Atheist Barker to debate evangelist D’Souza

"Is God the Problem? Would the world be better off without religion?" is the debate topic Thursday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union Theater, 800 Langdon St., on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Dan Barker, former evangelist preacher, now an author, musician and co-president of the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, will debate Dinesh D'Souza, a conservative born-again author-commentator and president of The King's College, which is located on two floors of the Empire State Building in New York City.

The debate is free, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis. It's co-sponsored by the UW Atheist, Humanist and Agnostic group (AHA) and Badger Catholic. A half-hour book signing will follow the debate.

Barker became a teenage evangelist at age 15. At 16 he was choir librarian for faith-healer Kathryn Kuhlman’s Los Angeles appearances. He received a degree in religion from Azusa Pacific University and was ordained to the ministry by the Standard Community Church in California in 1975. He preached for 19 years, including two years in Mexico as a missionary.

A freethinker since 1983, he is married to FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. They met in Chicago during a 1984 taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

His books are Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher To Atheist and Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists. His new, upcoming book is The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God. He's also a professional pianist and composer. He speaks around the U.S. and internationally about atheism, freethought and religion's failures.

D'Souza was born in Mumbai, India, and came to the U.S. in 1978. He was raised Catholic but now calls himself an evangelical Christian. (Since 2002 he has attended Horizon Christian Fellowship.) He graduated from Dartmouth College, where he was editor of a conservative monthly called The Prospect. As a writer for The Dartmouth Review, he was criticized for publishing the names of "closeted" officers of the Gay Straight Alliance.

His 2007 book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11, was mocked by many, even by conservative critics, for its thesis.

D'Souza's Christian apologetics books, What's So Great About Christianity and Life After Death: The Evidence, were both New York Times bestsellers.

He waded back into controversy with his 2010 book, The Roots of Obama's Rage, which was praised by Glenn Beck but panned by many other critics. Alex Pareene, political writer, calls D'Souza a "pseudo-academic."

The King's College has about 400 students and pursues "academic excellence for the sake of building God’s kingdom as an unapologetically Christian college." The respective boards of directors of the college and Campus Crusade for Christ recently started a process to transfer full ownership to the college.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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