What Ann Coulter intended to say in her new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, has so far been drowned out by hysterical denunciations because of a lone passage where she wrote savagely about four 9/11 widows. Many people by now think the book is all about 9/11 widows.
Which hasn’t stopped this magnificently unapologetic lady from launching her book straight to the top of the bestseller list. Good for her. If Coulter commits any indefensible excesses, they are small beans compared to her substantive, incisive, important main point.
Godless is actually about the calcification of liberalism into a form of religion, half-jokingly identified by Coulter with Druidism. What’s religious about secular liberalism? The theologian Paul Tillich defined “religion” as a person’s “ultimate concern.” Whatever matters most to you, whatever tells you what else should matter and why, that is your religion.
Values are by definition religious, whether you believe they come from a God (like Jews or Christians do) or not (like Buddhists). Having turned from God, secularism automatically turns to another religion, by whatever name you call it.
The Secular Church even merits to be capitalized, since it forms a fairly unified ideology. As Coulter puts it, “Everything liberals believe is in elegant opposition to basic Biblical precepts.
‐“Our religion says that human progress proceeds from the spark of divinity in the human soul; their religion holds that human progress is achieved through sex and death.
‐“We believe in invention and creation; they catalogue with stupefaction the current state of our diminishing resources and tell us to stop consuming.
‐ “We say humans stand apart from the world and our charge is Planet Earth; they say we are part of the world, and our hubristic use of nature is sinful.
‐ “We say humans are in God’s image; they say we are no different morally from the apes…”
Actually Coulter may not realize how complete the “elegant opposition” truly is. Thus she goes off on a riff about the environmentalist crusade against flush toilets:
In 1995, the New York Times was enthusiastically reporting on the move away from mankind’s greatest invention by homeowners ‘fed up with overdevelopment, contaminated ground water, and overflowing septic tanks’–but evidently not fed up with living on top of their own excrement.”
Dry bathroom plumbing is repulsive alright, as I can testify. The futuristic new Seattle Public Library, where I’m writing this, has environmentally sensitive “waterfree” urinals and they reek. But what’s anti-biblical about it? Interestingly, the Bible addresses the question of living on top of one’s own waste, as animals do. In Deuteronomy (23:14), the Israelites in the desert are instructed to keep a shovel handy and relieve themselves outside the camp.
But perhaps, like Coulter, I digress.
The biggest chunk of the book goes where few conservatives so far have dared to tread. Of her eleven chapters, four comprise a sustained assault on liberalism’s holy of holies, Darwinism. She’s clear, well informed, and unmoved by any fear that someone may call her a “fundamentalist” for criticizing “Darwiniacs”:
Darwiniacs love to cite…the [evolutionary] progress from the reptile’s multiboned jaw to the jaw of mammal-like reptiles with fewer bones, leading inexorably to the single-boned mammal jawbone with two bones moving to the ear. The jawbone metamorphosis didn’t prove evolution, but here at last was one small part of the fossil record that was not wildly inconsistent with the theory of evolution…. That’s ‘proof’ when it comes to the state religion [i.e. secularism]: For not disproving evolution, the vertebrate jawbone is said to prove evolution.
In the end, evolutionists’ only argument is contempt. The cultists know that if people were allowed to hear the arguments against evolution for just sixty seconds, all would be lost.
She exaggerates, but who cares? What is most valuable about Coulter is the trademarked contempt that she breathes forth. It’s why her books sell better than pretty much any other conservative’s do.
Obviously, dispassionate analysis should be expected most of the time, from most of us. But let’s say a word in favor of rollicking disgust poured out upon liberal pieties. There is the constant danger of inhaling too deeply from the fumes of the respect you insist on giving to those you disagree with. The result can be a subtle assimilating of some of their values.
Darwinism provides the classic illustration. Because it’s sacrosanct in the liberal viewpoint, and because it has a scientific aura, even conservatives are frequently intimidated into assuming that if Darwinists say the software in the cell (DNA) wrote itself, then surely it must be so.
The Coulterian contempt, the utter disdain for secularist orthodoxy not least on the subject of Darwin, may provide a bit of spine at a moment, like now, when we could use some.
—David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author, most recently, of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.