Editor’s Note: Dan Barker has written yet another book! Alexis Record writes yet another lively review! C.S. Lewis rolls over in his grave! /Linda LaScola, Editor
By Alexis Record
Dan Barker once saved a baby. Now he has written a book about morality. Okay, I’m listening.
Barker, previously known to me only as “Annie Laurie Gaylor’s husband”,
has been a treasure in my journey out of arrant indoctrination. I came up from beneath an all-encompassing sea of religious faith gasping for air and grasping for footholds in reality. I had been force-fed so much misinformation about nonbelief, not to mention the physical world, that I could not trust my own knowledge. The first desperate thought I had after my de-conversion was, “Am I still a good person?”
I cannot overemphasize the value of succinct works that speak directly to this experience. Often in Barker’s books I feel that gentle guide calling out from the beach, “There’s a rock in front of you. Keep swimming. I know the crashing waves are high. Just breathe. You’ve got this.”
As a former pastor, Barker understands the importance of talking back to bad ideas that have been made popular by religious luminaries. Christianity enjoys a great deal of privilege in our culture resulting in many religious premises going largely unchallenged. These ideas often react to critical illumination like bacteria to ultraviolent light.
Mere Morality is a call back to the 1952 Christian classic Mere Christianityby C.S. Lewis–a book that opened with a moral argument for the existence of the Christian god. Baker has reviewed Lewis’ ideas and summed them up as “mere assumptions” that skirt “disciplined reasoning” by relying heavily on analogies. I see Lewis’ superficial arguments inspiring Barker to make his own arguments more sound in response.
This is Dan Barker’s second hat tip to popular Christian titles. His first was Life Driven Purposewhich slapped back at anti-LGBT pastor, Rick Warren, and his book Purpose Driven Lifewhich claimed that human worth was defined solely by Warren’s own theistic views.
I found Barker’s Three Moral Minds (the partnership of instinct, law, and reason) concept largely intuitive. It is such a straightforward and sensible explanation to what clearly goes on in complex ethical decision-making. We rely on our evolved biological instincts to make decisions, like reaching out to catch a falling baby as Barker once did. We also rely on our society to help guide our actions since it has already done some major ground work in laying out laws to help society function. Where these two “minds” fall short, we apply our own reason as cognitively advanced beings. Our overall guide is the harm principle that dictates that good morality is that which minimizes harm. The Three Moral Minds concept in conjunction with the harm principle is simple enough to be understood by my eleven-year-old daughter when we discussed some moral grey areas she is facing.
A large chunk of Mere Moralityis dedicated to showing how the Bible not only falls short of moral ideals but also advocates causing harm, thus making it immoral. For those with religious trauma syndrome, consider this your content warning due to this section of the book quoting heavily from Christian Scripture.
Mere Morality works as an introduction to simple morality. It is a jumping off point for more in-depth discussions. It shows how morality is obviously not a religiously owned concept.
So go forth and be moral! Save babies! Don’t drown them! It’s only reasonable.
Bio: Alexis Record is a feminist, humanist, ex-Christian atheist, and mother to children with disabilities. She devoted the first 30 years of her life to Christian study and service due to indoctrination, and is working to repair the years the locusts have eaten.