You could tell who the former true believers in the crowd were, just by looking at people who came out of Dan Barker’s talk. Atheists who were once casual believers or never-believers thought it was a great talk, while former true believers came out looking stunned, and saying, “That was just like my story.”
Dan Barker used to be a Christian preacher, but deconverted in 1984. He is now at the head of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
He described his work in converting others to Christianity. “I never got any doors slammed in my face. I never got an informed response.” He surveyed the audience of atheists. “Where were you guys? I could have used you. You probablty didn’t say anything out of respect.
“Well, don’t do that.”
The striking thing for me was how he described having exactly the same kinds of feelings that Mormons describe as the feelings of the Spirit. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I still am. Mormons customarily claim that non-Mormons don’t have regular access to the Holy Ghost. I have also heard some believers claim that the feelings of the Spirit is something that Satan cannot duplicate. But, as one should expect, there’s nothing unique about Mormon testimony. The ‘positive feelings’ Mormons get are in sync with the feelings felt by other believers and — dare I say? — non-believers.
Having been a believer once, he raised the question of how to have “dialogue without disprespect, and the answer is to respect them and the reasons why they believe…. I think there can be a small place for ridicule, if that’s not all we’re doing.”
From Barker: “Paul said, ‘God is not the author of confusion.’ But can you think of a book that’s caused more confusion than the Bible?”