Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher To Atheist – Dan Barker
Autobiographical story of journeying from fundamentalist/evangelical minister to atheist. Includes criticism of religion, fallacies and harm of Christianity, and invocation of freethought, reason and humanism.
Review: I think this is a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Losing Faith in Faith is a collection of various atheist-themed essays and articles written by Dan Barker, a former fundamentalist Christian preacher. They range from personal essays, to letters, to Bible analysis, to examinations of governments, to secular wedding vows. There is a lot of stuff going on here.
I came across this book on a used book website, and it immediately caught my attention because I’ve been skeptical of religion for my entire life. I have no issues with people who practice religion (as long as they’re reasonable about it), but I’ve never found a religion that makes sense to me. That’s why the title of this book intrigued me. I wanted to know how Dan Barker changed his beliefs so radically.
Unfortunately, the book isn’t what I expected. The title and synopsis made me think it was a memoir. Only a few of the chapters are about the author’s life. The rest of it is a very repetitive critique of Christianity. The author makes the same points over and over in multiple essays. (Probably because the essays were published separately before they were collected for this book.) I agree with most of the author’s arguments, but I didn’t learn much from him. The condescending tone of the essays is a huge turn-off. If you’ve been a religious skeptic for as long as I have, then you probably already know almost everything the author talks about. And, you’ve probably heard these same critiques of Christianity phrased in ways that are much less insulting to Christians.
I do think this book would be helpful for “baby” atheists. When I was a kid/teenager, almost all of my friends were Christian, and I had to defend my lack of beliefs fairly often. One girl even told me that if I didn’t start going to church, I’d grow up to be a serial killer. (Spoiler alert: I haven’t killed anyone. Yet.) Back then, I would have appreciated the chapters that explain the difference between religion and morality. You can be a moral person without practicing a religion. Religion doesn’t make people moral.
“I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil—you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself.” – Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist
I did learn a few things from this book. I like the examination of countries that don’t have a separation of church and state. The author explains how the lack of separation impacts (or doesn’t impact) the lives of people. I also learned the true meaning of “Xmas.” When I was a kid, someone told me that Pagans and atheists invented the word “Xmas” so they could celebrate Christmas without “Christ.” I accepted that explanation without questioning it. But, it’s wrong. The “X” in “Xmas” comes from this Greek symbol, which means “Christ.” Basically, “Xmas” means the exact same thing as “Christmas.”
So, I did learn some stuff from Losing Faith, but I wish the book had focused more on the author’s life. He’s a Native American, and his grandmother was their tribe’s historian. I would have been interested to hear how his family went from polytheistic, to fundamentalist Christian, to atheist. I think I would have learned more from that than from what’s actually in the book.