Tag Archives: Hedonism

Why did Dan Barker leave Christianity for atheism?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Unbelievable’s  radio show featured a discussion with former Christian Dan Barker, the founder and co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The MP3 file is here. (60 minutes)

I thought that I would make some general comments about why I think that many people leave the Christian faith, and what you should be careful of in order to avoid following in Dan Barker’s footsteps, specifically.

Basically, there are four major reasons why people leave Christianity.

  1. They want to do something immoral with impunity. This type of person wants to do something immoral that is forbidden by Christianity, like pre-marital sex or getting drunk in clubs with friends. They dump Christianity in order to have freedom to seek happiness in this life.
  2. They want to make decisions based on their emotions, rather than wisdom. This type of person thinks that God’s job is to save them when they act irresponsibly. When God disappoints them by not make their recklessness “work out”, they leave the faith.
  3. They want to be loved by people, not by God. This type of person thinks that Christianity is a tool that they can use to become popular. When they first try to articulate the gospel in public, they find that people don’t like them as much, and they feel bad about offending people with exclusive truth claims that they cannot back up using logic and evidence. So, they water down Christianity to get along with non-Christians. Finally, they jettison Christianity completely. This happens to a lot of young Christians the moment they hit college / university.
  4. They don’t want to learn to defend their faith. This type of person is asked questions by skeptics that they cannot answer. Usually this happens when people go to university after growing up in the shelter of the Church. The questions and peer pressure make them feel stupid. Rather than investigate Christianity to see if it’s true, they drop it, so they can be thought of as part of the “smart” crowd.

Now listen to the discussion and see if you can identify some of these factors from Barker’s own carefully-prepared words. He is trying very hard to make himself look honest and moderate, because he wants Christians to be sympathetic with his story and his motives for leaving Christianity. But I think that there is enough in his statements to construct a different hypothesis of why he left Christianity.

I’ve grouped the data by risk factor. Some of this is my interpretation of his real motivations, based on my experience dealing with former-Christians.

Non-rational, emotional approach to Christianity

  • he was raised in a devout Christian family where he probably wouldn’t have faced skeptical questions
  • he converted to Christianity at age 15 as a result of a religious experience, not a serious investigation
  • his idea of God was probably idealized and uninformed, e.g. – a loving God who wants us to be happy
  • he wandered around from church to church preaching, with no fixed address or source of income
  • he earned money by collecting “love offerings” from churches where he performed his music
  • he wrote Christian songs and Christian musicals, but nothing substantive on apologetics and theology
  • he worked in three churches known for being anti-intellectual and fundamentalist
  • there’s no evidence that of any deep study of philosophy, science and history during this time

Desire to gain acceptance from non-Christians

  • he began to notice that some people were uncomfortable with sin and Hell
  • he began to avoid preaching about sin and Hell in order to make these people comfortable
  • he watered-down the gospel to focus on helping people to be happy in this life
  • his manic approach to Christian ministry was challenged by the “real life” needs of his growing family
  • he met liberal pastors while performing his music in their churches
  • he found it difficult to disagree with them because they seemed to be “good” people
  • he watered down his message further in order to appeal to people across the theological spectrum

Ignorance of Christian apologetics

  • he began to think that if there are many different views of religion, then no view can be correct
  • he was not intellectually capable of using logic and evidence to test these competing claims to see which was true
  • he decided to instead re-interpret Christian truth claims as non-rational opinions, so they could all be “valid”
  • he became a theological liberal, abandoning theism for an impersonal “ground of being”
  • he embraced religious pluralism, the view that all religions are non-rational and make no testable truth claims
  • he began to see God as a “metaphor” whose purpose is to make people have a sense of meaning and purpose
  • he jettisoned God completely and focused more on helping people find meaning and morality apart from God
  • seems to think that religion is about having a “great life”, and felt that you can have a “great life” without religion
  • seems to think that religion is about being “good”, and felt that you can be “good” without religion
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them what to do instead of letting them do anything they want
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them what is true, instead of letting them believe whatever they want
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them that God will hold them accountable for their beliefs and actions

So what do I think happened?

Barker was generating an income from donations from churches where he entertained them. Gradually, his family grew to the point where conservative churches were not enough to support him. He had to change his message to appeal to liberal churches in order to cast a wider net.

He seems to have thought that Christianity is about having his needs met and being liked by others. I think he wanted to feel good and to make people feel good with his preaching and singing. But Christianity is not a feel-good religion. It’s not a tool to make people like you. He seems to have become aware that the exclusive claims of Christianity made other people feel offended, so he cut them out. Christian apologists learn how to provide evidence for claims that non-Christians find offensive or hard to believe, but Dan hadn’t studied philosophy, science or history so he couldn’t defend it. It’s hard to speak unpopular truths when you have nothing to back it up except your music composing. Eventually, Dan just quit making the truth claims entirely.

I also think money was a factor. It seems to me that it would have hurt his career and reduced his invitations from liberal churches if he had kept up teaching biblical Christianity. In order to appeal to a wider audience, (like many Christian singers do – e.g. – Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, etc.), he would have felt pressured to water down the unpleasant parts of his preaching and singing. Lacking apologetics skill, he instead abandoned his message. He needed to account for his family’s needs and “real life”, and exclusive truth claims and Hell-talk would have reduced his ability to do that. It seems to me that he should have scaled back his extreme schedule of preaching and singing, and instead gotten a steady job so that he could afford “real life” and a family without being pressured into altering his message. The Christian life requires a certain amount of wisdom that Dan did not have.

Life isn’t a fairy tale. God isn’t there to reward risky behavior. We need to be more shrewd about financial matters so that we have the ability to not care about what people think of us. Look at this blog. I work all day as a senior software engineer with two degrees in computer science, so that I don’t have to rely on donations. Additionally, I save most of what I make in case a tragedy strikes. Since I am financially secure, I can say what I think, and disregard anyone who wants me to change my message because they are offended. Becoming a Christian isn’t a license to behave irrationally and immaturely with money. For some people, (like William Lane Craig), stepping out in faith works. But if it doesn’t work, it’s better to retreat and re-trench, rather than to compromise your message for money.

I actually met someone like Dan Barker recently. She grew up in an anti-intellectual hippy Christian home. Her mother came from a good family, and decided on a whim to marry a non-Christian. Like Barker, the family exalted feelings and irrational expectations of miracles from God for “fearless” acts. She got herself into trouble with alcohol and promiscuity in her 20s, by making emotional decisions and mixing with the wrong crowd. Her way of fixing this was to fly off on a one-year missions trip, wrecking her resume and finances. Now, she is in her late 30s, unmarried, and literally blaming Jesus for putting too many demands on her that she doesn’t have time for, e.g – morning quiet time. This causes her to feel guilty, and make her want to reject Christianity. She had no intellectual conception of basic core doctrines like God’s existence or Jesus’ resurrection, which might have acted as a bulwark against her emotions. When I explained to her how I had structured my education and career so that I could have an influence without testing God, she seemed bored and said that I was too “fearful”.

This is apparently widespread, especially among anti-intellectual denominations. Another ex-Pentecostal atheist woman I heard about from people who knew her when she was young decided to drop out of college to travel around North America doing pro-life work. When she found herself penniless, unmarried and without children in her mid-30s, she decided to have a baby out of wedlock. The government will pay for it, she said. Rather than trying to justify this decision as a Christian, she blamed God for not making her madness “work out”. She is now an atheist, because God did not reward her decision to live “fearlessly” for him with a husband and children. It was all God’s fault. There is a whole subculture within Christianity, where the pursuit of fun and thrills can be masked with pious language, and all talk of prudence and restraint is seen as cowardice and lack of faith.

The Christian life requires a certain level of intelligence, a certain level of practical wisdom, and a certain level of self-control and discipline. Make sure that you don’t walk away from God because of your own bad choices.

Whose job is it to teach young, unmarried women not to delay marriage?

A group of feminists protesting people they disagree with
A group of feminists protesting people they disagree with

I found a very interesting post on a blog called Oz Conservative, which is run by an Australian traditional conservative. In the post, he looks at two women who wasted their 20s on fun and thrills. Both of them are childless and unmarried. And they are complaining that they should be married with children. How did it happen?

Excerpt:

Rachael spent her youth going out with the bad boy type:

relationships have never been my strong point. Historically, I’ve picked good-looking villains and addictive personalities.

I’ve had a ball and many passionate experiences, but nothing functional enough to constitute a long-term future and never anyone ‘normal’ enough to bring home to meet the parents.

Although she puts a positive spin on being single, she admits:

I’m realistic. I’ve probably missed the boat as far as children are concerned, and that is a shame…

[…]Yes, the life I have today is not quite the one I envisaged 20 years ago as a young woman. I foresaw a satisfying career along with 2.4 children and a handsome husband.

Then there is Bibi, now 44. She tells her story this way:

I am staring down the barrel of a lonely future without a man, let alone children.

And how do I find myself in this perilous position? One reason is undoubtedly that men like young women. Yes, I was young once and all that. In my 20s and 30s I wasn’t exactly a supermodel, but I was constantly surrounded by men. The trouble is I wasn’t necessarily looking to settle down back then…

Now that I am, there are very few available men out there and the ones there are would be more interested in my teenage nieces than in me…

[…]Bibi has a lot of friends in exactly the same boat:

In my close circle of friends, there are eight of us who are single and childless. This is a generational phenomenon  –  we are all aged between 37 and 45.

When our mothers were that age, such numbers would be unimaginable.

Like many women writing this kind of literature, when she looks back she recognises the negative influence of feminism on her generation of women:

I think the feminist teachings of the Sixties and Seventies seeped into our brains. My mum couldn’t be called a feminist, but I, too, grew up thinking we could be anything we wanted to be and have a fulfilling career, life and relationship…

[…]What she is trying to say here is that feminism pushed marriage and motherhood down the list of priorities (“there was more to contend with beforehand”). She admits that she was led into the magical kind of thinking I described earlier in which there is nothing in reality to limit having things as you want them to be (“we didn’t realise that men wouldn’t be interested … my generation was spoilt – unrealistic, even”).

The comments to the post are very interesting.

I was thinking about whose job it was to warn young Christian women about these bad choices, and I remembered a passage from the Bible.

Titus 2:3-5 explains:

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.

Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,

to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

The problem is that many older Christian women made a lot of mistakes in their youth, especially with alcohol and premarital sex. And for most of them, it’s more important that they not feel guilty about it, than that they warn younger women not to make the same mistakes. So, instead of admitting guilt and setting boundaries, they often tell young women that it doesn’t matter what you do in your 20s because God, the cosmic butler, will make everything work out in the end.

We just had a situation where one woman who had a successful marriage tried to give younger women some very basic advice about how to be attractive to marriage-minded men. And what happened was that she was attacked by pretty much everyone. The reaction seemed to be strongest from Christian women, however, who insisted that God’s grace meant that Christian women didn’t have to care what the Bible taught about morality and wisdom. The important thing was that they follow their desires in the moment, because to exercise self-control would be “horrible” and would “send the wrong message”. Telling a woman not to do what she feels like is worse than murder, because women must always do what feels good. Who cares about the words of the Bible, when a woman has feelings that are a direct line to God’s mysterious will for her happiness?

One of the commenters on this blog put it this way:

I’ve been observing this phenomenon among so-called “Christians” for well over a decade. Concepts like “tolerance” and not being “judgmental” took hold in our culture and many Christians absorbed the mindset completely. If you point out that what someone is doing is sinful or might potentially lead to sinful behavior, they act defensive or turn the tables on you and say “well, you’re not perfect either!” Some even say that they do certain things for the express purpose of not being “legalistic,” because clearly, legalism is far worse than compromising one’s witness. Jesus has become a postmodern hippie whose primary message is “let’s all be cool to each other.” The only sins left are transgressions against the belief that everyone is equal and worthy of acceptance.

In reading the responses to Lori Alexander’s article, my greatest takeaway is that people are rationalization machines. If they’ve made mistakes, they won’t humbly acknowledge them and use the wisdom of their experience to guide others in the right direction. Instead, they’ll try to find a way to argue that their mistakes weren’t mistakes at all, and that the real sinner is the person who’s judging them for what they did. It’s a deceitful, selfish game, and anyone who plays it is an enemy of the Gospel. Their argument essentially boils down to “every woman, regardless of whatever bad decisions she’s made in life, is entitled to a loving husband who’ll provide for her.” Same way everyone’s entitled to free health care, regardless of whether sufficient medical resources exist, I suppose. It doesn’t work that way, ladies.

And they use this feminist scare word “shaming.” How dare you “shame” me? I would go so far as to say that shaming is a good thing, because it incentivizes proper behavior. Men have good reasons for wanting their wives to be virgins, and if you remove the stigma against premarital sex, a lot of women are going to take Biblical teaching on the subject less seriously. If Christian men as a whole agreed that they would only marry virgins, I guarantee you that a lot of women would think twice about what kind of men they associated with. If you feel “shamed,” it’s probably a sign that you haven’t truly repented of your sins. Sin separates us from God, and if you see your sins for what they are, you should have no problem condemning the sins that you yourself have committed and discouraging them in others.

I’m sorry for this long-winded ramble, but it disgusts me how much politically correct rot has infested the churches, and this entire incident just confirms that Paul was correct to forbid women teaching. When everyone is afraid of upsetting women, we get false teachers popping up everywhere spreading a destructive message with nothing but rhetoric behind it. The end result? Fewer marriages, fewer children, fewer people taking Christian teachings seriously, and more people being miserable and lonely. Once you start ceding ground to liberalism, the whole thing eventually unravels. Lots of good Christian men and women can’t find a spouse anymore, because their society has lied to them and they don’t realize it until it’s too late. Did their churches stand against the world? Did their churches provide them the guidance they needed? Or were their churches too afraid to be seen as “out of touch,” and did they prioritize numbers over holiness and correct teaching? If we are sincere believers, it should be obvious which is more important.

Many of the women who chose to delay marriage for fun and thrills with the bad boys grew up in married Christian homes. Parents and pastors have, for one reason or another, decided that it is too unpleasant to warn young Christian women that their behavior may involve some costs in the long term. They don’t want to make them feel bad, and women’s feelings are so very much more important than what the Bible says, or even what peer-reviewed research on marriage best practices says. Even theologically conservative pastors just don’t have the courage to address the influence that feminism has had on the goal-setting and decision-making of young, unmarried women. It’s much easier to blame men when the woman’s fun and thrills plan doesn’t work out.

Radical feminists explain how feminism prepared them for dating and marriage

These women are very angry, is that why men avoid them?
These women are very angry, is that why men avoid them?

So, quick review. Radical feminism is the view that there are no differences whatsoever between men and women. And the reason why men do better at work is not due to a stronger desire to provide, it’s just caused by sexism in the workplace. Feminists don’t focus on marriage or choose men for marriage ability – that’s “sexist”. So, why don’t men want to date or marry feminists?

I like to read a web site called “Bolde” to find out what feminists are thinking. They have good articles, and even if I disagree with the authors, I do feel sorry for them.

Here’s an article called “I’m All For Feminism, But It’s Kinda Making It Harder To Date” that says:

It doesn’t take much for me to overanalyze a guy’s intentions nowadays. I used to see a guy opening a door for me as nice and polite, but lately, gestures like this have been making me angry. I know the guys offering these acts of chivalry have no intention to make me feel small or lesser than, but now that my eyes have been opened to feminist theory, it’s all I’m able to think about.

[…]When I’m out with a guy and he says one thing that’s even REMOTELY offensive towards women, I find it really hard to recover. I instantly write guys off if they aren’t “woke” to the current social mindset towards gender politics and can’t let it go. Let’s just say I’ve gone on A LOT of first dates that never go anywhere.

[…]All it takes is one quick scroll down my newsfeed and I have enough feminist rants to last me several winters. I think I’ve almost trained my brain to assume ALL men are here to try to put me down and dominate me when that’s far from the truth. I’ve made it kind of an automatic reflex at this point, though.

She actually says in her article that she’s been “brainwashed”. And that’s basically the case. Before feminism, women used to evaluate men for traditional male roles: protector, provider, moral and spiritual leader. They looked for evidence of moral convictions, mentoring, charity, kindness, etc. After feminism, women are more likely to get the tingles for a guy who is tall, pierced and tattooed. To look for husband qualities in a man is “sexist”. Early marriage is “boring”. Having lots of children is “wasting your education”.

It’s pretty clear from reading her article that she would not be a good partner. Men are looking for a woman who will listen to their life plan, and give up the pursuit of fun, thrills and travel in order to help them achieve it. Although it should be obvious, we aren’t going to commit to a woman who is seeking to grab the reins from us, and tear us down. Men tend to be more focused than women on reason and practicality. That’s good, but it’s a very cold existence. We want a woman to be caring and helpful, not a snarky competitor.

Here’s another one from Bolde entitled: “I Say I Want A Good Man But The Idea Of Dating A Mature Guy Scares Me“:

I’ve dated very few men in my life and a whole lot of boys.

[…]I think that I have a need to feel like I’m in charge of romantic situations. It dates back to my childhood issues, I guess. I want to keep the upper hand.

[…] I’m very honest, yes, but I’m emotionally closed-off. There is a definite distinction between the two. There are certain places that I simply don’t (or can’t) go with most people. When I’m confronted with a man who is open with his feelings, it freaks me out.

[…][M]ost of the men I’ve met who are emotionally developed also have the rest of their act together, and it makes me feel like maybe I don’t.

[…]I get paranoid because I hate being at a disadvantage.

[…]I’m not that different from the rest of my generation in some ways. I’m used to the ease of being single, and while ideally I’d like a deep and loving adult relationship, I also know that it takes time and energy that I’m not sure I’m willing to give up.

[…]I’m always falling for men who are unavailable in some way or another. I hate that I’m like this and I know that I operate this way because it feels safer than engaging in risky vulnerability with someone who truly wants to be with me.

[…]I’ve not had many mature relationships in my life. I’ve been in love and I’ve had serious boyfriends, but there was often an element of childishness to our interactions. We never really discussed our futures together or acted… adult. Now I feel like I don’t even know how to begin.

I’ve had experiences with women like this who smashed themselves up on the rocks of bad boys over and over. I think she really explains why it is that so many women are attracted to younger bad boys who don’t want to commit. The truth is that women are scared of commitment. They don’t want to give up their free and easy single lives in order to have to put effort into making a relationship work. They want husbands and homes, but without expectations, responsibilities, or obligations. And the better a man is at manly traits like protecting, providing, and leading on moral and spiritual issues, the less they like him. It’s even worse if he has a good STEM education, a good resume, and a good balance sheet. They deliberately bypass commitment-ready men because they don’t want to be led – even by a good leader.

By the way, in my experience, what she describes above is the natural outworking of being promiscuous with hot bad boys. Women who do that lose trust for men, and they lose their confidence dealing with good men who want to marry them. And naturally all that sex with attractive men makes the woman less content with the one she has to “settle” for – since she didn’t respect men who were good at commitment in the first place. Promiscuity trains people to pre-emptively nuke relationships rather than invest effort into making them work.