus promoting science, reason and secular values,” Garcia said. “We’re here to advocate and defend the use of scientific examination and critical thinking.”