Another Excerpt From Roose’s Book

The other day I mentioned the book The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose, about a Brown Univeristy student who transfers to Liberty University for a semester. The book has all sorts of quotable nuggets, but I especially got a kick out of the following one. I should mention that Roose changed all the names of the people he is describing.

On Monday night, the radio debate between Dr. Caner [a professor at Liberty] and the Rational Response Squad finally comes to pass.

I listened to the debate — all three hours and forty minutes of it — and it was time well spent. The Rational Response Squad members, two men and a woman, were just like you’d expect professional atheists to be: exact, articulate, and a little prickly. And Dr. Caner … well, to everyone’s surprise, he didn’t play the part of the angry fundamentalist. In fact, he seemed somehow too polite, almost wishy-washy. He said things like:

“I like doubt. I think doubt is healthy.”

“I wouldn’t expect you guys to bow on your knees and accept Jesus.”

“There are times when what we call Christianity is unhealthy.”

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, like the fact that the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis differs pretty widely from the account in the second chapter. And although Dr. Caner came up with explanations for the discrepancies, they were hardly rock solid.

Ten minutes after the debate, Brad Miller comes into my room. At twenty-five, Brad is one of the older guys on the hall. He took three years off between high school and college to travel with his Christian music group, but decided to come to Liberty to train for the ministry. He looks a bit like Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo, with a spike haircut nd a piar of black-framed hipster glasses. His role on the hall is the advice giver, the wise sensei who tutors the younger guys, the giver of stirring theological lessons. But tonight, Brad’s steps are plodding and his aura sags.

“Did you listen?&rdquo he asks.

I nod

“The atheists definitely knew what they were talking about,” he says. I almost don’t want to say it, but … they beat him.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, man. If that was a boxing match, I think they won 9-1 or so.”

He digs the toe of his Converse All Star into the ground.

“Man, that scared me. I’m going to talk to my professors about some of the arguments they made. I don’t know what to think right now. That was weird.”

Whoo-hoo! Score one for the good guys.


  1. #1 amar
    September 18, 2009

    one down, billions to go…

  2. #2 jdhuey
    September 18, 2009

    Well, kudos to the RRS. Even if no listener is ever convinced to discard his superstitious beliefs, it was a success if a few move from the position of ridiculous certainty to uncomfortable doubt.

  3. #3 Wes
    September 19, 2009

    I’m actually not the Rational Response Squad’s biggest fan (which is a euphemistic way of saying I don’t like them). A lot of their tactics seem extremely juvenile to me. There are much better ways to make the case for atheism and scientific skepticism.

    However, it’s heartening to see that “Brad Miller” took to heart the fact that being an atheist doesn’t make a person stupid, evil, or wrong. Hopefully this will lead to him mellowing some of his fundamentalist beliefs.

  4. #4 BaldApe
    September 19, 2009

    So did “Brad Miller” get expelled for thinking?

  5. #5 NewEnglandBob
    September 19, 2009

    Congratulations to the Rational Response Squad.

  6. #6 Strider
    September 20, 2009

    What was the point of changing all the names? I can see maybe the dude in the band but why change the name of the professor? BTW, anyone have a link to an mp3 of the debate?

  7. #7 Robert O'Brien
    September 21, 2009

    Whoo-hoo! Score one for the good [sic] guys.

    You mean the group of pretentious morons and losers who broadcast from mom’s basement? I’d say this is another example of your world being orthogonal to the one that actually exists.

  8. #8 Captain Obvious
    September 21, 2009

    I think you should take a good look in the mirror, Robert. You seem to be projecting hard onto others.

  9. #9 Modusoperandi
    September 21, 2009

    Robert O’Brien “You mean the group of pretentious morons and losers who broadcast from mom’s basement?”
    Is that ad hominem or the genetic fallacy?

  10. #10 Modusoperandi
    September 21, 2009

    Captain Obvious “I think you should take a good look in the mirror, Robert. You seem to be projecting hard onto others.”
    Oh, man, I do that all the time. You’re looking exceptionally attractive and intelligent today, by the way.

  11. #11 MartyM
    September 21, 2009

    Know of any audio links or podcasts to that radio show? I’d be willing to spend nearly 4 hours listening.

  12. #12 Richard Eis
    September 23, 2009

    It does feel a little cruel to pull the magic carpet out from under their feet…

    But then they shouldn’t have made it the unchanging basis for their entire existence.

  13. #13 cris
    September 24, 2009

    If you’re a high school student, how many times have your friends and family asked you that question? Or, it’s counter-part, ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ It may get annoying to you, but really, all they want to know is what your interests are, what you are thinking about studying, and if you know what type of work you might like to do in the future. As early as your freshman year in high school, there are several things that you should consider to help you get pointed in the right direction. Here are a handful of them:

    College Prep Curriculum

    Your high school guidance counselor can recommend courses that provide a good preparation for college. They may not know everything related to every career or even what the financial aid options are that you have, but they can help here. Each college specifies how many English, math, social studies, foreign language, and science classes applicants should take to qualify for entrance, but there are similarities among colleges. So, make sure you are taking the right courses and enough of them.

    Advanced Placement Courses and Exams (AP)

    AP classes give you a chance to complete college work while still in high school and are offered in many subjects. They enable you to study an area in greater depth and challenge yourself to do college-level work. They can be rewarding because you gain new skills and study habits. If you pass the AP exam at the end of term, you can receive college credit. If you do well, your chance of getting into the college of your choice improves because you have demonstrated that you can succeed in college-level courses. The AP courses you complete in high school can often be skipped in college, saving you time and your parents money. Just be careful not to overload yourself with too many of these…we don’t want to see your grades suffer!

    College Visits

    As early as your freshman year, but definitely by your junior year at the latest, plan to visit several colleges you think you might like to attend. If you’re unsure about where you want to go, then pick a range of schools that are close by. Be sure to visit some state schools, as well as some private schools as well. And always be sure to go while school is in session. That part is critical, so you can see what the students look like, not just the buildings. This will also allow you to see if the students look like the kind of people you want to be hanging around with for four years of your life.

    And, when it comes time to apply, I’ve found that you are best suited if you apply to 8 universities, give or take a couple. The transition from high school to college is one of the defining moments in your life, and you want to have the best shot of success possible. So, be sure to use your time and energy in high school wisely by getting good grades, challenging yourself, and using the time to explore your interests.

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