Friday, September 7, 2007

Don't preach to the choir

On my bedside table right now are several books examining atheism:
1) The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
2) The End of Faith, by Sam Harris
3) Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris
4) The Evolution of God, by Barbara J. King
5) An assortment of novels such as Sarum, by Edward J. Rutherfurd, and Richard North Patterson's latest in paperback, Exile, about a lawyer who gets roped into defending a Muslim man accused of assassinating the prime minister of Israel.

Some pretty heavy reading there, kids.

Somehow, books one through three are all on the best-seller lists, along with a few other works questioning the validity of religion, including God is not Great, by Christopher Hitchens. That one is not on my bedstand. Yet.

With so many learned folks publishing arguments against religion, you've got to assume it's all in reaction to the overabundance of fundamentalism of every stripe that we contend with in the world today. The delightful thing is that these books are bestsellers in spite of logic that might make one think that a preponderance of fundamentalism would result in fewer publishing successes for people like Dawkins and Harris. It's also happening in spite of the fact that these books do not make for light reading. They really challenge you to think about what you're reading. They don't carry you along on a wave of plot and character and dialogue.

Which makes sense when you think about it. Just about any writer touching on the impact of religion in the world today will gleefully report that 90 per cent of the American population believes in a god and the afterlife, while the other ten per cent are eminent scientists. Only 40 per cent of scientists in general believe in god. So, it's not too difficult to see that intelligence is inversely proportional to religiosity.

Why then are all the books being written against religion written for people in the top percentages of intelligence? Why aren't these authors also producing works written in language and formats that the average believer can digest and understand? Sam Harris is the closest I've read so far to being able to reach a population with average IQ, but even he writes more like the New York Times than the local community newspaper.

So hey! You guys! Stop preaching to the choir all the time and take a walk on the other side of the tracks now and then. You might reach more of the people who really need to be reached. Are there any novels out there that tell the story of a world with no religion in a positive way? Are there any major actors out there who'd be willing to lose a few notches on the popularity scale to come out and say they're atheists? We've got to reach the masses, and we ain't gonna do that with high-brow language.

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