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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.
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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

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

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