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setembro 29, 2011 § Deixe um comentário
ATHEIST GROUP SAYS 'YOU DON'T NEED GOD' BILLBOARD HAS HELPED IT GROW
GRAND RAPIDS — Imagine you are strolling down the sidewalk and a man excitedly calls you over to his front porch to share some “great news,” Protestant minister-turned atheist author Dan Barker asked his audience on Wednesday.
The man’s got a gruesome torture chamber in his basement, Barker said, but you don’t have to go down there. Instead, you can come over, hug the man’s son, say you love him and you can all move in together in the attic and tell them how great they are forever.
“Isn’t that great news?” a sarcastic Barker asked the crowd on Wednesday, gathered at the Women’s City Club for a meeting of Center for Inquiry Michigan, a non-religions group that’s reignited local debate about belief in God with an atheist billboard on U.S. 131 near Hall Street SW.
“But that’s what I was preaching — ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son and who ever believeth in him should not perish,’” recited Barker, who outgrew his religious beliefs after preaching for 19 years; a conversion he wrote about in a pair of books, “Losing Faith in Faith” (1992) and “Godless” (2008).
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but salvation is an attempt to solve a problem of its own making — sin is just a concept from the teaching, like a doctor running around cutting people with a knife in order to sell them a Band Aid.”
He spoke to about 140 people underneath the ArtPrize entry titled “The Sky Is Not Falling” in the club’s main room. In addition to being an author, Barker is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and co-host of Freethought Radio; he travels the country lecturing and defending atheist principles at college campus debates.
He’s also an accomplished musician with five children who still receives royalties from his days as a composer of Christian songs and musicals.
Barker is making a second appearance in West Michigan on Thursday, at a CFI chapter gathering at Grand Valley State University in Allendale at the Kirkhof Center, room 2263 at 9 p.m., about whether the Christian Bible is an acceptable guide for morality.
On Wednesday, he read excerpts from his newest book “The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God,” and highlighted notable people from history who were non-believers like 19th Century women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Yip Harburg, who penned the "Wizard of Oz" classic song “Over the Rainbow.”
Barker praised the local CFI chapter for the highway billboard, which was part of a multiple-city campaign by the national umbrella organization to raise the profile of non-believers nationwide.
“That was a smart move,” he said. “The climate is right.”
He said billboard campaigns usually generate more buzz from subsequent publicity and people who get outraged than from the people who actually see and read it.
Jennifer Beahan, spokesperson for CFI Michigan, said the billboard has helped boost attendance at their events by a large margin.
Their group has been around in some form for about 15 years, but where they used to get about 70 attendees, they’re now getting well over 100 people at programming events like Barker’s visit, she said.
“There’s been a lot of new faces,” she said. Their Facebook presence has swelled and “even people that already knew about us have been energized.”
The group aims to promote a secular society and the idea that people can live happy, purpose-filled lives without adherence to a God; an idea which Barker said is gaining traction nationwide as evidenced in bookstores — who now have atheism sections — and the proliferation of best-selling atheist authors like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins — who penned the forward to Barker’s "Godless."
“Ten years ago we couldn’t buy ads on the radio — people wouldn’t take our money,” he said. “I think you all can sense that something has happened in the last seven eight years. … People know we’re here; a part of society. Your billboard is a part of that.”
CFI hosts Sunday "Cafe Inquiry" meetings at Schuler Books and Music, 3165 Alpine Ave NW, from 10 a.m. to noon, and Skeptics in the Pub discussions. They are participating in the Grand River cleanup on Oct. 1. Visit cfimichigan.org for information. [i]
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