When Dan met Annie Laurie

Few people realize that the co-Presidents of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, met when they appeared together on Oprah Winfrey’s “A.M. Chicago” show in 1984. Fewer still remember the time when Oprah was overtly anti-atheist and her show a bit of a tabloid venue—a milder version of Jerry Springer.

You can see the “meeting”, and a lot of anti-atheist hostility, in this rare archival video. Dan, Annie Laurie, and her mother Anne Nicol Gaylor, who founded the FFRF with Annie Laurie in 1976, were invited onto the show to explain and defend atheism.

Dan, who had more hair then, had recently left the ministry, and Annie Laurie and Anne were already known as anti-theist activists. According to Wikipedia, Dan and Annie Laurie began dating six months after this show and got married in 1987.

Note the blatant anti-atheist antagonism evinced by both Oprah and her audience. Anne, Annie Laurie, and Dan all remained remarkably composed in the face of this hostility. I hope to ask them about this episode when I have dinner with these fine nonbelievers tonight (sadly, Anne Gaylor passed away in 2015).


  1. Laurance
    Posted March 13, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Dinner with Dan and Annie Laurie??! Lucky you! I was partially lucky a number of years ago when our atheist club became a branch of the FFRF. (We’ve since de-branchified since we don’t have enough FFRF members any more.)

    Dan came to State College, where Penn State is, for the festivities. I’d donated money to help this event happen. And that meant I got to have dinner with him and other members of our group who’d been involved in making it happen.

    Whoop-de-doo! I still have the red Dawkins atheist ‘A’ pin that Dan gave me. Dinner was a lot of fun and good times.

    I was looking forward to the festivities the next day…

    …and my car broke down and I wasn’t going anywhere. If I’d still been living in State College I could have walked. But now I live ten miles to the north and walking was out of the question.

    I was one bummed out old lady. I’m glad I did get to the dinner, but I’d been really looking forward to the events the next day. So much for that…

  2. Ken Phelps
    Posted March 13, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Oprah for President in 20never!

    • Posted March 13, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I second that motion. I just cringe when I hear people suggest she would be a good president. I don’t expect to see an atheist president in my lifetime so I will give her a pass on that. My biggest problems with Oprah are (a) her value system tracks the perceived effect on her ratings and (b) she is willing to submerge her critical thinking skills in favor of ratings. Finally, Trump wants to run against her. We have to find a stronger candidate than Oprah.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted March 13, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        I especially liked the mind-numbing irony of bringing up the “as long as you don’t interfere with other people’s rights” idea when talking to a couple of atheists. Would that she felt the need to introduce that caveat every time she talked to a religious person.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 13, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, Oprah’s wrong for president. But I could get behind her for Secretary of State or ambassador to the UN. I think the sister’s got some diplomatic chops — and that she could get hard-nosed in a hurry, if she hadda.

      • Lizard Breath
        Posted March 14, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        I could see her as ambassador to the Vatican….

    • Lizard Breath
      Posted March 14, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      I’m appalled that Americans still haven’t figured out that celebrity status is not, by itself, a qualification for high office. Nor is being rich.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 13, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I knew that but didn’t know it was this episode- I think there’s a tamer show?

    Quotes I recall still : “is it kind?”

    They were good.

    • Posted March 13, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      According to Madison.com, it was this show where they met.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 13, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Sorry – I’m wrong – that’s the video.

      I must have missed some of it before.

  4. garthdaisy
    Posted March 13, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Can any hetro male atheist watch this clip and not fall madly in love with Annie Laurie? Lucky Dan!

    • Posted March 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      She was great. Dan not so much. I was disappointed when he answered a question and not her.

  5. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 13, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    There was an ad between segments – Britt Edklund was going to tell us about make-up for going to bed! How did I miss that lesson of vital importance!!!

    There was a VERY nasty undercurrent from some of the audience members, and Oprah acted like she was going to catch something from them.

    It looked to me like Annie Laurie Gaylor was very attracted to Dan Barker. There was body language! I didn’t see enough of Dan Barker to tell if he was doing the same.

  6. Posted March 13, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I wonder whether Oprah loaded the audience with true believers just for the occasion. Did anyone else get that feeling? It also felt to me that the show cut to commercial or something else any time the conversation seemed to be approaching something important. Perhaps it was just me wanting the questioners to hear better answers.

    It also reminded me why I don’t watch shows like this. So mind-numbing and depressing.

    • Lizard Breath
      Posted March 14, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      I think these shows are free but the audience signs up weeks in advance and don’t know who the guests will be. So, the prevalence of true believers may simply be representative of Oprah’s normal fan base.

  7. nay
    Posted March 13, 2018 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    She was also a racist. [Did I get your attention?] I watched one show where the theme was biracial dating & marriage. One middle-aged black man said he had nothing against dating black women, but had always liked blue eyes. Oprah did not like that, but saved her worst evil eye for the soft-spoken black lady who said she liked dating Caucasian men because they treated her nicely. Black men had no respect and often mistreated her. Oprah seemed to think that she should suck it up for the sake for black racial purity. Now she’s a leader of the MeToo movement? Hmmmm.

  8. Christopher
    Posted March 13, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Well that was unpleasant. No wonder she fell for all that horse crap Drs. Phil and Oz flung about!

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