Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University, by Kevin Roose

My pointer to this was Jacobs, because Roose was his unpaid intern during the writing of that book. I enjoyed "The Unlikely Disciple" because the writing is solid and there was an element of suspense to see how Roose was affected at the end by his experience.

In short: Roose was a journalism major at Brown; took a semester's leave of absence to study at Jerry Fallwell's ultra-conservative, "bible is the literal word of God" college, Liberty University, specifically to write a book about his experience there. Here's how I net out Roose's experience of life at Liberty:
  1. Homophobia runs rampant.
  2. Normative behavior quite different from baseline; can't judge as good or bad.
  3. In objective argument, atheists overwhelmingly defeat professor in debate on religion, e.g., bible literalists have trouble defending bible contradictions. (See also Jacobs' book, or Dawkins'.)
  4. Dating is easier within structured behavioral boundaries.
  5. Anti-evolution arguments are indecipherable at best.
  6. The students are mostly likable people; taken independently of the behavior required by their religious beliefs (i.e., targeted hatred), they're great folks.
Roose picks up some of the beliefs - or at least habits - even a semester after leaving the school.

I was surprised. Shouldn't have been: heard of the Stockholm Syndrome? Maybe that's unfair: I just expected Roose to fulfill his role as "Godless liberal" and he ended up being open minded (to closed minded-ness? Be nice now Carl!) instead.

In any case, can't help but expect to read more of Roose's work - in magazines or books - and I look forward to it.