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Summary

Every thinking person wants to lead a life of meaning and purpose. For thousands of years, holy books have told us that such a life is available only through obedience and submission to some higher power. Today, the faithful keep popular devotionals and tracts within easy reach on bedside tables and mobile devices, all communicating this common message: Life is meaningless without God.

Former pastor Dan Barker eloquently, powerfully, and rationally upends this long-held belief in Life Driven Purpose. Offering words of enrichment, emancipation, and inspiration, he reminds us how millions of atheists lead happy, loving, moral, and purpose-filled lives. Practicing what he preaches, he also demonstrates through his own personal journey that life is valuable for its own sake: that meaning and purpose come not from above, but from within.

©2015 Dan Barker (P)2015 Pitchstone Publishing

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  • Gary
  • 20-04-15

Purpose starts with us not outside of us

The weakest arguments for the existence of God are 1) life would have no meaning without God (therefore God must exist) and 2) how can something come from nothing if there isn't a God to make it happen (an ontological argument). This book refutes those two arguments. As he says in the book it's a rare person who acquires a belief in God because of those arguments, but usually a person believes in God first and then adopts those arguments.

This book firstly demolishes the premise that the purpose for life must come from outside of us since we can be inspired from within and don't need to be "out spired" to find our meaning. The author doesn't just state things but steps the listener through on how to get past the sophistry foisted upon us by fundamentalist who can't get past their slave/master mentality inherent within their self referential religious belief system, Adam sinned, Jesus died for your sin of Adam, and forgiveness must be asked for and submission to God must be asked for the sin which you have for which you were born in and you must only accept this so you can be forgiven. And the fundamentalist say morality must come from this revealed book based on this revealed religion. The religious book written by men but claimed to be inerrantly written by God or Gods unlike any other book tells us LGBT are abominations and women are second class citizens and even mentions how all the tombs of Jerusalem opened up and the Saints walked the streets of the city (the first Zombies! Matthew 27:52) and our morality and ethics are selectively chosen from this book.

Understanding morality is hard, the author makes it easy, "do no harm". There are nuances and there are ethics to consider but first the author starts there. He develops it better than most authors do (much better than Michael Shermer did in his latest book). He'll even tells us we need to consider our intuition, our reason and the law. It's tough being a "good" human but much more profitable than believing a book based on magic can answer such complex questions.

The second thrust of the book deals with why the question "why there is something rather than nothing" is as flawed as saying twelve divided by zero. The question needs context, 'nothing' only has meaning contrasted with something. In our universe virtual particles are created all the time and as the author states when this happens on the boundary of a black hole matter is created. Even stipulating to the premise that 'God did it' how do we know that God is not a machine with advanced AI and it too realizes morality is complex and has been programmed to never interfere.

There are two ways of discovering the truth about revealed religions. One is to read science books (I've read over a hundred science books in the last four years), such as Dennett's "Darwins Dangerous Idea" which was referenced in this book, the other is with books like this one which demonstrate that our purpose in life can come about by learning about the universe by reading books like this one.

I really like the author. I enjoy watching his debates online. He's always polite in his debates as he is in this book. I liked this book so much that I'll end up getting one of his other books (even though it's not on Audible and I'll have to actually read it) in order to understand how he got out of the narrow minded fundamental trap he was in before realizing truths such as happiness (subjective well being) comes from within us not outside of us instead of some imaginary transcendent plane which is undefinable.

For me, there is no greater compliment to an author that I like him so much that I'll read his other books even though there not available on Audible.

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  • Rich
  • 15-06-15

Dan's best book to date!

After reading three previous books by Dan Barker, hearing him on their radio program, and watching a few debates, I'd formed an opinion of him as sound but hardly an original thinker. However, after reading this little volume, I had to alter that impression. He is committed to intellectual growth; he is studying in several fields of study; and he is clearly an original thinker in his own right. I am most impressed with an amazing ability to use brand new analogies to illustrate his points. As a retired academic in his 8th decade, I'm seldom "blown away" by a book. This one achieved it. Highly recommended!

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  • Elizabeth Kerin
  • 26-10-15

Wonderful read. I enjoyed every word.

I thoroughly enjoyed this thoughtful and tangible journey. Told with humor and humility, Barker yells his story as it relates to all of us.

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  • KimBoo York
  • 02-03-18

Helpful mostly for deconverted Christians

Any additional comments?

I'm always poking around looking for inspirational and/or self-help books that are either entirely secular (eg no mentions of a god or spirit or any other paranormal entity) or overtly atheist (usually involving the word "atheist" somewhere on the cover, lol). I had high hopes for this one but it's not for me. This was written specifically for deconverted Christians, and I'm sure people of that experience and background would find a LOT in this book to validate their choices and help them make healthy strides to a "life driven purpose" but that's not me.

I love his basic premise, that a "life driven purpose" is about creating meaning in our lives by looking internally -- that is, not resting our purpose on external and/or "everafter" rewards. This book is very clearly a response to Warren's juggernaut book, "The Purpose Driven Life," and a necessary one, IMHO. Recommended for any deconverts you know who are feeling unmoored without a doctrine (or fear) to lead them.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-09-21

WE are responsible for defining our own purpose

Like any other Dan Barker audible books you need to increase speed to 1.1x to 1.2x

Life Driven Purpose is an AWESOME book is a step forward for non-religious people who are exploring ideas about purpose in life. It’s also a fun book, full of body-slam takedowns of religious notions, and many amusing autobiographical stories. Dan Barker’s “Life Driven Purpose” is an enjoyable, accessible book that is also available in audiobook format.

A satisfactory purpose does things for me is psychologically, such as reducing existential anxiety, improving self-esteem, or motivating us toward goals and away from distractions. Barker’s definition of purpose probably won’t catch on because it is more focused on being CONSISTENT WITH REALITY than being inspirational.

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  • Steve
  • 12-08-16

Fantastic!!

Only complaint is narration was too slow. I listened at 1.25 speed. No mind benders for me, but very thoughtful book.

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  • Basim Ayoub
  • 13-04-16

Thank you Dan Barker for this iteration of your philosophy !

Loved it and the author happens to be one of my most favorite authors ever

I enjoyed the fact that he's reading it

Daniel Dennet thank you too for the preface !

These thinkers are the light in the darkness of this age !!

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  • Jake
  • 27-12-20

Great example of an atheist life.

I think this book would be a good introduction to atheism for some "believers" who are unable to understand why a friend or family member chooses not to believe.

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  • Yaz
  • 03-08-20

Okay content, bad performance

If you record your own book for audio, you need to make sure that you are a good orator. There were so many pauses and awkward silences, as if the author was surprised by what he wrote as he was reading it, or somehow wasn't sure what the point of his sentence was. The content is another deconversion story with a weak philosophical 'meaning of life' sprinkled on top. Not terrible, but didn't keep me engaged. I'm still not completely done with it since I keep losing interest.

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  • Bryant Tobin
  • 31-07-20

Wow

Great book. Couldn't have expressed these sentiments any better. I will be checking out his other books post haste.