The Myth of the Muttering Madman is a project in self-realization.

Friday, January 05, 2007

How to write about book(s) you probably haven't read...

I'm guessing Letter From America: Atheists throw down the gauntlet by Richard Bernstein is a fine example. I wonder if Bernstein has read Dawkin's "The God Delusion"? He certainly quotes Sam Harris from "Letter to a Christian Nation". Perhaps he's flicked through that at least?

From the article:

What is going on? One conclusion is not so far-reaching. It could be simply that there's a market for just about anything in this country — whether atheism or psychic channeling.
I can imagine it must have taken about 2 minutes to come up with this stunning insight. What informs a view such as this? A guess perhaps? A rumination over coffee and stale toast? How novel!

The best-sellerdom of books like those of Harris and Dawkins shows that there is a market for militant atheism, but the market for religious belief is bigger. I wouldn't imagine any candidate for office winning on a platform of disbelief in God. I would similarly suppose that Billy Graham and other televangelists will have far vaster audiences than Harris does.
Does Bernstein realise that (at least) Dawkins deals directly with these issues in his book? He certainly doesn't comment on it. If we're supposed to accept that Bernstein is presenting an informed opinion on the subject he certainly succeeds in looking absurd.
Harris is obviously bothered by the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the United States, which has coincided with the very violent rise of fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East, one product of which was the attacks of Sept. 11.

The two movements are almost entirely dissimilar, of course, with Christian fundamentalism engaging in no violence or threats.
Again, Dawkins deals with this in his book. Having read both "The God Delusion" and this watered down mental prolixity from Bernstein I can't help feeling that perhaps he hasn't.

This article is banal. All we're getting is an oversimplified, recycled, mediocre mess. This smacks of someone paid to write about the first thing that comes to mind on any given topic. Imagine actually adding to the debate, rather than regurgitating commonly held views which are addressed in some depth by (at least one of) the books mentioned?
Will he succeed? It is doubtful. There are no available statistics on who exactly is buying the books by Harris and Dawkins, but it seems reasonable to suppose that the majority of them are already solid members of the rationalist choir.
I kid you not - Bernstein doesn't justify this statement. For all we know it probably just "felt right" at the time.

What trivial thinking. What shitty writing. Way to go!

1 comment:

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