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

Tulsan Seth Andrews, host of "The Thinking Atheist," talks about his journey from faith to non-belief

TheThinkingAtheist.com
Seth Andrews runs TheThinkingAtheist.com and recently wrote "Deconverted: A Journey from Religion to Reason"
Fertile Ground Compost Service
Help support Red Dirt Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – For Tulsa native Seth Andrews, accepting Christianity and living a Christian life simply made sense from an early age.

After all, Andrews explains to Red Dirt Report how he grew up in a Christian home and he attended a Christian school and would later spend a decade or so in Christian radio in the Tulsa market. He had fully accepted Christianity and the existence of God and Jesus Christ as truth.

But as Andrews explains to this reporter and in his new book Deconverted: A Journey From Religion to Reason, something was nagging at him and his faith was wavering.

Andrews said that as he continued on his journey through Christian radio while also being a keen observer of ‘cause and effect,’ he couldn’t help but notice that fellow believers’ lives were “just as screwed up as everybody else’s.”

While they “spoke the language of God,” Andrews said, their lives seemed not to be positively impacted – or impacted at all.

“Taking it on faith was less and less satisfying,” he said, adding, “It was as if God was the party guest who didn’t show up at all.”

It was here that Andrews’ real journey towards non-belief really began. Knowing that he had no other choice but to be intellectually honest about faith and who he really was, he said he began seeking answers.

“I stopped apologizing for asking hard questions,” Andrews said. “I started to see if these questions stood the history test, the science test … and that’s when the entire thing began.”

Questions about the Bible, the “creation story,” where science fits in … it was all these questions and more that had Andrews following the “trail of evidence,” like any honest, inquisitive person would do.

“I wanted to find the truth and see where that path leads me, no matter how inconvenient or unpopular,” he said. “Because a truthful life is worth living.”

Before long, Andrews, 44, had ditched Christianity and God all together. They didn’t stand up to his tests and before long he had his own website – The Thinking Atheist, a site whose motto is: “Assume nothing. Question everything. Challenge the opposition.”

As a former Christian and theist, Andrews completely understands why “letting go of God” (to quote atheist and actress Julia Sweeney) is so hard for so many people.

“There are serious consequences for those who publicly declare their non-belief,” he said. “(And) many are afraid to challenge their families and cultures. They are worried about being ostracized.”

And on The Thinking Atheist, Andrews has created an online community where atheists, seekers, Christians and others can discuss their experiences. A current post is a letter Andrews received from a reader. It’s the "coming out" letter that the reader gave his family explaining why he no longer believes in God. It’s heartfelt and honest. It can be read here.

“One tactic I have seen used by some religious apologists is to paint the atheist as an angry person,” he said. “A rudderless person. An immoral person. That the atheist is a menace to society. And many people embrace” that description.

But, he said, atheists are your local school teacher, police officer or politician.

Says Andrews of these fellow atheists: “These are good people.”

And yet atheists rank below rapists in terms of unpopularity in American society, despite the rise and popularity of “The New Atheists” and atheist books by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and the late, great Christopher Hitchens.

At the same time, Andrews says he uses The Thinking Atheist and his podcasts on BlogTalk Radio to inform fellow atheists about Christians and other believers.

“I always try to remind the atheist community that religious people aren’t stupid. They do not fall into the stereotypes that non-believers place them in. The vast majority of people who are religious are wonderful people. They want to raise good children and make the world a better place. I want to educate the atheist community about what they’re like,” he said. “Ultimately, we are all just people.”

But while they may be good people, he will still challenge them and their beliefs.

“They dance around the hard issues of scripture. The demonstrable face that the Bible does not line up with history. The Bible can offer conflicting accounts. It is supposed to be a perfectly-written document, written by God,” he said, adding that The Bible is rife with “tremendous horrors, tremendous atrocities and tremendous barbarism.”

“(Christians) are taught to shrug and lookup at the sky and declare ‘father knows best,’” he said.

Asked about the legacy of the first modern-day atheist, the grim and exceedingly unpopular Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists and the “most hated woman in America” as declared by Life magazine back in 1964, shortly after her case, Murray v. Curlett, was ruled on by the Supreme Court, ending official Bible-reading in American public schools.

Asked if Murray O’Hair’s notoriety (she was murdered in 1995) was hurting atheism, Andrews admitted she was “acerbic and confrontational” and yet when he posed a similar question, recently, to American Atheists President David Silverman, he told Andrews: “She was an atheist in a time when the culture was so unforgiving. She was as hard as she needed to be to get things done.”

Added Andrews: “I personally don’t relate to her tactics, but while I myself may have a different style, I must give her credit. Madalyn was a such a champion for non-belief that she paid for it with her life. I have a tremendous amount of admiration (for her). She did a lot of good work.”

And Murray O’Hair’s heyday was largely in the pre-Internet days. Here, in the early 21st century, the inquisitive and thoughtful have answers at their fingertips with the touch of a keyboard.

Andrews admits having a “love/hate relationship” with the Internet. He loves how it has given a voice to the common person. And with the good comes the bad. The trolls. The haters. The “creators of chaos” and people spreading misinformation.

“At the Internet party, everyone is invited. And 70 percent of the attendees are named ‘anonymous,’” Andrews jokes, noting a line he uses during his lectures.

The Internet, notes Andrews, has empowered people to no longer rely on their pastors or the religious apologists or the evangelists. It allows people to check out the information themselves.

So, we asked Andrews, does religion have a future in the age of the Internet? He noted seeing a poster which said the Internet was “where religion comes to die.” But he feels that even with evidence going against the existence of God, religion will never go away entirely.

A question that comes up a lot for Andrews and fellow atheists, from believers in a deity, is if they can be moral and still be a non-believer.

“When a religious person asks me how I have morals without God, I say, ‘I hope they don’t get their morals from the Bible. The Bible is a monumentally immoral book. Read the Bible from front to back. Yahweh is an immoral being. He should not be followed under any circumstances.”

Continuing, Andrews explains: “Morality is part of the evolutionary model. Being good to others … it allows the species to continue. Being kind, being good, it actually makes sense in the evolutionary sense.”

And while Andrews’ award-winning website is extraordinarily popular, he is humble enough to look back on his journey – which he details honestly in Deconverted – and wonder how he got to where he is now.

“I look at my life and I think, ‘How did I get here?’ I was a religious broadcaster just over a decade ago and now I’m on stage challenging the God I used to champion,” Andrews said, adding that he thinks his “everyman” status has helped him be viewed as approachable and credible, even though he doesn’t have “all these credentials.”

“I’m just a normal guy with a story,” he said, adding, “People like the fact that 'this guy relates to me and reminds me I’m not crazy.'”

And he says he hears from people who feel utterly desolate and alone in their community as they find themselves asking serious questions about the validity of God’s existence.

“But then they go online and find a huge group of people who have their back,” he says cheerfully.

And that “cheerfulness” comes across as genuine as you talk to Seth Andrews. He said he is very excited about his Deconverted  book tour and how he will get to speak at the American Atheists National Convention in Austin, Texas on March 29, 2013.

“I will also say that I’ve never been happier,” he said. “To find answers that make sense and to look at the universe and to not think it was created by an invisible space wizard and that you see evidence of the Big Bang and the common ancestry and explanations on how human beings evolved … instead of making life less valuable, it is an empowering feeling.”

And Seth Andrews is part of a growing atheistic movement in the United States and specifically here in Oklahoma. A recent news segment on Channel 5 KOCO in Oklahoma City profiled the Oklahoma Atheists and the fact that they have one of the most popular atheism-oriented MeetUp groups online.

And in the balanced segment, Oklahoma Atheists organizer Red McCall tells KOCO reporter Paul Folger:  “Faith is not knowledge and I want knowledge.”

For more information on Seth Andrews and The Thinking Atheist and his upcoming book tour through Texas and Oklahoma – at McNellie’s Pub in Tulsa at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21, and again in Tulsa at the Tulsa University Allen Chapman Activity Center at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22 -- 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