Godless, by Dan Barker – a quick review

Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists

This was a really good book.  I really enjoyed the beginning,  when he talked about his upbringing and how he became a preacher and then the process of shedding all that baggage.

The end was good.  He talked about life without religion.  How it’s possible to be good without a god,  and how you can be happy and successful without religious dogma,  and he even recounted a traumatic time in his life when he was able to find the support he needed without falling prey to a predatory belief system.

The middle dragged on a bit.  He spent a lot of time talking about this theory or that and how not only are they wrong,  but they’re often even internally inconsistent with each other.  If you’re the kind of person who aspires to be a biblical scholar,  or you intend to debate theists on the nuts and bolts of the Bible,  this will be right up your alley.  I decided I just don’t care enough about the utter crap we’re expected to believe.  I have no desire to immerse myself in something from which I have absolutely nothing to gain.


Being Atheist is Hard



OK, so I wasn’t always atheist.  I was raised in a Roman Catholic family.  I’ve been baptized, had a First Communion and a Confirmation.  I even got married in a Catholic church.  For a time, when I was in Desert Storm in the Marines, I was more religious than at any other time in my life (you know the old ‘no atheists in foxholes’ bit).

So, I was thinking recently how easy it always was to ask God for support and guidance when I didn’t kow what to do.  I asked him to watch over and protect me when I was in dangerous situations, and I asked him for forgiveness when I screwed up.  Ultimately, I wasn’t living my life for me.  I was living it for someone else.  I made decisions knowing that I had the approval of God, so it must be right.  Besides, even if I made the wrong decision or screwed something up, all I had to do was ask for forgiveness and all would be right again.  What happens when something bad happens to me?  “It’s all part of God’s plan.”  What more needed to be said, right?  Even if I didn’t want to accept that, I always knew who to be angry at.  After all, God was ultimately responsible for everything that happened.  How much easier could things be.

Now, this isn’t about why I became atheist.  That’s a topic for another day.  But since I came down on the side of atheism several years ago, things suddenly got hard.  There was no guiding force to protect me when I was in danger.  No ‘higher being’ to turn to for guidance when I was faced with difficult decisions.  I was suddenly responsible for my actions in a way I never was before.  I couldn’t claim that I was being guided by something or someone.  I couldn’t justify my actions by claiming that it was part of the ‘big plan.’  I couldn’t confess my sins and expect the problem to go away.  In short, there’s no longer anyone to blame or turn to when life just sucks.  It’s my bag and I’m holding it.  I’m expected to move forward and take responsibility for my actions, just like I teach my kids to do.

So, if you think being atheist is a cop out — the easy way out, think again.  It’s, perhaps, more difficult than leaning on the crutch of religion.  I was recently thinking about this.  It would be great to be able to give all the credit and all the blame to someone who’s not around to defend him or herself.  But no.  I choose to face life head on, make my own decisions, and accept what comes my way.

Religion — that’s easy.  Reality, not so much.

Image Credit: http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2009/02/links_with_your_955.html