I occasionally do searches of myself and my book titles on Google. I’m curious to see if there are any reviews or other commentary out there about them or me. Recently I googled the title of one of my books, The Bible: A Reader’s Guide. It was published by Sterling in the U.S. and New Burlington in the U.K. back in November 2011.
On the cover, there is a list of nine out of the eighteen themes that I divided the Bible into, specifically: forgiveness, mourning, parables, prophecy, miracles, judgment, love, prayer, and history
To my surprise, I discovered that a parody of my book cover has spread among an enormous number of atheist websites. My themes for the Bible have been replaced with what atheists believe the Bible is about: murder, intolerance, slavery, infanticide, misogyny, genocide, incest, homophobia, inconsistencies, human rights violations, torture, human sacrifice, sadomasochism, violence, revenge, bigotry, judgment, and mythology—with the helpful comment that “this section covers the entirety of the book.” And, in the lower right corner they’ve added a stamp that explains “Religion Poisons Everything: God is Not Great.”
Otherwise, the cover looked exactly the same as that on the real book, down to retaining my name on the cover.
If any atheists had actually bothered to read my book (rather than just using the cover to create a parody), or for that matter, actually read the Bible and understood it, they wouldn’t be quite so libelous in their charges against it. But when one ignores the context and point of a text, it is easy to set up straw men and then trash them. I was reminded of something attributed to Larry Niven, the science fiction author who has penned many books both by himself and in conjunction with Jerry Pournelle. He once got a letter from an irate reader excoriating him for believing the awful things that appeared in one of his books, basing the condemnation on the attitudes and behavior of certain characters.
Niven responded: “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot.’”
The same thing very often happens to people who read the Bible. Besides suffering from a biased mindset, cherry picking and ignoring context, and generally lacking the necessary linguistic and historical background and forgetting the ordinary reading skills that they probably easily apply to anything else they read, these atheist websites also suffer from the problem afflicting Niven’s critic. They fail to reckon with the possibility that the readers of the Bible were supposed to be appalled by the horrid things that sometimes happen in the Bible. Sometimes bad guys appear and bad things happen in a book. I suspect none of them would imagine that Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is a how-to book for dictators. Upon reading the Bible, they fail to reckon with the possibility that if something gives them the willies, then maybe that was the point. Perhaps if they read the Bible as they might other literature (admittedly something many religious people also fail to do), if they understood that some stories can be designed to make a point, then it might make more sense to them. Frankly, the way these atheists read the Bible is incredibly naive and simple-minded.
In fact, the atheists tend to read the Bible as filtered through the nonsense spouted by some of the less well-educated and less intelligent members of the religious community.
Which illustrates that these particular atheist websites also fail to consider another of Niven’s dictums: “No cause is so noble that it won’t attract fuggheads.” And admittedly, Christianity, of which I'm a part, has its fair share of “fuggheads,” especially given that there are so many Christians: well over two billion. I doubt if percentage-wise the number of idiots who are part of Christianity is any greater than the number of idiots in any other group, but even a small percentage of two billion is still going to be an awful lot of people. It doesn’t help that “fuggheads” also tend to be noisy and attention seeking. Of course, just about any human being on occasion will have one of those days when he or she just happens to behave in a fuggheaded way, even if that isn’t his or her normal practice.
If you already have a bias against Christianity, perhaps triggered by mistreatment at the hands of certain Christians, you’ll easily notice every bad choice, behavior and general stupidity perpetrated by the group you’ve learned to hate. That’s the nature of the biased mindset: it is self-confirming. If you believe all bureaucrats are evil and stupid, you’ll notice every moronic bureaucrat. The non-bureaucrats who do the same bad things–you’ll not notice. And the good bureaucrats, you won’t notice them either. But every idiot bureaucrat you find will further confirm your low opinion of bureaucrats and generally speaking, you’ll never notice any bureaucrat who isn’t despicable.
I was taken aback by just how hateful so many of these atheist websites are. Their bigotry is appalling. I suspect they would not generate similar, blanket condemnations of ethnic groups, disabilities, or various sexual persuasions. Nevertheless, the attitudes, methods and ways of expressing themselves that I found on so many of the atheist sites reminds me of the racists I’ve occasionally had the misfortune of running across.
But, I refuse to believe that these hateful sites are true representations of most atheists. I’ll assume instead that most of them are not blinded by unreasoning hatred and that these particular websites merely happened to suffer from perhaps temporary fuggheadedness. Everyone has days like that, where they happen to be in a bad mood or something.
In any case it’s rather interesting to be parodied and to have become a meme.
They even left my name on the modified book cover.
I wonder if this will help book sales?