Freethought Today · April 2015

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Barker finds purpose where pastor Rick fails

Atheist book for ‘inspirational’ aisle?

It seems certain that not-so-reverend (or revered) Rick Warren is no intellectual match for ex-reverend Dan Barker.

Christian pastor Warren's best-seller, Purpose Driven Life, starts with a single-sentence paragraph: "It's not about you." God planned your life, he claims, before you were born. "You don't get to choose your purpose."

Former minister Barker, now FFRF co-president, turns Warren's sad worldview right-side up in his new book, Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning (April 2015, Pitchstone). "It is about you," his book starts. "When it comes to purpose, it is about you and no one else."

Life Driven Purpose, with an eloquent foreword by philosopher Daniel C. Dennett (author of Breaking the Spell and an honorary FFRF director) is the first book by an atheist aimed at the "inspirational/motivational" bookshelves. "We atheists are truly IN-spired," Dan says, "while believers are OUT-spired. They desperately seek their marching orders from somewhere outside themselves — a king, commander, lord or slave master — while we nonbelievers find and create purpose and meaning within ourselves."

Inner-directed purpose is the only true purpose, Dan writes. "Asking, 'If there is no God, what is the purpose of life?' is like asking, 'If there is no master, whose slave will I be?' "

Chapter 1, "The Good News," softly mimics the "inspirational" style of "psycho-faith" authors like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, but comes to a novel conclusion: The truly good news is that there is no purpose of life. There is purpose in life. Nonbelievers have lived, and are living, immensely meaningful lives as they work to solve problems and meet the challenges that confront us in the real world.

The rest of the book returns to Dan's familiar writing style. Chapter 2, "Mere Morality," replaces C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity with a superior, naturalistic moral philosophy. Chapter 3, "Religious Color Blindness," creatively probes the polarized mind of a fundamentalist believer. (You'll have to read it to discover how Annie Laurie Gaylor's misplaced hat sheds light on religious belief.) Chapter 4, "Much Ado About," is Dan's thoughtful answer to the question "Can something come from nothing?"

Summing it all up, the final chapter "Life Is Life" circles back to "meaning" by recounting personal stories from Dan's family. Thus does it replace the elusive "meaning of life" with the very real "meaning in life."

Life Driven Purpose flips so many religious precepts on their heads. You can see the real world much better, Dan says, by looking through the right end of the telescope. "A supernatural additive pollutes what is pure and precious in our species. We atheists simply refuse to be cheated of the good life."
Richard Dawkins, who helped with editing, calls Life Driven Purpose "a lovely book!"

Ordering from FFRF benefits the Foundation because Dan is contributing his royalties. You can order the book for $20 postpaid by U.S. mail from FFRF Shop, P.O. Box 750, Madison, WI 53701, or online at ffrf.org/shop, where prices vary slightly due to custom shipping. (Please indicate if you'd like it autographed.)

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