Every once in a while, I try to read a book that's interesting or important or that will just be a change from the genre fiction I otherwise seem to read. So the other week, when I was in the library, I picked up The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser. I'm not sure why it interested me; maybe I just thought it would be interesting to see what sort of arguments the other side has for their beliefs. I gotta say, if this is the best refutation anyone can come up with, the New Atheists (which would make a pretty good name for a band) don't have much to worry about.
Some quick background: over the past few years, there have been several books written by prominent atheists. Richard Dawkins wrote The God Delusion, Sam Harris wrote Letter to a Christian Nation, Christopher Hitchens wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I think there have been a few others, as well. There's even a snazzy new logo. In interest of full disclosure, I'll say that I haven't read any of these books. They may be brilliant, they may be silly, I don't know.
One of the reasons I haven't blogged so much lately is that I sit down wanting to write a review of this book, and just think "Ugh." So I'm going to break it into more manageable and less frustrating parts.
The first thing that strikes me about this book is just how shamelessly political it is. There's not a whole lot of philosophy in it, and very little past the Humanities 101 level of things. But Feser is continuously harping on all the hot-button socially political issues of the day. This is the very first paragraph of the book:
At the time of this writing, exactly one week has passed since the Supreme Court of the State of California decreed that homosexuals have a "basic civil right" to marry someone of the same sex... Malcom Muggeridge famously said that "without God we are left with a choice of succumbing to megalomania or erotomania." The court's majority, in declaring by sheer judicial fiat the equal dignity under law of family and sodomy, would appear to have gone Muggeridge one better by succumbing to both at once."
Allow me to point out the subtle characterization of heterosexual sexual relationships as being wholesome and constructive (i.e. his use of "family"), while gay relationships are entirely driven by sinful lusts ("erotomania", "sodomy"). The subliminal implication he's trying to make is that gay people don't of course have real "families"; their children, their relationships, their support of each other is somehow less valid and legitimate than others. But remember that this isn't a book about gay marriage or politics.
Again, let me point out that this is the very first paragraph of the book. But it's not the last time he'll mention it. Gay marriage is something that Feser returns to again and again in his book, referencing it I think at least once in every chapter. He doesn't limit himself to the terrible influence of Teh Gay, either. There's Terry Schaivo, abortion, and lots and lots of sex. Well, just the kind of sex that Feser doesn't approve of.
As I was reading Superstition, I think I gradually came to the conclusion that Feser's book is not the philosophical treatise I was expecting, but more of the philisophical analog of Ann Coulter's writings. You don't come into this book to learn something or to get a well-reasoned argument. You come to a book like this to get your worldview reinforced and to learn exactly how wicked those unlike you, in this case the liberals and the atheists, truly are. Just like Coulter, that's the service that Feser provides.