All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

Christian-turned-atheist Seth Andrews gives heartfelt "deconversion" talk to UCO audience

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Seth Andrews speaks to an audience at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
Help support Red Dirt Report

EDMOND, Okla. – While it may come as a surprise to some people not familiar with atheists, many of them are animal lovers, including former Christian and former Christian radio deejay Seth Andrews, an atheist and author of the new book Deconverted: A Journey from Religion to Reason.

The host of The Thinking Atheist website and podcast (read Red Dirt Report’s interview with Andrews here), Seth Andrews, 44, gave a talk before an audience of about 50 mostly non-believers Thursday night. And during his introduction he held his small dog Tootsie (aka “Ratdog”) and said the pup is often in his lap when he hosts his atheist-themed podcast – The Thinking Atheist.

This event, held at University of Central Oklahoma’s Nigh University Center, and sponsored by the UCO Skeptics and Oklahoma Atheists, attracted a sizable group – many raised in religious environments before leaving it all behind – interested in hearing Andrews’ story.

Eliciting chuckles from the audience, Andrews joked that by having Tootsie as a “prop” he “could win hearts and minds and manipulate the audience and show up with a dog with a little bow in its hair.”

But Andrews was only kidding and warming up the audience, delving into his history as a boy growing up in a Christian home and Christian school and eventually on Christian Contemporary Radio station KXOJ 100.9 in Tulsa. He has long since left professional radio and is a video producer in Tulsa.

“I find myself here, almost 20 years later, wondering how I got here,” Andrews said. “You don’t choose this kind of thing. You don’t wake up and go, ‘Ya know, I think I’ll take all of the wonderful thing my parents have taught me and hold dear, after all the thousands in tuition dollars for private school, and after all the prayer meetings, and after all the evangelical sermons and the mission trips, I think I’ll chuck it and go out and champion against the very god I held dear.’ It’s been kinda weird.”

Andrews’ history in media has proven to be an asset since his “deconversion.” His appealing and confident “radio voice” doesn’t hurt either in person, sharing his story, or on The Thinking Atheist podcast, which is attracting thousands upon thousands of listeners. He has, to quote popular Christian artist Amy Grant, “wised up” and “gotten smart.”

Deciding that the Edmond group would be his “test audience,” Andrews shared a Power Point presentation he had put together for the 50th anniversary of the American Atheists convention in Austin, Texas in late March.

Andrews’ presentation is about the tools evangelical Christians use to lure children into the religion.

Andrews displayed images of  Bibleman and Veggie Tales and more. And also went over high-tech youth groups and church services and all sorts of Christian products targeting children and teens, including the Noah’s Ark toy (which featured so many toy animals, they all wouldn’t possibly fit on the toy boat).

Andrews talks about the Noah myth and points out all the unanswered questions and overlooked details of the Flood story, like whose job was it to shovel all that animal manure out that tiny window. And why would God drown so many innocent people and animals.

“Children are taught to lap it up and never question,” he said.

Taking the audience on the journey through his lecture, he delves into how fear is also a tool used by Christian evangelists to manipulate young people into accepting their message. 

“The target is kids,” Andrews said, pointing to an image of a young girl clutching a Bible. “Does she have any idea what’s in that book? Does she have the first clue what’s in that book, she’s holding close to her chest?”

He said it’s not about “understanding,” rather it’s about echoing the words and parents getting their children to grow up to be good, loyal Christian adults.

Said Andrews of children: “They are a critical demographic to the church.”

And Andrews said he prayed to be “saved” multiple times as a child – as “fire insurance” – a way of hoping to stay out of fiery Hell. He, like many other children, fear Hell.

“It’s an abusive relationship. ‘Love me or I’ll burn you,’” Andrews said. “I’m supposed to adore the same person who threatens me with eternal writing and screaming in agony. And I’d say the ‘salvation prayer’ every few years.”

Andrews hit on the efforts made in Oklahoma and other states to sneak creationism in public schools. Natural selection would be allowed to be taught alongside the Genesis story and “the talking snake.”

He also warned that an author he recently interviewed had written a book warning that “Christian nationalists” (as we have reported here) are plotting to “use public school to advance their own agenda.” Young children, they admit, are part of the “mission field” and they are hoping to evangelize and “win hearts” over to Jesus, via emotional manipulation as exposed in the shock-umentary Jesus Camp.

“Anybody ever fear hell, ever? A genuine fear of burning forever?” he asked the crowd. Hands went up. He nodded. He then began to show a video showing a baby being told – in a Superman-esque way – that he had the responsibility of “asking to be forgiven” to tithe to this mysterious deity and to accept the idea that “God” must be thanked and worshiped.

The female voice narrating the segment then warns the infant with the threat that if they don’t accept God’s love, you will be thrown in “dark pit where the flesh is roasted from your bones.” Of course the video was to drive home the point that by simply being born there is a heavy load placed upon your shoulders, except there is no actual proof of any of it.

At the conclusion, Andrews said, ominously – and as a warning: “To take a young curious mind, to snuff out curiosity and awe. To program fear. To celebrate ignorance. To essentially say ‘believe as we do, or else.’ To accept Jesus or you will be burned.” These tools of fear are used to discourage the young from straying from the path and to accept stories about demon-infested pigs and pearly gates and streets of gold.

But Andrews no longer accepts it and he is discouraged that so many still believe in “fairy tales.”

Does Andrews resent his mother and father raising him in such a religious environment? “Perhaps,” he admits to the audience. And while the children in today’s church may seem to be in an accepting, loving environment, there are certain psychologically-manipulative methods that are “lovingly used” on kids to get them to stay on the straight and narrow. And that includes wild tales as printed in the Bible.

Said Andrews: “I agree with Christopher Hitchens. I’d much rather look through the Hubble Telescope than gaze upon a burning bush. I’d much rather see the world through the eyes of awe and wonder as it is than to project some sort of fantasy upon it.”

“The last few years have been a real discovery for me,” said Andrews.

Afterward, Andrews took questions from the audience and would autograph copies of Deconverted, as well as sell coffee mugs and atheist-themed T-shirts. He said that those who claim “non-belief” are one of the fastest-growing segments of the American population and that The Thinking Atheist podcast and website are growing in numbers every month.

As for the book, Deconverted, your Red Dirt Reporter read it from cover-to-cover over the course of an evening and found it to be a straightforward, personable and easy-to-understand book. Andrews is a humble guy who has been intellectually honest about his search for truth and reason and after reading it I felt a real kinship with Andrews. I too was in Christian radio at one point, before diving into journalism. I have also had serious doubts about the veracity of religion and seek to know the truth.

Deconverted is a great book, particularly for folks here in Oklahoma and the Bible Belt who feel that they have to embrace religion when in fact they are simply doing it to be accepted in their particular community. Andrews admits that declaring you are an atheist is a difficult thing to do and it took him two years to finally publicly admit it.

For more information on Seth Andrews and The Thinking Atheist, go to www.thethinkingatheist.com.

Copyright 2013 Red Dirt Report

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

read more

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

Member of the Oklahoma Press Association
Member of Investigative Reporters & Editors
Member of Diversity Business Association
Member of Uptown 23rd

Rotary Club of Bricktown OKC
Keep it Local OK