January 22, 2006February 12, 2006Meeting Report

February 3, 2006

Dan Barker

Dan BarkerThis meeting, which was sponsored by the UUSS Public Forum (rather than HAGSA) and held in the UUSS auditorium, was the most successful and enjoyable meeting in a very long time. Most of the planning was done by HAGSA.

Dan was a great draw and did not disappoint the audience. He is an accomplished musician and has had a rather interesting religious odyssey. As a teenager and as a young man, he was an active evangelical Christian, trained for the ministry, and served as a pastor. As a musician, he gave many performances and made many recordings of Christian music. However, he tried some dangerous outside reading and over a period of about five years, became an atheist. He went public with that and is currently co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Ken Helms, a retired UUA minister, introduced Dan Barker. Dan began by singing some of his songs while playing on the piano. They included “Beware of Dogma,” “You Can’t Win With Original Sin” and “Nothing Fails Like Prayer.” He then talked about his career as a Christian evangelist musician. While in his early 30s, he met with liberal Christians and received from them a different perspective from his black and white fundamentalist worldview. He began to do outside reading that cast doubt on his fundamentalist beliefs, and a few years later finally decided to reject religious belief altogether and to leave the ministry. He notified his family and his associates of his decision. His parents lost their faith but his decision did lead to a breakup of his marriage. He has since married Anne Laurie Gaylor.

There was the usual question and answer period. During that period, Dan announced that the 2006 National FFRF Convention will be held in San Francisco, at the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway Hotel,  from October 6 to 8.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, Recorder

Biographical Information

Dan Barker is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (ffrf).

Dan became a teenage evangelist at age 15 and ultimately received a degree in Religion from Azusa Pacific University in 1975.

After receiving his degree Dan served as associate pastor at a Friends' (Quaker) Church, an Assembly of God, and an independent Charismatic church. Dan was a Protestant missionary in Mexico for a total of two years and, for nearly 17 years, he was involved in a touring musical ministry, including eight years of full-time, cross-country evangelism.

An accomplished pianist, record producer, arranger and songwriter in his own right, Dan worked with a wide variety of Christian evangelical groups and music companies. He was piano accompanist for 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 around the world.

To his great credit Dan began reading outside the proscribed areas set out by most religions to protect their beliefs and believers, as well as their doctrines, from critical examination. After five years of reading, Dan gradually found that he had outgrown 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 became PR Director for the Freedom From Religion Foundation for the period from 1987 to 2004. In 2004 he was elected co-president of the FFRF with Annie Laurie Gaylor. He is a contributing editor of Freethought Today and is involved with the Foundation's separation of state/church lawsuits.

Dan continues his composing and piano playing under the heading of freethought concerts and in a rather different direction from in his previous years, as you might expect. Here are a few of his titles: "My Thoughts Are Free," "Reason's Greetings," "Dan Barker Salutes Freethought Then And Now." He also has a 2-CD album, "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist," and his newest CD is "Beware of Dogma."

Dan is the author of several books:

Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher To Atheist
This is Dan's autobiographical story of deconversion, and a critical analysis of Christianity and the bible. FFRF, Inc., 1992.

Just Pretend: A Freethought Book For Children
Overtly freethought. Compares God and Santa, myth with reality, and celebrates atheism and freedom of thought. FFRF, Inc., 1988 (2002 new edition).

Maybe Yes, Maybe No: A Guide For Young Skeptics
Teaches the scientific method to children. Prometheus Books, 1990. 

Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A Guide For Young Thinkers
Teaches humanistic morality to children. Prometheus Books, 1992.

Dan also has written a variety of educational booklets, brochures and "nontracts" for the Foundation.

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