The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism, by Mary Eberstadt (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-58617-431-6) 148 pp. Paper $13.95.
Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity, by S.E. Cupp (New York: Threshold Editions, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4391-7316-9) 269 pp. Cloth $24.00.
Shortly after the 1994 United Nations conference on population in Cairo, Egypt, Johns Hopkins University sponsored a panel discussion on the subject in Washington, D.C. One of the speakers was Nicholas Eberstadt, an economist and “demographer” with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who pooh-poohed the very idea of an overpopulation problem and claimed to be unable to comprehend the concept of the “carrying capacity of the environment.” I just sat in the audience and sighed.
Now comes Mary Eberstadt, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and a writer for Richard Neuhaus’s First Things magazine. She is the author of The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism, described on the cover as a “wickedly witty satire.” However, there is not enough humor in the book to inspire a smirk, much less a smile.
Loser Letters purports to be a series of letters from “a former Christian” to neo-atheists “Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Onfray, Stenger, and Others.” In reality, it is a stale rehash of the usual charges hurled at “atheists and secularists,” with a single sly dig at humanists, by a writer profoundly ignorant of her subject.
But just as a broken clock is right twice a day, Eberstadt inadvertently points a finger at a deficiency in some neo-atheist writing—a tendency to spend too little time on the positive, as in the “Affirmation of Humanism: A Statement of Principles” often found on the inside cover of this journal.
It’s a shame that perfectly good recycled paper was wasted to produce this collection of nonsense.
Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity is a stupefyingly superficial, stultifyingly simplistic, and stunningly silly waste of paper. It would scarcely merit comment were it not extruded by a division of a major publishing house, Simon & Schuster, and sporting a foreword by presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee. Author S.E. Cupp’s theme is that the small segment of the print and electronic media that might be termed liberal is on some sort of jihad to destroy “Christianity,” which she misleadingly assumes to be coterminous with Christian fundamentalism. She rails against an imagined “war on Christmas,” defends the Falwellian religious Right, and excoriates evolution and science. No wonder the book has so infatuated the likes of Huckabee, Brent Bozell, and kooky Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Cupp is so confused with her weird mishmash of ignorance and paranoia that she stumbles over statistics. In several places in the book she states that Christians make up 80 percent of the U.S. population; in other places, 57 percent.
Curiously, Cupp repeatedly purports to be an atheist, showing once again that mere unexplained atheism is not the same as humanism—as we have seen in Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand or “nonreligious” types like Karl Rove and George Will.
Were the Bard of Avon to review this sorry screed, he would doubtless liken it to “a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing.”