The following is a short intro to Dan Barker
, the minister who became an atheist:
Dan was born in 1949, raised in southern California, and has lived in Madison, Wisconsin since 1985. He has composed more than 200 songs that have been published and/or recorded, working extensively with children's author Joy Berry on children's educational materials. He has worked as a computer programmer, designing and installing software for railroad dispatchers, and currently maintains the Foundation's computer system.
Dan plays professional piano at clubs and hotels, in jazz combos, and at weddings and receptions. He regularly gives free concerts to nursing homes and retirement homes, sponsored by Freethought Today.
Dan speaks fluent Spanish and is studying Russian. He belongs to a number of High-IQ societies, including The Prometheus Society, with an entrance requirement at the 99.997th percentile, and plays in chess tournaments. He is a member of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware Indian) Tribe of Native Americans, and in 1991 edited and published Paradise Remembered, a collection of his Grandfather's stories as a Lenape boy in Indian Territory.
Dan married Freethought Today editor Annie Laurie Gaylor in 1987 at a feminist/freethought ceremony at Freethought Hall in Sauk City, Wisconsin. Dan has five children and seven grandchildren.
Minister Turned Atheist
Dan became a teenage evangelist at age 15. At 16 he was choir librarian for faith-healer Kathryn Kuhlman's Los Angeles appearances. He received a degree in Religion from Azusa Pacific University and was ordained to the ministry by the Standard Community Church, California, in 1975. He served as associate pastor at a Friend's (Quaker) Church, an Assembly of God, and an independent Charismatic church. Dan was a Protestant missionary in Mexico for a total of two years.
Dan maintained a touring musical ministry for 17 years, including eight years of full-time, cross-country evangelism. An accomplished pianist, record producer, arranger and songwriter, he worked with Christian music companies such as Manna Music and Word Music. For many years, Dan wrote and produced the annual "Mini Musicale" for Gospel Light Publications' Vacation Bible School curriculum.
For more than a decade, Dan was accompanist, arranger, and record producer for Manuel Bonilla, the leading Christian singer in the Spanish-speaking world. He accompanied on the piano such Christian personalities as Pat Boone, Jimmy Roberts (of the Lawrence Welk Show), and gospel songwriter Audrey Meier, and was a regular guest on Southern California's "Praise The Lord" TV show (Spanish). One of Dan's Christian songs, "There Is One," was performed by Rev. Robert Schuller's television choir on the "Hour of Power" broadcast. To this day, he receives royalties from his popular children's Christian musicals, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" (1977), and "His Fleece Was White As Snow" (1978), both published by Manna Music and performed in many countries.
Following five years of reading, Dan gradually outgrew his religious beliefs. "If I had limited myself to Christian authors, I'd still be a Christian today," Dan says. "I just lost faith in faith." He announced his atheism publicly in January, 1984.
Dan has been a staff member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation since 1987, and wrote a regular column for Freethought Today, the Foundation's newspaper. Dan's letters and opinion columns on state/church separation have been printed in many newspapers across the country. He is featured in the Foundation's 60-second TV/radio commercial.
Comparing this with Flew's
NEW YORK Dec 9, 2004 — A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.
At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.
Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.
"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."
Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.
Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.
There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.
Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"
The video draws from a New York discussion last May organized by author Roy Abraham Varghese's Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland, Texas. Participants were Flew; Varghese; Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew; and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane of Scotland's University of St. Andrews.
The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.
The letter commended arguments in Schroeder's "The Hidden Face of God" and "The Wonder of the World" by Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.
This week, Flew finished writing the first formal account of his new outlook for the introduction to a new edition of his "God and Philosophy," scheduled for release next year by Prometheus Press.
Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well "that's too bad," Flew said. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."
Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Flew on the atheistic www.infidels.org Web page. Carrier assured atheists that Flew accepts only a "minimal God" and believes in no afterlife.
Flew's "name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up," Carrier said. Still, when it comes to Flew's reversal, "apart from curiosity, I don't think it's like a big deal."
Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life.
A Methodist minister's son, Flew became an atheist at 15.
Early in his career, he argued that no conceivable events could constitute proof against God for believers, so skeptics were right to wonder whether the concept of God meant anything at all.
Another landmark was his 1984 "The Presumption of Atheism," playing off the presumption of innocence in criminal law. Flew said the debate over God must begin by presuming atheism, putting the burden of proof on those arguing that God exists.
...it would seem that these men are both intelligent and believed passionately in their respective standpoints from a very young age (in both cases, as young as the age of 15). Nothing in their histories seemed to me to bestow the one with more merit than the other when it comes to judging who came to the "right" conclusion.
My view is that the profound nature of the question of whether God exists, is such that intelligent people can be found on both sides of the debate, defending their stance with equal passion. No-one who has ever seriously considered the question of God's existence can honestly say it is clear cut either way. Whichever stance you hold, there is always some degree of doubt present. Otherwise all the clever people would have been in agreement and the only ones to disagree would have been the "stupid" ones.
If I had to pick only one major obstacle standing in the way of faith for me, it would have to be the problem of evil. I do not equate existence with good and non-existence with bad (a topic Flew touches on cursorily in the intervirew). So the mere fact that things exist, even if it points to a creator, does not for me imply a "good creator". So for me personally it is therefore interesting to note that for both these guys, even though they are moving in "opposite" directions, the problem of evil has a very significant influence on their thinking.
Had Flew been able to convincingly address the problem of evil, then I would have probably sat up and paid attention, but being very skeptical of ID arguments myself, I find that am not really that impressed by the reasons for his new opinion. BTW I don't find his deist position at all unreasonable, but to me there is a huge chasm between that and believing in a God with definable attributes, especially the attribute of "good" and "just". I guess this means I still have a long way to travel and a lot to learn along the way.
Edited by Skeptic, 15 December 2004 - 04:14 AM.