Politics & Policy

About Those Totally Annoying Christian Convert Traitors


Editor’s note: Christianity has been taking a beating for years now, with one tony atheist tome after another rolling off the presses — and still no end in sight.

And so far — with the exception of a Michael Novak here and a Dinesh D’Souza there — believers have largely turned the other cheek.

Now, finally, comes more payback — with THE LOSER LETTERS, a Screwtape for our screwed-up time.

In the latest round over God, Mary Eberstadt talks about a total craptacular hoser traitor enemy combatant Loser-lover guy on National Review Online . . .

Dear Major Atheist Author BFFs,

I just LOVE calling You that! Is it okay with You if I do? The Director said it was fine with him, because he knows that the “B” means “Best” and the “F’s” mean “Friends Forever” (and not the You-know-what word, which as You know is verboten in here!). So before going into one more Letter that I hope will help this new atheism of ours get off the ground, let this convert to godlessness tell You just how much You’re all my BFFs, and why it’s so important that You are.

One, I hope Everybody gets that just because I use “BFF” in the plural doesn’t mean I’m taking any one of you for my BFF in particular. This is important! I don’t want, say, Mr. Christopher Hitchens to feel excluded because He thinks I’m talking about, say, Mr. Daniel Dennett as my particular BFF.

This is true even though Mr. Hitchens might otherwise have reason to worry about my confidence in Him, since anyone who has converted or de-converted as many times as He has on other big subjects — Marxism! Abortion! Imperialism! Smoking! — is obviously the most likely of any of Us atheists to jump ship for the Loser someday. I’d even bet my tokens for the convenience store in here on that. But that doesn’t mean Mr. Hitchens can’t be my BFF too in his own way, just like that less volatile atheist Mr. Daniel Dennett is. Because this Former Christian is loyal to all You big Brights like that.

Mr. Victor J. Stenger, same. He’s my BFF too, even if his book didn’t get as much attention as some of the other new atheist ones did. It’s not His fault, You know. He’s just not as good at ad hominem argument as some of You other leading Brights. Or maybe it’s because He doesn’t go whaling on the Jews and their god with the gusto that “certain other atheists” do? (You know who You are, Guys!) Whatever, even if he isn’t a typical Bright for the aforementioned reasons, Mr. Stenger can be my BFF too!

Similarly, I don’t want, say, Mr. Sam Harris think I prefer Mr. Michel Onfray on intellectual grounds — even if Mr. Onfray does have that big-unintelligible-words French thing going on, and even if Mr. Harris’s last book was so small that they could slip it right under the door in this place and not even have to use the pass-through thing (not that there’s anything wrong with a short book!). And flipping it around, I wouldn’t either want Mr. Onfray to think I prefer Mr. Harris, even though Mr. Harris at least writes in full sentences (if not always in full books!) And not. In cryptic. Esoteric to say the least. Fragments of knowing. Allusions translated from the French. That don’t always. Make sense.

But again! That doesn’t mean that Mr. Harris and Mr. Onfray and I can’t all be BFFs too! Just like I am seriously down with that total Alpha Atheist, Richard Dawkins (grrrr!). “I shall not go out of my way to offend, but nor shall I don kid gloves to handle religion any more gently than I would handle anything else”: I’m telling You, just thinking about that quote from The God Delusion sets my Evolved inner wiring to “Vibrate” like nothing else! So needless to say, Mr. Dawkins is my BFF, maybe even what You might call my Uber-BFF, too.

I hope You Guys followed all that! Because this talk about how We atheists are all Best Friends Forever is totally on point with the urgent subject of today’s Letter: namely, Our pathetic creeptastic sellout scumbag Dull ENEMIES. And most especially, our Todfeinde.*

Take a look for starters at the following pukalicious quote:

Now atheists come in different sorts. There is the rather gracious type who doesn’t personally believe in God, but is very happy if other people find the idea meaningful. And then there is the rather aggressive, intolerant sort, who regards people who believe in God as fools, knaves and liars, and wants to rid the world of them. I have to tell you that I was in that second category.

As some of You might recognize, this is one of many cheap shots lobbed against atheism by the intensely irritating religious convert, Alister McGrath — formerly a scientist doing something called molecular biophysics, later a Professor of Historical Theology (I know, that’s an oxymoron!) at Oxford, among other posts; former President of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics; and author of any number of books including The Dawkins Delusion? and The Twilight of Atheism and many more — all of which diss everything we atheists believe in from the point of view of a quote unquote Scientist who used to be an atheist himself, and who isn’t one anymore because of the alleged “evidence” against Us.

In other words, a total craptacular hoser traitor enemy combatant Loser-lover guy.

And is McGrath the end of this traitor problem for Us? As Stuart Larkin, a MAD TV character who was my hero for a while after I stopped going to church and before I met You guys, used to say, Nooooooooooo . . . which brings me to today’s major point that needs making about our struggle against the Dulls.

Frankly, it makes us atheists look like losers, note the small “l” there, that the believers have so many more converts than we do — and by “converts” I don’t mean the cradle types whose noses have been stuck to the altar stone from day one. I mean the ones who have known both the Bright and Dull sides of the argument inside and out — and who went on to betray Ours.

These guys (and girls! Yes, the Loser’s Side, unlike Ours, has plenty of girls!) get under my skin like no one else. It’s bad enough that there are so many Dull converts, both now and for the past couple of millenia. It’s bad enough that so many have been ranked among the chief brainos of their time. But what really jerks my chain is something even worse.

It’s that religious conversion, with the notable exception of Your humble servant here, is almost always a one-way street — and not only now, but going back to, say, Paul. Many a formerly firm atheist has become a Dull. But nowhere near as many firm Dulls, I mean real religious believers, have become atheists. That’s what burns me up (as it were!) about all those converts. It’s like they always get to be the cool “after” car on Pimp My Ride — and we atheists are almost always stuck being the dorky who’d-really-want-to-drive-this “before” one.

I don’t mean that we Brights haven’t gotten good at picking off many an agnostic or so-what kind of Human. Of course we score big time with the young guys who aren’t responsible for anything, and don’t really care about anything besides spending most of their time in the basement playing video games and texting girls unsuccessfully and firing off the occasional crazy blog or e-mail in between making runs to the fridge for booze and Red Bull and leftover pizza. Those folks are easy enough pickings for Us, as You know. And don’t get me wrong — I’m not knocking them! It’s not like Our atheist ranks don’t depend on the loyalty of guys like that!

But getting serious people over to Our side, once the Loser’s Word is really planted inside them? Forget about it! Just look at some of the most annoying traitor convert cases from the 20th century alone. In Britain and just for starters, we have Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, Graham Greene, Edith Sitwell, Siegfried Sassoon, Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, T. S. Eliot, and J.R.R. Tolkien. And you know how big that last one got with the Rings trilogy! I’m telling you, these things hurt.

In fact, there are so many Brit converts from that era that they’re the subject of an entire book called Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief. It was written by — what else? — one Joseph Pearce, a Dull convert who claimed he was himself turned by another convert, or should I say in this case Uber-convert: G.K. Chesterton.

That’s one good example of how the religious insanity gets transmitted. For a few more, how about Mortimer Adler, Tony Blair, Clare Booth Luce, Kit Carson, Frederick Copleston, Dorothy Day, Elizabeth Fox Genovese, Antonia Fraser, Peter Geach, Rene Gerard, Alec Guinness, Frederick Hart, Gerard Manley Hopkins, E. Howard Hunt, Russell Kirk? And that’s just cherry-picking through “A-K” on Wikipedia for the names I think You all would recognize; there are plenty more out there that You might not.

Let’s focus for a minute on my own personal nominee for worst-case EVER traitor Dull of all time. That would be G.E.M. — the “E” is for “Elizabeth” which is a Female name, if You see where I’m going with this — Anscombe.

Have You ever heard that phrase, “having it all”? Apparently, nobody told her she couldn’t. Not only a Woman, but a mother; not only a mother, but a mother of seven; not only a Woman mother of seven but married; not only a Woman mother of seven and married but happily married (to another genius, logician Peter Geach); not all that but also a Professor; not only all that plus a Professor but also at Cambridge; not only all that, but typically described as the most significant female philosopher of the twentieth century — and a confidant of Ludwig Wittgenstein whose Philosophical Investigations are still read in her translation — and not to put too fine a point on it, she was ANOTHER backstabbing Christian traitor convert, C-O-N-V-E-R-T, from early on.

And she never, ever shut up about the Loser, either. Not even when times were bad for the Church, like in the 1960s, and she defended all the most unpopular Dull teachings. Not even when times were good, and she won acclaim for all kinds of things including some non-religious monograph called Intention which most eggheads call one of the most important works of analytic philosophy of its time. She didn’t even stop talking about the Loser when she kicked the bucket! Even her obituary read: “She was attended on her deathbed by four of her seven children, all of whom are practicing Catholics.” Talk about rubbing it in!

Do You Guys have any idea how much this Anscombe thing alone hurts us? My bad! I forgot, atheists don’t seem to know many women. But let’s pretend You did, and let’s say You were playing Our favorite Bright “brain game” with one of them — You know, the one that goes, “Come join us atheists, my little chickadee, because that’s where all the Scientists and brainiacs are!” Well, what do You do if someone up and asks something like, well what about the likes of Elizabeth Anscombe? Wouldn’t even some of You be just a LITTLE set back? I mean I’ve read Your books and I’ve read hers too, and it’s not like that comparison exactly proves that all the I.Q. points are in the Bright corner!

Okay, forget about G. E. M. Anscombe! I admit, I’m a little obsessed there. Even sketchy ex-boyfriend Lobo could see that. That’s part of why he gave me your books, You know; more on that episode in a later Letter. For now, let’s focus instead on the many other Humans who have made the same trip to the Loser’s side like Anscombe did, and who also haven’t come back. I mean even after Darwin! After Ayn Rand! Even after Eddie Vedder went atheo, too!

I’m not making fun of our Bright celebrities of course. I just wish some of You wouldn’t make quite so much of them. It makes me nervous, because a lot of the names we atheists brag about just don’t measure up to the ones the Dulls can claim — like, way. Sometimes it feels like the believers are all getting to play Halo 3, while we atheists are still stuck on Mario Speedwagon.

And the convert cases just keep coming. In Washington DC alone during the past few years — yes, the past few years, exactly the time when this new atheism of Ours has been rolled out for discussion everywhere — any number of high-profile journalists and politicians have jumped ship for the Loser and taken the flak for it. And in more strategic bad news, we Brights lost an absolutely critical ally when Bernard Nathanson — formerly one of America’s chief abortionists and an actual founder of the fantabulous group NARAL, go, team! — went over to the Loser’s side. He said it was all because of the sonogram machine, can You believe such pathetic weakling word vomit?

Now why can’t we atheists snag somebody high profile like that? Maybe we should start a TV show called America’s Top Atheists, where the winners get to burn books by enemy religious converts! (How about Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, for starters!) Do You think that might help?

And Bernard Nathanson is just the beginning of Our worst enemies of all, i.e. those converts who also know Science. That Francis Collins of the Genome Project is especially in need of a takedown, in the opinion of this Bright. His argument that sequencing the human genome was what turned him Christian has done more damage to atheism than just about anything else the Dulls have thrown at Us lately. By the way, I notice that apart from one teeny-tiny mention of Collins in Mr. Dawkin’s book, the rest of You have avoided talking about those Scientists who are also religious believers. It’s just a little thing of course. But given the propaganda damage they’ve done, You might want to fix that in forthcoming editions so You’re not accused of ignoring something important!

But enough of this Debbie Downer stuff for now. Let’s look at the Bright side as it were — i.e., what we can do about these traitor cases!

Fortunately, one really inspiring example of how we atheists ought to handle them came to pass just last year. In 2007, a book appeared called There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. And this one wasn’t written by just any Dull, but rather by the worst sort imaginable, what You might call a Whittaker Chambers-level traitor to atheism: the unspeakably treacherous Antony Flew.

You Guys know exactly who I’m talking about. Prior to his 2004 declaration that he had turned coat, Flew, according to the dust jacket, was “probably the best-known atheist in the English-speaking world,” whose famous 1950 essay “Theology and Falsification” went on to become “the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last half century.” That’s a lot of Bright capital in one strand of DNA. Even so, did the Flew Judas manage to put a dent on Us by turning to the Loser?

No, he did not! And the reason why is that Mr. Dawkins — Alpha, Alpha, Alpha! Grrrr! — saw the proactive way out. He refers in one cool little footnote to what he calls “the over-publicized tergiversation of the philosopher Antony flew, who announced in his old age that he had been converted to belief in some sort of deity…” I have to admit, I admire the boldness of it! Just like I salivated like an Animal over that subsequent New York Times Magazine piece, repeating at much greater length exactly what Mr. Dawkins had implied: that Mr. Flew hadn’t really converted to Christianity! He was just old! Falling to pieces! Doddering! Demographically Unfit! Just out where the buses don’t run!

Yes, that’s what Mr. Mark Oppenheimer wrote (and wrote!) in America’s best-read Sunday magazine in his “The Turning of an Atheist,” which I quote here just a little so You can savor the classiness of the demolition again too:

With the publication of his new book, Flew is once again talking, and this summer I traveled to England to speak with him. But as I discovered, a conversation with him confuses more than it clarifies. With his powers in decline, Antony Flew, a man who devoted his life to rational argument, has become a mere symbol, a trophy in a battle fought by people whose agendas he does not fully understand.

Now that’s what I call a scoop, don’t You Guys?

Of course in the old days, when I myself was a Dull, it would have made my skin crawl to think of stalking an older gentleman to his home and then totally exploiting that opportunity to announce to the world without fear of reproof that he was failing and didn’t know what he was talking about. And predictably enough, Roy Abraham Varghese, Mr. Flew’s Preface writer, did immediately write in to the magazine, like any typical Dull with a sense of decency, to complain about what he called that “contemptible reference.”

But those kind of scruples wouldn’t stop us Brights from scoring a point, would they? Right, Guys? That’s one more thing I love about us! Go, Mr. Oppenheimer go! I bet he’s really, really proud of his work. Even if it was only a beginning, after all. Idea: Let’s make lists of every believer over seventy, and give them to him for more!

GTG for now, Guys. It’s group time in here, not my personal favorite. But first one more piece of good news — that’s gute Nachrichten in our Muttersprache — You’ll all really like my next Letter! It’s about what I call atheism’s Woman problem. And You know what that means — a little more talk about You-know-what!

TTYL, Your Best Friend Forever! (And Yours and Yours and Yours),

A.F. Christian

* Todfeinde means “deadly enemies,” as I just learned in Deutsch today. Told You the Director gave me a Rosetta set! He said it would help me understand what’s happening in here. I sure hope so! Because this is the craziest detox I’ve ever seen.

Editor’s note: Check in Friday for another LOSER LETTER. Read all LOSER LETTERS here.

Mary Eberstadt — Ms. Eberstadt has written for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including National Review, Policy Review, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, First Things, and the American Spectator.


The Latest