Interview with Kevin Roose, Author of The Unlikely Disciple

Before I talk about Kevin Roose‘s excellent new book, The Unlikely Disciple, let me remind you of this clip from Real Time with Bill Maher:

Remember that sense of anger you felt every time Jerry Falwell made any sort of public statement? Maybe, like Maher, you weren’t all that sad when he passed away.

Kevin Roose felt pretty much the same way about Falwell a few years ago — basing his view of Falwell off the man he’d seen on television. But when working as an intern for AJ Jacobs (author of The Year of Living Biblically), he met a few students from Liberty (the school Falwell founded) and became curious about what their lives were like.

So he applied to — and was accepted into — Liberty University.

Kevin’s book The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University is a recounting of his months there. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in years.

roose

In it, Kevin describes a little bit of everything — his awkward dates with a sweet Christian girl, what he learned in his classes (Young Earth Creationism and Evangelism 101, to name a couple), and his one-on-one interview with Falwell himself (the last print interview Falwell gave before dying).

I’ll say it again: This is an *incredible* book — I couldn’t put it down — and not just for the entertainment value. Every atheist should read this to find out what the Fundamentalist Christian world is really like. It’s not always as awful as you might think and the students aren’t all cookie-cutter Falwells-in-training. Still, when you see how repressed some of the students are, what lengths they go to in order to remain “pure,” and what they are learning, it’s obvious how problematic religion and dogma can be.

Speaking of what you learn there… here’s a partial list of questions actually asked on the History of Life midterm exam, according to Kevin:

1. True or False: Noah’s Ark was large enough to carry various kinds of dinosaurs.
2. True or False: Science is the only way to truly know truth about the world.
3. True or False: Margaret Sanger [the founder of Planned Parenthood] was a promoter of eugenics [selective breeding, a practice commonly associated with the Nazi Party].
4. True or False: Evolution can be proven using the scientific method.

Correct answers (according to Liberty):

1. True
2. False
3. True
4. False

You could ace it… but it would cost you your last trace of rationality.

I had the chance to talk to Kevin about his experiences there. Some excerpts from his book are interspersed below our conversation:

Hemant: How in the world did you get accepted into Liberty?

Kevin: Honestly, I have no idea. I filled out the application, wrote the essay (“Describe how your perspectives of life and morality will enable you to contribute to Liberty University’s mission”) and submitted it along with my transcript from Brown. A few weeks later, the thick envelope came. I guess they really needed the tuition money.

  • Liberty’s application doesn’t include a mandatory statement of faith, but to complete the essay prompt… I had to read a few dozen Christian articles and sermons online and wrangle some of the buzzwords into a three-paragraph response. (I won’t reprint the whole thing here, but it included sentences like “The path to righteousness is not an easy one.”) I filled in a few more blanks, clicked “Send,” and my application tumbled through the ether to Liberty. (p. 12)

On the Creation Studies class:

Hemant: What was it like sitting in a Creation Studies class when you knew what was being taught was untrue?

Kevin: Creation Studies was probably the most challenging part of my academic life at Liberty, precisely because I didn’t agree with what was being taught. (To quote the popular bumper sticker, I give evolution two opposable thumbs up.) But I took solace in the fact that even if I didn’t believe that Noah’s Flood or Adam and Eve were totally historical, learning to see things from the creationist’s point of view would be good for my open-mindedness. I think it’s crucially important to learn about worldviews we don’t agree with, even if those worldviews lead to exam questions like: “True or False: Noah’s Ark was large enough to accommodate various kinds of dinosaurs.”

Hemant: How should the scientific world respond to the education that Liberty students receive (i.e. Creationism)? Should universities or public schools hire Liberty graduates?

Kevin: Depends which Liberty graduates you’re talking about. Like every school, students who come from Liberty are a diverse bunch, and I have no doubt that some of them would be completely capable teachers. Some might not be, of course. So I think it’s important to assess each individual case. I wouldn’t throw someone out of a job interview just because he or she was a Liberty graduate.

  • All Liberty students are required to take a creation studies course, while only Biology majors are required to learn evolution-based science. And even those evolution courses are sort of Fair and BalancedTM, if you get my drift. (p. 33)

On Falwell and the students at Liberty:

Hemant: Were the students at Liberty as sheltered as one might expect? What would they be surprised to find out about mainstream America?

Kevin: Actually, I was surprised at how non-sheltered they were. Almost everyone I met was totally socially adjusted, and could have fit in at any American college. Most of the time, conversations in the dorm centered on girls, homework, and music — the same stuff you’d hear at Brown.

Hemant: What was the reaction like from Liberty students (and yourself) at the mainstream media’s response to Jerry Falwell’s death? People like Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens said some pretty nasty things about him. Were their comments appropriate? Did Liberty students understand why these things were being said?

Kevin: Ah yes, the Hitchens eulogy. I believe he summed up his views when he told Anderson Cooper [Hemant: Actually, Hannity & Colmes] that “if you gave [Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox.” Which, despite being quite funny, isn’t entirely accurate. I actually got to interview Dr. Falwell (as Liberty students call him) before he died, and I got to see a different side of him, one that explained why he had millions of die-hard followers and a student body who absolutely adored him. I had very mixed emotions when he died, because while I think he did some incredibly hurtful things in his life, I appreciated certain elements of his personality.

Hemant: What should the secular world know about Jerry Falwell?

Kevin: He was a complicated guy, much moreso than the one-dimensional caricature he became whenever the TV cameras were rolling. For example, he loved light-hearted practical jokes. When he died, they found three boxes of stinkbombs in his desk. It doesn’t make the hateful things he did any less offensive, but it also helps to explain why he was as popular as he was. You can’t become a religious leader of his magnitude without touching some lives.

Hemant: Based on your writing (and I suppose to nobody’s surprise), gay students would have a horrible time at the school. Do you feel like the atmosphere will ever get better for them among that crowd?

Kevin: I’d like to say I’m optimistic, but I just don’t know. The school has an incredibly long history of anti-gay activism, and I don’t know what it’d take to reverse it. I think only time will tell.

  • All in all, the Liberty students I’ve met are a lot more socially adjusted than I expected. They’re not rabid, frothing fundamentalists who spend their days sewing Hillary Clinton voodoo dolls and penning angry missives to the ACLU… in fact, I suspect a lot of my hallmates at Liberty could fit in perfectly well at a secular college. (p. 63)
  • But that’s the secret about a place like Liberty; everyone doubts. (p. 105)

On the Rules:

Hemant: Who came up with the three-second rule for hugging? It sounds so… exact. Like they ran some sort of calculation.

Kevin: There’s actually a Facebook group called “I Hug For 3 Seconds, Sometimes 4,” which is subversive and exciting and sad all at the same time.

Hemant: Which Liberty rule was the strangest to adhere to?

Kevin: I’m not sure about strangest, but the hardest was definitely the no-cursing rule. I actually had to buy a Christian self-help book, called “30 Days to Taming Your Tongue,” which tells you how to replace your four-letter vulgarities with words like “Glory!” and “Mercy me!”

  • By the end of the list [of rules], filmmaker [and fellow student] Ryan is rubbing his temples and breathing heavily.

    “Now, I know you guys are probably thinking, what did I get myself into?” [Resident Assistant] Stubbs says. “But it’s not really that hard.”

    [R.A.] Fox adds, “You just have to go in with a positive attitude. If you think, ‘Oh man, these rules are such a drag,’ you’re going to miss out on a lot. We see the rules as a way to maintain our focus on God. They give us freedom to concentrate on the things that really matter.” (p. 23)

On the Quiverfull movement:

Hemant: How serious is the Quiverfull movement among the Christians you met?

Kevin: It’s hard to tell. In theory, a lot of Liberty students I met agreed with the basic Quiverfull teachings (have as many kids as possible, as quickly as possible), but I’m not sure how many of them actually plan on starting Quiverfull families. Once they see how expensive childcare is, I’m guessing some of them will have a change of heart.

  • “Listen up, students,” [Falwell] said. “Now, I made sure there were five thousand girls here on campus, and five thousand boys. I don’t know how much more I can do. Folks, we need more Liberty babies for Christ. Let’s get going!” (p. 73)

On the Rational Response Squad:

Hemant: A professor at Liberty challenged the Rational Response Squad to a debate and you wrote about some surprising reactions from Liberty students after it occurred. Why was this debate such a big deal for them? (Or was it a big deal at all?)

Kevin: The debate was interesting, because while it was pretty clear to everyone at Liberty that Dr. [Ergun] Caner (the professor who challenged the atheists) got walloped, it didn’t cause a mass spiritual panic among Liberty students. It made me wonder whether the point of atheist/believer debates is really to change people’s minds, or whether they serve mostly as reinforcement for each side.

  • Dr. Caner got a few good points in. He put forth a fairly convincing version of the argument from design (the world is so beautiful and so orderly that it must have been designed by a creator). But ultimately, he was outmatched. The atheists anticipated his arguments and had counterarguments in hand. They knew the Bible inside and out and confronted him with hard-to-spin textual contradictions… and althought Dr. Caner came up with explanations for the discrepancies, they were hardly rock solid…

    “The atheists definitely knew what they were talking about,” [fellow student Brad] says. “I almost don’t want to say it, but… they beat him.” (p. 133)

On channeling Ray Comfort:

Hemant: You evangelized with a group of Liberty students at Daytona Beach over spring break. What was the best/worst part of this experience?

Kevin: The worst part of the week, probably not surprisingly, was evangelizing to secular coeds, most of whom were drunk, preoccupied, or both. Being shunned and mocked by strangers is never fun, even if you don’t believe in what you’re selling. On the bright side, we were evangelizing outside a nightclub one night, and a “Girls Gone Wild”-style film crew came and set up next to us, so we got a nice little assembly line going.

Hemant: Have you seen the banana video?

Kevin: I have. Actually, I heard professors at Liberty tell students NOT to use the banana example when debating non-believers. Even at Liberty, fruit-based arguments aren’t the most convincing.

  • Evangelizing to secular spring breakers in Florida struck me as an enormous waste of time. Why not go somewhere where Jesus would be an easier sell? Like Islamabad? Or a Christopher Hitchens dinner party? (p. 146)
  • For these Liberty students, going to Daytona is a tool for self-anesthetization, a way to get used to the feeling of being an outcast in the secular world. The first forty times someone blows you off, it feels awful. The second forty times, you start reassuring yourself that all of this must serve a higher purpose. By the end of the week, you get the point — you are going to be mocked and scorned for your faith, and this is the way it’s supposed to be (p. 163)

On the book and its reception:

Hemant: What’s the best writing advice you received from AJ Jacobs?

Kevin: AJ has been an incredibly supportive mentor throughout the whole publishing process. (To use a Bible metaphor, he’s sort of the Apostle Paul to my Timothy.) As far as specific advice, he once told me that going into print journalism these days is sort of like going into Betamax sales. I took it as a challenge to get published.

Hemant: Will a book tour stop at Liberty? What is the reaction to your book like from current students?

Kevin: I didn’t know what to expect at first, but so far, the reaction has been almost entirely positive. I think Liberty gets a lot of negative press, so the fact that I actually spent time there and gave it a balanced portrayal has helped Liberty students appreciate the book. I’ve gotten a lot of e-mails saying, basically, “Thanks for taking us seriously.”

Hemant: Have you kept in touch with any students at Liberty? You mentioned in the book’s epilogue that most of the reactions from your friends there were pretty positive. Did any of them react negatively to the book and their portrayal?

Kevin: I’ve gotten a lot of calls from my Liberty friends in the past few weeks, all of them incredibly positive. Mostly, they want to know who all the pseudonyms represent. But I think, aside from the narcissistic thrill of being written about, they’re excited that the book isn’t a scathing exposé or a down-with-religion tell-all, that I tried to find good things to say about Liberty in addition to the not-so-good things.

  • “This blows my mind, to be honest,” [a fellow student] said. “But I’m not mad. I think it’s pretty cool actually. I’m happy for you. I haven’t read a book in six, seven years. But I might read this one.” (p. 312)

On the aftermath:

Hemant: How would you currently label yourself when it comes to religion? Do you still pray?

Kevin: I was “God-ambivalent” when I went to Liberty — not exactly a believer, but not exactly an agnostic or an atheist. Now, I’m more comfortable with religion, and I do try to pray every day, even though I’m still not convinced it has any cosmic effect. I try to remember what Oswald Chambers said about prayer, which is that (and I’m paraphrasing) it’s not so much that prayer changes things, but that prayer changes us and we change things. So even if God isn’t listening, I think the practice of praying for other people can make us more selfless, more willing to reach out.

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University hits the bookstores this Thursday.

If you have any follow-up questions for Kevin, leave them in the comments! I’ll pass them along to him.

  • mikespeir

    A lot of people here already know the moral: that when we actually get to know our “enemies,” they’re often a lot harder to hate. That doesn’t mean we should let ourselves be beguiled by them, only that we shouldn’t allow ourselves license to trump up their “sins” so as to give ourselves greater cause to hate them.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    I know plenty of people who vehemently disagree with me. That includes religious people and liberals (the type that frequent this site). But, in general, those discussions don’t arise on a daily basis. A person generally has a personality independent of their ideological views. It’s only in intense argument does personal dislike begin to surface. However, I think most of us can look past these differences if we’re not continually bashed over the head with them.

  • JoeBob

    Should have been called, “The Likely Disciple”. Definitely seems like Liberty had the desired effect on him. Very interesting!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Is Liberty University holier than Bob Jones University?

  • http://thinkingforfree.blogspot.com Eamon Knight

    1. True or False: Noah’s Ark was large enough to carry various kinds of dinosaurs.
    2. True or False: Science is the only way to truly know truth about the world.
    3. True or False: Margaret Sanger [the founder of Planned Parenthood] was a promoter of eugenics [selective breeding, a practice commonly associated with the Nazi Party].
    4. True or False: Evolution can be proven using the scientific method.

    Bah, the very questions are incoherent, biassed, and unworthy of a university-level course.

  • http://talesofordinarygirl.blogspot.com/ Ordinary Girl

    I think what Kevin did was very valuable. We do terrible things when when we dehumanize people. If we allow ourselves to see a group of people as less than human then we’re just as likely to let snap judgments form our actions. I think the more we expose ourselves to groups that are different from us the more we’ll see that we’re really all the same (and maybe the more we’ll open their eyes to that as well).

  • Stephen

    The sentence that actually shook me most here was this:

    [a fellow student] said. … I haven’t read a book in six, seven years. But I might read this one.

    I beg your pardon? A university student (OK, a student at a purported university) who hasn’t read a book in six years? WTF? Do they also have medical students who haven’t washed their hands in six years? Words fail me.

  • Jen

    I would be curious to learn: if these people at LU are “normal” and could fit in at a normal school, why are they picking such an extreme school?

    As to Jerry Falwell, its interesting to read that he was such a prankster. However, having not read Roose’s book, I am not sure I can see this as something that would make him less loathsome. I mean, sure, he was probably nice to babies, too, but that doesn’t mean I am going to forgive him for blaming 9-11 on people like me. So as a question to Hemant (or anyone who has read the book)- how did this and other tidbits found in the book make you feel about Jerry?

    And as a funny note: when I was a high school junior, I got the typical terrifyingly large pile of college mail. I remember getting one from Liberty, and the thing they did to make sure I sent in my application was give SUVs to the first 5 applications. I vaguely considered it.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Very interesting article. Good primary source research from Kevin too. Never heard of the Quiverfull movement before, is it found anywhere outside of Southern USA? Curious that I found out about it from an Atheist.

  • andyinsdca

    Well, of the 4 questions, #3 IS correct. Sanger was a promoter of eugenics. Granted, there is a bit of commentary thrown in with the question but if was stated “Sanger was a promoter of eugenics, T/F?” the answer is still true.

  • Jeff Satterley

    Bah, the very questions are incoherent, biassed, and unworthy of a university-level course.

    This doesn’t just happen at religious universities. I’ve had courses where exam questions were ambiguous, made biased assumptions, etc. They generally didn’t involve Noah’s ark, but it made it impossible to rationally answer the question, nonetheless.

    However, the great thing about being a rational and, at times, clever human being, its quite easy to anticipate what the professor wants and BS your way through the course. Eventually, you’ll have to have some real knowledge, whether in other college courses, or in real life. Those who are blindly following eventually get weeded out, or at least are made to look foolish.

  • Larry Huffman

    Of course Falwell will look like a nice, complex, grandfatherly guy. I am wondering who out there thought that Falweel would simply be in person what we see on TV. I am surprised that the author was surprised by this. Really.

    All religious leaders…popes, priests, televangelists, small town ministers, inner city pastors…all will have a personal life that has secular and past-time related interests. Dubya owned a baseball team…I have always said, if I meet Bush, I will stay away from big topics and talk baseball…I might even like the guy while on that topic. I am quite sure that Falwell and Robertson and the Pope all would have an area where someone like me could converse and find charm and appeal.

    The point is…look at the patent dishonesty in the questions and answers represented, though. Look at the inane classes his university puts forward. Look at the hurtful and idiotic things this guy has said when it counted…not at how charming he is because he had stinkbombs in his desk. hehe. The guy was bad news, and discovering he had a private life and was not a blow-hard wind-bag every waking moment still does not take away from what harm he has caused.

    You see…it is not like this guy simply had some bad views that he adhered to personally. Nope…he used that considerable charm…which obviously had some sway over the author in question here…and was able to influence others…many others…in his hurtful and idiotic ideologies. He did not just have hurtful views…he caused others to nurture and grow those same hurtful views.

    Sorry…just because in person the guy could come across personable, I do not feel the need to rethink my views of him…after all, nothing discovered while attending his universities will undo the harm he has caused and the hate he has intilled in others.

  • Larry Huffman

    So…to summarize…to find this guy had a charming cult of personality should really not surprise anyone. It is part of the profile for religous leaders or others who have caused people to follow harmful and deranged ideologies.

  • Joe Cormier

    Huh? Roose is a believer, he is neither agnostic nor atheist so he went to a religious school, well when you say you are a believer more or less what is the big deal he went to Liberty. I thought when I first heard of the book he was an Atheist and not even Agnostic, but he prays, he believes in God, so what real insight are we getting from an almost believer, no wonder no one was mad, they had one of their own apply and be accepted at Liberty and of course it was a balanced review, when your a believer its hard to see the utter and complete uselessness of these Universities of Hate. Why the interest in this book? And little wonder he found Falwell personable, he is a believer. The title it very misleading, should be a Believer goes to a University with other Believers.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    He never said he was a believer, he said he was comfortable with religion and prays everyday, but more for the personal benefits he gets from the practice of prayer then the belief that his prayers will ever be answered. Clearly he’s not a stark raving atheist, but he doesn’t seem like a true believer either. His neutrality toward the whole thing makes him far more credible a judge of Liberty than any atheist would be.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com arkonbey

    and I do try to pray every day, even though I’m still not convinced it has any cosmic effect. …it’s not so much that prayer changes things, but that prayer changes us and we change things. So even if God isn’t listening, I think the practice of praying for other people can make us more selfless, more willing to reach out.

    You know, that actually sounds a lot like Buddhism to me.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The Baptists I know personally (who would be VERY comfortable at Liberty) would say that Kevin will definitely burn in Hell for all eternity if he doesn’t repent and accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Daily praying to better focus the mind just won’t cut it in their book. I view Kevin as very much an outsider to that mind-set.

    I have one question for Kevin:

    What did the student body think of other Christian denominations? What did they think of Catholics? What did they think of Quakers? What did they think of Unitarians or the liberal “Spong” wing of the Episcopalians? I’m curious if they feel some camaraderie among other Christian faith groups or do they view any groups outside of the evangelical movement with great suspicion?

  • http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/leaving_the_fold/babinski_agnosticism.html Edward T. Babinski

    Hi Hemant!

    I’m working on a book for Prometheus, need history & photos of campus freethought groups. I’d like to speak with you, or be directed to publications from early campus freethought groups, to discover more about their early history. Also seeking testimonies of anyone who lost their faith in college, and who may or may not have joined a freethought group, perhaps after arguing with them.

    Also found two blogs by people who attended Evangelical Christian colleges and left the fold while at such colleges.

    By the way, you may be amused to learn that I purchased your book, I Sold My Soul on Ebay, at a discount Christian bookstore in our local mall. They had a stack of about six. I went back a few weeks later and they were no longer there. I don’t know whether they sold, or whether someone told them it was by “an atheist.” I didn’t say a word about the book’s contents when I bought my copy.

    Also…noticed your latest blog entry on the fellow who attended Liberty. Reminded me of

    Chapter and Verse: A Skeptic Revisits Christianity by Mike Bryan [agnostic attends an Evangelical Christian college and writes all about it] http://www.amazon.com/Chapter-Verse-Skeptic-Revisits-Christianity/dp/0140171940/ref=wl_it_dp?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2SYFJ2LYUK76F&colid=3JQ7OLD5KDHWQ

    and

    Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir by Matthew Chapman [Darwin's great great great grandson] who visited William Jenning’s Bryan University and who shares some great stories about going spelunking with a creationism class in Tennessee, getting to know the students, and speaking with creationist Kurt Wise who teaches there.

    http://www.amazon.com/Trials-Monkey-Accidental-Matthew-Chapman/dp/0312300786/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237840761&sr=1-1

    Sincerely Edward T. Babinski

  • http://cycleninja.blogspot.com Paul Lundgren

    Serious question for Kevin: How did the Liberty students reconcile the notion of having a bunch of babies for Jesus with the idea that sex is something to be shunned and ashamed of? I’ve never understood that contradiction.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Serious question for Kevin: How did the Liberty students reconcile the notion of having a bunch of babies for Jesus with the idea that sex is something to be shunned and ashamed of? I’ve never understood that contradiction.

    Pre- and extra-marital sex are to be shunned. Sex within a God-sanctioned marriage is considered a beautiful thing.

  • faraway

    It sounds like an interesting book, akin to Hannah Rosin’s ‘God’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America’. I read an excerpt of Kevin’s book on Salon.com this weekend and it did leave me wanting to read more.

    Learning that Jerry Falwell was a charmer who loved to play stinkbomb pranks on people does not make me like him more. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com efrique

    [a fellow student] said. [...] I haven’t read a book in six, seven years. But I might read this one.” (p. 312)

    This, I think, sums up everything that we would want to know about Liberty. A college student has apparently not read any books (the Bible aside, one assumes) since some time before starting college. Or I should say ‘college’.

    Whatever the *@^&&*^% the student has been up to, it apparently isn’t learning.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net Staks

    I am very curious to read Kevin’s book. I have an autographed copy of A.J. Jacob’s books and a great conversation with him at a bookstore signing. I do think that your questions to Kevin were kind of boring. I would have liked to know more about how and why Kevin’s views on religion have changed from this experience. Did he find people at Liberty who were gay and in the closet? Did he ever break his cover to help someone? What was the hardest moment or moments being in cover while at Liberty? Did he find people at Liberty who were having doubts about their beliefs? I have about a million more of these.
    -Staks

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I would have liked to know more about how and why Kevin’s views on religion have changed from this experience. Did he find people at Liberty who were gay and in the closet? Did he ever break his cover to help someone? What was the hardest moment or moments being in cover while at Liberty? Did he find people at Liberty who were having doubts about their beliefs? I have about a million more of these.
    -Staks

    All are great questions and just about all of them are covered in the book. Which is why I didn’t raise them.

    I tried to ask questions I didn’t get a complete answer from in the book (or the ones I thought were most interesting).

  • http://www.myspace.com/youreundoingmybeltwronghun Tim D.

    [is late to the party]

    For all the ranting these Liberty U guys do about the supposed politicization of university material, they sure do have a sense for politicizing their own material.

    [/is late to the party]

  • http://peacefulatheist.wordpress.com Lily

    I’d never thought about what Jerry Falwell might be like in real life, but this makes me wonder how many of the nice, personable Christians I knew at Wheaton would have been just as publicly hateful as Falwell if they’d been given the chance. There were several occasions when professors or pastors whom I deeply respected surprised me by saying hurtful or discriminatory things which seemed terribly out of character.
    On second thought, I don’t think this is limited to religious people. Probably many of us atheists would be shockingly hateful and hurtful too, if given the public voice. And I think some of the things that Dawkins, Dennett, and company say are probably just as hurtful to Christians as Falwell’s words are to us.

  • Amy

    Amen Lily. Everyone says things that are idiotic, just most of us don’t get followed around with a camera all the time.

  • David

    Speaking as a former Bob Jones student (30 years ago) who has long since swung around to atheism, I’m rather surprised at not only how easily Kevin was able to enroll at Liberty, but how LBC’s student policies are practically laissez-faire compared to (the unfortunately abbreviated) BJU’s. The Jonesians might expell (“ship”) a couple caught holding hands; couples sitting in the “dating parlor” were required to maintain a safe distance of…can’t remember exactly, something on the order of 16 inches when seated side-by-side (I was up there studying once, and saw a chaperone pull out a ruler and check a couple). Hugging was strictly verboten.

    The admission process included submitting a detailed account of one’s “salvation” experience. If the applicant didn’t measure up to strict fundagelical standards and practices, forget it.

    Small wonder, perhaps, that back in those days, opinions of Falwell at Bob Jones hovered between heretic and antichrist.

    Of course, it’s possible things have changed since then. I’ve not exactly kept up with the Jones dynasty, other than noticing that they remodeled the campus main entrance a few years ago (I’m back living in Greenville, SC again — where my wife and I started a nontheist meetup a couple years ago).

  • frank guilfoil

    question for Hermant: How would anyone know if there were any gay people in the closet at Liberty?
    What do you mean by undercover? Wasn’t he very much like the other students at Liberty?

  • Ben Donahue

    Kevin,

    Great job on the book! It brought back all sorts of good and bad memories of my time at Liberty. Good luck to you in the future and I look forward to reading more of your work!

    Ben Donahue
    LU class of ’97

  • Jon

    Eugenics is associated with the Nazi’s but was not invented by them. The tape machines used in the recording industry were invented by the Nazi’s but we don’t claim that Lil Wayne or Bing Crosby (the man who brought these machines to the states!) are associated with the Natzi’s. And everyone that has ever used a ball point pen is not a Nazi. I do it all the time, and I am and love the Jewish people.

    Second, the scientific method doesn’t prove anything. Bio 101 will teach you that.