There are a lot of books I can throw into the ‘read for the wrong reason’ category. This is one of them. I actually meant to read Seth Andrews more recent book, Confessions of a Fox News Christian. That seems to be the right book to read right now, as the Christian nationalist wing of America is currently running rapant, with pretty obvious results. I didn’t want to reread Chris Hedges, and that book came to mind. I couldn’t find a copy of Seth Andrew’s newest book, but I did find this one instead. I figured that if nothing else, it would give me a primer on his style and help me decide if I really wanted to read the other book.
Seth Andrew’s Deconverted is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin – the story of one individual’s road toward irreligiosity. Some reviews laud it for being particularly similar to other people’s experience, and the broad strokes of it can seem like a familiar story – but only in that way similar to how G.B. Shaw argued that there are only two kind of stories. What makes Andrews’ story interesting and atypical is to what extent he was in deeper than most in some sub-communities of the American bible belt. Seth Andrews worked for years in Christian radio, and his story includes some interesting details from that community. But interesting has brought me to a point of diminishing returns. I keep coming back to books like this and I recognize that I should stop. Each one I have read is superficially interesting, but all of them failed to provide anything I would call life changing.
There was a rather big clue that this book just wasn’t for me. This book, and many others in this genre that I have read, often have a chapter dedicated to common counter-apologetics. The more of these I read, the more I just think to myself “Yup. I know all of this stuff already.” The thought made me reframe the whole book. It wasn’t written for an atheist so that they could see their journey, but likely written for the believer, with the initial chapters meant to demonstrate the sincerity of Andrews’ beliefs initially (because the tried chorus from the believers is always ‘Well, you were never really a true believer…’). The counter-apologetics chapter is meant to be ammunition against them.
Perhaps I am wrong. Either way, I don’t think any of my criticisms here really amount to much. At the end of the day, I absolutely did read the wrong book, and that is on me…