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Godless: The Church of Liberalism
« on: 2006-09-22 11:12:24 »
In this week's eSkeptic, Matthew Provonsha reviews Ann Coulter's book
Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, 2006, ISBN
by Matthew Provonsha
Ann Coulter's new book is vulgar propaganda that goes against both
science and reason. She has made a living as the cruel darling of the
Religious Right, and in this book she aims her harsh rhetoric against,
among other things, evolutionary biology, atheism, and what she calls
"liberalism." The entire book in fact is a sustained attack on a group
that doesn't even exist, namely "liberals," in the sense of the word
that Coulter has made up.
In her own words, Coulter's thesis is that "Liberalism IS a religion."
She even refers to liberalism as "the state-sanctioned religion." This
is borderline conspiracy theory, from the woman who called the Branch
Davidians "harmless American citizens." In a kind of
transubstantiation, we are supposed to believe that despite all
outward appearances, our government is actually controlled by
atheists. She says, "Democrats revile religion," and "liberals love to
boast that they are not 'religious.'"
This is absurd. Coulter sticks to generalizations because she can't
give any cogent examples. Martin Luther King Jr. was undeniably
Christian and liberal, but I doubt she had him in mind when she wrote,
"I would be crestfallen to discover any liberals in heaven." Ann
Coulter is going to heaven and Martin Luther King Jr. is not? For
Coulter can't name a godless president or member of Congress. The last
two Democratic presidents have been born-again Christians, and the
vast majority of liberals are Christian, yet Coulter defines
"liberals" as people who reject notions of God and an immortal soul.
Meanwhile, the overtly Christian Republican Party is in control of all
three branches of government. In this aspect of the book, as in
others, it is exceedingly difficult to take Coulter seriously, and it
is hardly surprising that many commentators on the left and right have
questioned her sincerity.
ID proponent William Dembski wrote on his blog that he takes full
responsibility for any errors in the last few chapters of the book,
which deal with evolution. Several websites have pointed out plenty of
them, so if he was being honest, he has got his work cut out for him.
But it doesn't matter how much evidence there is against Coulter
because she just lies when the truth gets in the way of her agenda.
She lies brazenly in the book about the Dover trial, which ruled the
teaching of ID in science classrooms unconstitutional. According to
Coulter: "They won the way liberals always win: by finding a court to
hand them everything they want on a silver platter." Here Ann Coulter
shows herself to be either completely incompetent or deliberately
deceptive. The judge that presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover Area
School District is a life-long Republican and a church-goer, appointed
to the federal bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush. Clifford A.
Rieders, the former president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers
Association and a Democrat, said Judge Jones is "universally well
regarded." Coulter's attempt to smear him is transparently motivated
by her ideological concerns, not the facts.
Like other bigots, Ann Coulter attacks what she perceives to be easy
targets. In the past she has attacked Arabs, Muslims, and homosexuals,
and in this book she saves some of her harshest words for
environmentalists and America's most mistrusted minority, atheists.
She writes, "The theory of vegetarianism is that Americans consume
'too much' energy." To the contrary, vegetarianism is not a theory at
all, it is the practice of not eating meat. There are a variety of
reasons for practicing vegetarianism, and an individual vegetarian's
choice to avoid meat may have nothing at all to do with concerns about
over-consumption or inefficient consumption. She adds,
"Environmentalists' energy plan is the repudiation of America and
Christian destiny, which is Jet Skis, steak on the electric grill, hot
showers, and night skiing."
This consumerist position is untenable in light of much of Christian
and American intellectual history. Coulter can't point to a verse in
the New Testament promoting self-indulgence that could justify the
conspicuous consumption of the rich while tens of thousands die every
day due to malnutrition and easily treatable diseases. Jesus exhorts
his followers, "Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the
needy," and seek treasures in heaven instead of on earth. Nowhere in
Coulter's book does she express concern for the troubled people of the
third world where there are food and drug shortages, or for the poor
in this country who can't even afford healthcare, much less jet skis
or night skiing.
Coulter's religion is not like that of the author of the Book of
Proverbs, who prayed for neither poverty nor riches but, "only the
necessaries of life." Her religion is not like St. Thomas Aquinas's,
who went so far as to say that anything held in superabundance must be
given to provide for the sustenance of the poor. If we are to infer
"Christian destiny" by looking at Christian history, we see that
Coulter's ideal is nothing like the ideal put forth by most Christian
leaders of the past. St. Francis of Assisi prayed, "O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek," but Coulter has said that the
Biblical view is to "rape the planet."
Coulter's distortion of history in order to misrepresent atheism is
particularly disturbing. She wants us to believe that the horrors of
Nazi Germany, the USSR, and the People's Republic of China are in some
way due to atheism and acceptance of evolution. "Hitler's world-view
was based on Darwinism, not God," she writes. This is clearly a lie
designed to denounce Darwinism by association. It is contrary to
Hitler's own words, as even a cursory reading of Mein Kampf shows. In
it Hitler writes, "Hence today I believe I am acting in accordance
with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the
Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." Though she claims that
Hitler cited Darwin, she can't substantiate it, and thus this is yet
another baseless assertion. Hitler was obviously either heavily
influenced by Christian beliefs, or wanted to appear as though he was.
Along with various other influences, Nazism undoubtedly drew from a
long-standing Christian tradition of anti-Semitism. As far as I can
discern, Hitler never even mentioned Darwin; rather, he repeatedly
claimed to be doing the will of Providence.
Coulter's attempt to blame Darwin for the horrific famines in China is
ironic given that they occurred partly because Communist scientists
rejected Darwin. Denying what they called "capitalist science," they
paved the way for agricultural catastrophe. Coulter even suggests that
Darwin is to blame for "Stalinist gulags." In reality, Stalin sent
scientists to gulags for espousing Darwinian evolution.
Throughout the book Coulter never argues her points, but makes ad
hominem attacks and false analogies, attacks straw-men and blatantly
misrepresents history. She can't even distinguish between Darwinism
and Social Darwinism. She is as bad on ethics as she is on science,
and is completely inept regarding logical reasoning. When she says
atheists are always the ones practicing genocide, she shows that she
hasn't even read her scriptures.
There is no "church of liberalism," there isn't even "liberalism," in
Coulter's sense. Liberals are not "pro-abortion," and no atheist hates
God. Godless is a ridiculous book and Ann Coulter lies flagrantly and
is as self-righteous as she is malicious. The most controversial line
in the book is her condemnation of four 9/11 widows who chose to
involve themselves in politics: "I have never seen people enjoying
their husbands' death so much." But it's not the only nasty thing she
wrote in the book and she has said even worse things in the past. She
has used epithets like "raghead," "paki," and "gay boy." She actually
said, "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New
York Times Building."
Coulter's fans apparently consider death threats and violent rhetoric
humorous, and she doesn't disappoint them. She is a hate-mongering
reactionary who has said she is for public flogging, and against
women's suffrage. I wish I were making this up. Godlessis a boring
collection of rants filled with utterly mind-boggling absurdities,
like, "public schools are the Left's madrassas," "The most important
value to liberals is destroying human life" (in reference to
abortion), and "liberals made up Watergate." We needn't worry about
misinterpreting her words because she has repeatedly told interviewers
that she believes everything she wrote in the book. She has even said
that she never regrets anything she has ever said and she wouldn't
have said anything differently. Even if the cynics are right to say
that Coulter is laughing all the way to the bank and that she doesn't
really believe any of it, it still reflects horribly on our media that
gives her a national platform, and on our culture in which she is
thriving with a lucrative speaking career and best-selling books.