Dan Barker told about 60 students and Gainesville residents that there is no meaning to life Monday night.

Barker, the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the separation of church and state, discussed atheist beliefs. The former evangelical minister said those who don’t believe in a god can find purpose to life without religion.

Barker said he used to preach the Bible, as some do on Turlington Plaza.

“I was that guy,” he said. “You’ve seen those guys on campus with the Bible, and they’re very confident about their love of Christ.”

Barker also spoke about his newest book, “Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning.” He said he wrote the book in response to “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” written by Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor of Saddleback Church, a megachurch in California.

Warren’s book emphasizes God’s plan and the necessity of religion, he said. Barker said his book teaches people to find the meaning to life inside themselves instead.

He said while there is no overall purpose to life, people can find meaning within their personal lives through work done on earth.

Barker said atheists can solve scientific questions, social inequality and poverty to find meaning.

“If you are working actively to try to surmount those problems, then there is purpose in life,” he said.

He said not all atheists think life is meaningless.

“We give value to things that are rare,” he said. “So we atheists and non-believers acknowledge that our lives are brief, which gives them more value.”

Julie Bontems, a UF political science and criminology senior, said she wanted to hear Barker speak so she could connect with other atheists.

“I think it’s very important to have these kind of discussions,” the 21-year-old said.

She founded Humanists on Campus, a discussion-based non-secular organization, and is a member of Gator Freethought, a student organization that focuses on philosophical views.

She said both organizations discuss purpose in life. The definition of atheism varies by person.

“I think people have this idea who we are, that we’re cynical, and that’s not the reality,” Bontems said. 

Contact Katelyn Newberg at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @k_newberg.

(7) comments

Ian C

I've seen Dan Barker's speech. He does not say there's no meaning to life. In fact he speaks a lot about what makes life meaningful to an atheist.

StupidAtheist Dot Com

I'll second Ian's input, and add this:

If a child draws a cat, and somebody tears the picture in half, crumples the pieces, and admonishes the child about how stupid they are for drawing a cat on what was obviously dog-paper, we wouldn't stand for it.

Theists who insist our lives can only be painted on their god-canvas are equally reprehensible. And we shouldn't put up with THAT either...


He said exactly the opposite. The meaning of life is making this world better.


Each of us is on our own personal "belief arc" throughout our lives. When it come to religion, many people -- if not most -- pass through different phases of belief and non-belief, largely driven by where we were born, into which family, culture, etc. People currently inside a deeply religious culture can find it difficult or impossible to openly question the validity of their religion's beliefs with family and friends who are also deeply indoctrinated in the belief, and may feel threatened by the questions. Dan Barker and the good people at FFRF provide a great way for people who are questioning their religion to explore those issues further. Important to note that most atheists didn't start out that way, but arrived there after abandoning beliefs that simply don't make much sense when held up to rational scrutiny. This one life is simply too short to waste time as grown adults believing childish nonsense.


>>Barker also spoke about his newest book, “Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning.” He said he wrote the book in response to “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” written by Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor of Saddleback Church, a megachurch in California.

(from Wikipedia) The Purpose Driven Life (2002) is a devotional book written by Christian author Rick Warren and published by Zondervan. The book has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for advice books for one of the longest periods in history,[citation needed] while also topping the Wall Street Journal best seller charts as well as Publishers Weekly charts with over 30 million copies sold by 2007. (and 60 million by 2012, according to a different reference).

Gee, it sounds as if he may have decided the purpose of his life is to sell books and make money if he's trying to be in the same league as the other author. Sure, he might be trying to help people, but it's not through a series of free YouTube videos. Snake-oil salesmen have been around forever, although his book might help some people who can't think for themselves and decide what their own life means or should mean. He could always make it a free ebook. But he won't.

The Alligator is having problems with basic accuracy lately, including this headline. It's far from the only recent example. It seems weak and makes UF and UF graduates look weak, especially the journalism dept. Report reality and only reality ("just the facts, ma'am", "the whole truth and nothing but the truth"..... not that difficult of a concept, although evidently it is asking a lot). As an old relative told me when I was younger, "The purpose of life is hard work". That was her opinion, and it might help you guys produce a better newspaper if you started thinking that way.

Gerald Moore

You should check out Dan Barkers archives and Podcasts called Forethought Radio. They are very helpful. You can download them from iTunes. Don’t worry, they’re free.


Does God Exist? Dinesh D'Souza vs. Dan Barker

I watched most of that. Dinesh won the debate to say the least (he also points out that Barker was a former 'musical pastor' and never was any sort of historian). One person who left a comment about the video wrote "Barker lost it a long time ago." D'Souza comes across as a real philosopher, and Barker seems logically demented, opting for atheism as a default answer (or no afterlife as a default answer) instead of saying "we don't know" or "we can't say with any assurance". He doesn't seem to be able to think critically. He has answers, but his answers often don't make any sense, logically. It's more like he's leading a pep rally for atheism - and trying to sell his long line of books.

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