The UC Davis Agnostic and Atheist Student Association (AgASA) will host well-known atheist activist and speaker Dan Barker at 6 p.m. today in 123 Science Lecture.
A former evangelical preacher of 19 years, Barker will discuss his recent book Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists. His lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer session with audience members as well as a book-signing.
Barker’s presentation will mark AgASA’s first large scale event of the year, said Shiva Kasravi, the group’s evens coordinator.
“Dan Barker is a really big name in the atheist and agnostic community, so we are very excited to welcome him to campus,” she said. “This will be the first time that AgASA has hosted an event in such a large setting, so it is a big deal for us.”
AgASA president Catalina Chao said she thinks Barker’s background will bring a new dynamic to his appearance.
“Barker is an example of someone who didn’t come from an atheist background, but rather came to that conclusion through his own experience and reasoning,” she said. “He brings a lot to the table because of his extensive knowledge about topics like Christianity and philosophy … it lends him a lot of credibility.”
While AgASA hopes students attend tonight’s event with an open mind, Shiva said the group does not want to impose its beliefs on anybody.
“We just want people come and enjoy hearing [Barker] speak,” she said. “We hope that people come and ask a lot of questions, but also really listen to his story.”
AgASA has invited numerous departments and groups on campus, including various religious organizations, Chao said. The Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, an inter-denominational faith group, will be among the attendees.
“The response has actually been very good,” she said. “I know for a fact that many members from Intervarsity are attending.… It wouldn’t be as fun if Barker was just talking to atheists who already agree with him.”
Chemistry professor Bryan Enderle, who is a staff member for Intervarsity, said he is looking forward to attending the event.
“I want to hear what [Barker] has to say and to see how he arrived at place he arrived at,” he said. “I don’t personally ever see myself arriving at the same place, but I am definitely interested to hear how it happened to him.”
Intervarsity members often attend AgASA meetings and the two groups sometimes hold events together, Enderle said.
“I think it is important for different religious groups on campus to maintain a dialogue about God,” he said. “It is a good way to clear up misconceptions and stereotypes on both sides.”
ERICA LEE can be reached at email@example.com.