There’s a final piece of audio to be posted: Dan Barker’s address to the Atheist Convention. Dan Barker is the former US Christian evangelist turned atheism spruiker. He came to the Convention following a student organised ‘debate’ with Cardinal George Pell at Macquarie University. When he arrived in Sydney, he told the audience, someone said to him: “‘You’re debating George Pell? He’s an imbecile!’” Said Dan Barker: “I didn’t know whether I could use those words until after I met the man.” He told us little of the ‘debate’, other than that he had addressed Cardinal Pell as George.
In his Convention address, Dan Barker recounted the story of his life as a fundamentalist preacher in both the United States and in Mexico and his subsequent turn to atheism. “I got to tell you the tactics of evangelism are crude and simple and transparent and embarrassing but they work …there’s all of these people out there who are susceptible and gullible and wondering and they see somebody like me who is confident, I know what I am talking about, I have answers ….” He used to say the answer was ‘Jesus’. But since his appearance twenty-five years ago on the Oprah Winfrey Show, he has proffered atheism via books, radio show, websites and the talk circuit.
According to Dan Barker, “The fundamentalist mindset is a binary brain… To us fundamentalists there is no grey area, no middle ground ….” The turn to atheism was gradual: “I’m smart but I kind of delayed my education……I realised you know if the Prodigal Son is a parable, and if Adam and Eve are a metaphor, then maybe God himself is just one huge figure of speech. Maybe the whole thing is just one… and why not… if you are going to say there is metaphor in the Bible, where do you draw that line?”
Being smart is evidently important to Dan Barker (as it was to some other speakers at the Convention) since this information is listed in his personal biography: “He belongs to a number of High-IQ societies, including The Prometheus Society, with an entrance requirement at the 99.997th percentile.” (Though ‘smartness’ is not necessarily the best armour, even when you know, supposedly, what you are talking about. Enjoy this.)
As I listened to Dan Barker, Yusuf Estes came inevitably to mind. He is one of a number of American fundamentalist formerly Christian preachers who have preceded Dan Barker on the Australian circuit, the difference being that the others turned to Islam.
Aside from the fact that the shift hasn’t done much for Yusuf Estes sartorially, Dan Barker and Yusuf Estes have a lot in common, still. There’s a question of tone: check this out.
There’s that wonderful refrain, ‘Where’s the evidence?’ (and the striving to put it to work): see here.
And there’s the marketing mentality (know to whom you are selling): watch this.
So, what is it about fundamentalism? And, in this form, its American character? And its influence within what might be emerging as an atheist movement? They’re questions the Convention didn’t even begin to consider.
And yes, do listen to Dan Barker (Dur: 39.32; Size: 36.1 MB)
Alternatively, you can access this audio and other audio from the Convention via the Audio tab at the right of this page.