What Was It Like at Liberty University? November 24, 2010

What Was It Like at Liberty University?

Kevin Roose, the author of the fantastic book The Unlikely Disciple, spoke at the recent Secular Student Alliance Columbia Leadership Summit in South Carolina.

His talk was about his time as an undercover student at Liberty University, what he learned there, what he proposes for the future of theist/atheist collaboration:

I’m so sad I couldn’t be there 🙁 But I heard it was a fantastic regional conference. The next one is in Southern California this February! More information on that coming soon.

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  • I read the book about a year or so ago. It was positively fascinating. Well-written, too.

  • I enjoyed the hour-long talk. Well worth the listen if you can squeeze it in.

    I had similar experiences with my time (as a kind-of undercover atheist) participating in small group discussions in an evangelical church.

  • Ben

    Got about 10 minutes in and couldn’t take anymore. These people get tax money as faith-based organizations. That is shameful. Dinosaurs in Noah’s Ark??? Hell! Noah’s Ark?? Enough to make a cat laugh. I can;t believe people actually believe that crap.

  • Diane C. Mutz (OSU Political Science Prof.) wrote a book about deliberative democracy that I think speaks volumes to this lecture called Hearing the Other Side. It’s a great book, and she says shes a non-theist in the book too!

  • tim


    Its your response that Kevin explains is exactly wrong. Listen to the entire video – maybe you will actually learn something.

    But I doubt it.

  • remember, folks: the people at LU? they represent the “well educated” segment of america which believes this crap. and there are lots and lots more who don’t make it out of the homeschool creche.

  • grung0r

    There is nothing that infuriates me more then when someone starts yammering on about compassion and the bible, ala Karen Armstrong. I can’t imagine of a stupider world view then believing that the “only legitimate reading” of a book that contains lists of people(your loved ones) whom you should be first in line to stone to death, numerous God ordered genocides, God condoned slavery and rape is that of compassion.

    The Bible has some beautiful phrasing and parables to be sure. But it was written by ignorant, barely literate bronze age people who lived in a violent, barbaric society. If we started teaching the bible in schools, do you think we would end up teaching that? No. At best, we would teach, as this guy would have us do, that The bible is a work of compassion. There is not a more dangerous or repulsive idea. If you can read compassion into the bible’s God ordered Genocides and sexual slavery, you can use the bible to justify anything, no matter how repugnant and evil.

  • Ben

    It’s not just my response, buddy.

  • That was actually a great video, and at the risk of sounding crass, I’ll admit I had expected more of a Jane-Goodall-like story…

  • Kevin Roose is the NICEST PERSON EVER, oh my gosh. I was blown away. I really enjoyed his speech, despite my awkward introduction, haha. 🙂


    I’m all for hearing, listening, etc, to the “other side” but at what point do we put our foot down and say no! that their claims to truth and morality do not concur with ours, even when we may have 95% in common with them, there is that 5% that is a looming chasm between us. Sure, would be great to focus on the 95%, and I think we have throughout the centuries, and only recently are we coming to this chasm of different views. I agree that these people of faith may be our friends, neighbors and even loved ones, and all may have the best of intentions. But teaching the Bible so as to get a better understanding? It’s either going to have to be taught as truth or as allegory. At first it sounds like a reasonable idea, but for that one pretty serious roadblock.

  • Aj

    Does Kevin Roose attempt to justify anything he advocates beyond “I think it’ll be better/I think I’m better for it/I think your group will be stronger”?

    On extremist beliefs and polarizing, I didn’t understand the point. Climate change, you either accept the evidence or you don’t, what direction are people going after that? Equal rights for homosexual couples, where are the extremes? I don’t care how extreme someone is on an issue if they’re rational and have reliable evidence. Diversity? That’s not good, it’s not a legitimate goal. If you join Fox News and The Huffington Post together, you don’t get a sensible position, the idiocy of both is amplified. As creationism is not a part of the spectrum of scientific discourse on life, these people with different ideologies do not have sensible positions that enrich understanding. Moderation between two points is not the ideal, that’s a logical fallacy.

    I think the comments on abortion were ridiculous. Who in pro-choice but does not advocate for sexual education? It’s not a compromise or “third way” if you haven’t moved your position at all. Even if anti-abortionists did decide to campaign for sex ed to reduce abortions, how does that relate to their stance on the legality of abortion? Also, I don’t give a shit about how many abortions there are. I don’t think anti-abortionists care much either, they’re more interested in punishing those that provide the service and spreading the belief that it’s wrong. Others have tried to frame the discussion with appealing to the common goal of abortion reduction, notably Obama. Does this framing actually work? I doubt it. I think it only antagonizes people, a lot of these people aren’t that stupid.

    He seems like a nice fellow and a really good story teller, but there’s not anything beyond entertainment value, at least in his talk.

  • sarah

    i am disappointed that he told them that he is a Quaker instead of an atheist or secularist or humanist or whatever.

    however, i had a similar experience with that. i was at a party full of evangelical christians and someone asked me what religion i am… i told them i went to a catholic school and ended it there. it is very VERY intimidating to announce “i am an atheist/secularist” is a room full of evangelicals.

  • @sarah

    I also noticed that he never used the term “atheist”. He always used “non-theist”. I guess for him, atheist is a loaded term.

    I also had a similar moment as you described. After I had decided not to go to church anymore, a friend called me and asked if I could do the security duty for him at church since he was going to be out of town. I said I would do it and while I was there someone from my former “small group” asked why I had not been going to church recently. Instead of telling him I was an atheist, I quipped that I had not been going because I was too busy worshipping Satan. That served as a good conversation stopper. Its crazy that it was easier to say that I was worshipping Satan than simply being an atheist.

  • Steven

    For those of you who are disappointed that he did not use the words ‘Athiest, or’nontheist’. If he had used them, they never would have admitted him. USE YOUR HEAD!…..DUHHHHHHHH!

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