Voltaire famously quipped that if God didn’t exist, he would have to be invented. American publishers would enthusiastically agree because God, it turns out, is a consistent moneymaker—especially, these days, for those who want to attack him.
The anti-God books have appeared in the wake of two developments: the rise of Islamic fundamentalism overseas and the religious right’s enormous influence on President Bush’s policies here at home. But as responses, the secular jeremiads don’t make a whole lot of sense.
Who, exactly, are they aimed at? Who is the ideal reader of these attacks on belief in God? Not Muslim or Christian fundamentalists, obviously, because one of the engines driving religious fundamentalism today is, precisely, a hostility toward modern science. If anyone thinks that Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion”—with its “scientific” attempts to refute the existence of God—is going to persuade today’s religious fanatics, here or abroad, to loosen up and enjoy a little MTV, you have to ask yourself just who is “deluded.” It’s hard to imagine anyone abandoning his faith after reading Harris’ condescending polemic, or the science of Dawkins and Dennett, or Hitchens’ vitriol.
The attacks in the books often don’t make much sense either. For instance, Bush and his gang preach Christian values while lying us into a slaughterhouse overseas, ransacking our public coffers and ignoring social inequities and iniquities at home—and so our heroic anti-religionists attack . . . Christian values. But shouldn’t they be attacking Bush and Co.‘s hypocrisy in betraying Christian values instead?