I have finished reading Godless: the Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter. Whew! I didn’t think I would survive the ordeal.
Ann Coulter is a prominent right-wing media personality in America. However, it is not her conservative views which get her attention: it is the outright hatred she has for the “other”, and the purposefully rude way in which she expresses her opinion, that does it. Liberals hate her, and she revels in it.
I read this book to see whether Ann is as black as she’s painted. Well, she’s blacker. I did not think a human being could spew so much hate and still remain sane (unless it’s all an act to gain media attention, as some of her detractors say, which is quite possible).
Ann Coulter’s main argument in this book is against the separation of the Church and the State. As a conservative Christian, she would like to see the USA become a theocracy; however, this is effectively prevented by the constitution which is secular. So she goes on to attack secularism itself as a godless religion, rather than a logical frame work where all kinds of thoughts can coexist side by side.
The book is very badly written, with plenty of her pet peeves surfacing time and again, interspersed with snide remarks and name-calling, so there is no coherent central argument. However, the main points Ms. Coulter tries make can be summarised as:
- Liberal thought is a godless religion, less logical than Christianity, which is being forced on Americans through public institutions and state schools.
- Liberals want to live a life free of any moral code.
- Liberals are hell-bent on supporting criminals who have done heinous crimes against humanity, and time and again have sent prisoners out on parole who have again committed more serious crimes.
- Liberals are in favour of abortion, just because they don’t mind killing babies to enjoy indiscriminate sex.
- Muslims are a danger to the world. President George Bush is right in attacking Iraq and killing Saddam Hussein. However, Liberals support Islamic terrorists.
- Liberals support public school teachers who (in her opinion) are a bunch of overpaid slackers, responsible for Americans’ decline in the intellectual field.
- Liberal science has no evidential support: the deleterious effects of pesticides, global warming, the fact that AIDS attacks heterosexuals as well as gays, the benefits of embryonic stem cell research… these are all myths created by liberals to further their political agenda. Anybody who speaks out against these is hounded out of the scientific establishment.
- And most importantly – the theory of evolution (which she calls “Darwinism”) – is absolute nonsense.
Most of the “arguments” (if they can be called that) the author presents for each of the above are pretty shaky – most of them are straw men, and will convince only the already converted. She is in fact preaching to the choir. However, she purposefully misrepresents facts. These half-truths are more dangerous than outright lies; even those who dislike her rhetoric may fall for the veneer of truth in her analysis.
(I did a quick research on two cases which Ann Coulter presented as proof of the liberal penchant for loosening inhuman criminals on society. The first, the case of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti in the 1920’s who purportedly murdered two payroll carriers, she presents as an open-and-shut case. What is more, she says that their liberal supporters were aware that they were guilty, but still lied to the authorities and public. However, it seems that there is plenty of evidence to believe that Vanzetti was innocent; and Sacco’s guilt is not proved beyond doubt. More importantly, there is every reason to believe that the defendants were not given a fair trial.
The second case is more distressing. Dennis Dechaine was convicted of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in Maine. The way Coulter describes it, the case is airtight: Dechaine is another monster that the liberals are trying to save. But a quick search on the net will bring out the full facts – there were at least two other people who could be guilty. Dechaine’s supporters are asking only for a retrial, not an acquittal, with newly acquired DNA evidence: however, the state is adamant that it will not budge. It seems more of a case of government obstinacy than a conspiracy to free a convicted criminal.)
If Ann had her way, lynch mobs would replace trial courts. She is angry with the drawn-out trials, the pleas for leniency, and the mounting pressure to ban capital punishment. In her opinion, harsh punishment is the only deterrent for violent crime: for all her hatred of Sharia law, one feels that Saudi Arabia would be her ideal country.
(Ironically, for a person hell-bent on the death penalty, she considers herself “pro-life”, which means against abortion. It seems that the conservatives value human life only when in the foetal stage!)
Ms. Coulter singles out some individuals for special treatment – one of the main recipients of her venom is Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Dukakis is the ultra-liberal: a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union (something akin to a witches’ coven in Ann’s view), he advocated furloughs for even convicted first-degree murderers during his term in office. (Dukakis also declared August 23, 1977 as “Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Day”, to atone for their “unfair trial and conviction” – sacrilege according to Ms. Coulter.)
Dukakis lost the 1988 election to George H. W. Bush, helped in a large part due to a racist campaign focussing on the convicted murderer Willie Horton Dukakis allowed to go on furlough, and who committed a vicious assault and rape during his time outside the prison. Ann Coulter however, glosses over the campaign itself, playing down the racist angle. According her, Dukakis lost because his liberal views, especially the ones regarding the treatment of criminals, were rejected by the public (even so, Ann’s racial bias is evident throughout: at one point, she calls him the “Greek midget”).
Ms. Coulter uses gutter language to criticise many prominent Democrats including Bill Clinton and Al Gore (her sexual innuendos about Clinton are nauseating), and fawns over Republicans, especially George W. Bush, who in her opinion is a sort of divine incarnation come to rescue America. Needless to say, she considers America’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq legitimate – it is “protecting America”. From the hindsight of 2014, when the USA is crawling back from the Middle East with its tail between its legs, her contention that America would have won the Vietnam War had not protests at home forced the government to abandon it seems laughably silly. She writes at a point of time when Republicans are still waiting for the imminent discovery of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” hoarded by Saddam! One could feel pity for her, if she were not so contemptuous of the mothers who have lost sons in Iraq.
According to Ann, all liberals are anti-science: they use the scientific method just to push their agenda on abortion, gay rights, global warming, etc. No wonder, as the conservatives view science as a tool just to help them exploit nature and other human beings. She favours the indiscriminate use of pesticides and the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels: the protection of environment is anathema to her, as she views it from the biblical perspective as man’s natural bounty, to be consumed at will. The view that man is part of nature will sound like common sense to most normal human beings, but not to conservatives of Ms. Coulter’s ilk. To quote an example: “We believe in populating the Earth until there’s standing room only and then colonizing Mars; they believe humans are in the twilight of their existence.” – I rest my case.
But it is when it comes to the theory of evolution that Ann Coulter really outdoes herself. According to her, evolution is only a theory, having absolutely no basis in fact that the liberals are “forcing” on Americans, by making it mandatory in schools. Creation theory is much more solid in her opinion. Ann is clever enough not to argue for the Biblical creation myth as science: she knows that she will be laughed out of court. Her theory of choice Intelligent Design (ID) as propounded by the biologist Michael Behe, which posits a supernatural intelligence behind the development of various life-forms. Ms. Coulter says despite many scientists favouring this theory, liberals are using their hold on the scientific establishment and academia to keep it out of schools.
As a person who followed the ID debate with interest, I know most of what Ann Coulter says is contrary to facts. ID was thrown out of the science curriculum in schools because it was not science: it did not present any alternative to evolution; rather, it only argued that there was a divine will behind the process. As any college student knows, such a theory can never be refuted as it is not falsifiable. The Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District judgement has become famous not without reason.
This does not deter the creationists, however: they try to sneak ID into schools every now and then. The case of Roger DeHart is a classic example. This is what Ann Coulter has to say about it:
Roger DeHart used to teach biology at Burlington-Edison High School in Washington State, where he supplemented his curriculum with newspaper stories on the Chinese fossils from newspapers like the Boston Globe and the New York Times. He never mentioned God. The ACLU threatened to sue and the school removed DeHart from his class, replacing him with a recent teachers’ college graduate who had majored in physical education. Thus were the students of Burlington-Edison High School saved from having to hear scientific facts that might cause them to question their faith in the official state religion.
This is what Wikipedia says:
In 1997 it became known to the public that longtime biology teacher Roger DeHart had been teaching intelligent design in his curriculum through excerpts of Of Pandas and People and Inherit the Wind. This event brought forth national attention and controversy. From 1986 to 1997, Roger DeHart had subtly posed the intelligent design theory in the classroom. After parents of one of DeHart’s students notified the American Civil Liberties Union, the group threatened to sue the Burlington-Edison School District if DeHart didn’t stop teaching intelligent design. The event sparked large debate, and support groups for both sides were formed. DeHart was later reassigned to earth sciences, and in 2001 he resigned and took a teaching job at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. He taught there for one year before transferring to a Christian school in California.
See the subtle twisting of facts? Goebbels would have been envious! Of course, it is possible that Wikipedia is wrong or controlled by scheming liberals, but I find it much more believable than Ann Coulter.
Richard Sternberg is another example, who as an unpaid research associate at the Smithsonian, published a controversial article about Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a journal of which he was the editor. There was a doubt as to whether the article may not have undergone the normal peer-review procedure, so the magazine disowned it. Subsequent to this turn of events, Sternberg filed a complaint against the Smithsonian for harassment; a complaint which did not stick as he had no locus standi since he was unpaid. Sternberg’s impartial credentials are also doubtful since he is an open proponent of ID. However, in Ms. Coulter’s version of the narrative, he is a martyred scientist tortured by the big, bad liberal establishment.
It is also interesting to note that most of the “scientists” quoted in the book belong to the Discovery Institute, which
…is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of the pseudoscience “intelligent design” (ID). Its “Teach the Controversy” campaign aims to teach creationist anti-evolution beliefs in United States public high school science courses alongside accepted scientific theories, positing a scientific controversy exists over these subjects.
The Discovery Institute, by their own admission as set forth in their manifesto, follows the “Wedge Strategy”.
The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Institute manifesto known as the Wedge Document, which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and “reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” The strategy also aims to affirm what it calls “God’s reality.” Its goal is to change American culture by shaping public policy to reflect conservative Christian, namely evangelical Protestant, values. The wedge metaphor is attributed to Phillip E. Johnson and depicts a metal wedge splitting a log to represent an aggressive public relations program to create an opening for the supernatural in the public’s understanding of science.
It is hardly surprising that scientists resist the Discovery Institute’s attempts to gate-crash the science party. It has nothing to do with science, and plenty to do with religion. It is religious dogma’s last-gasp attempt to enter the science classroom through the backdoor, after reason has pushed it out of the front door. Please note that this has nothing to do with religious freedom: it is the attempt to teach religious belief as science which is being resisted. Ironically, as Ms. Coulter bemoans all these true scientists being persecuted by liberals, she is resoundingly silent about the history of the persecution of scientists by the religious establishment.
To sum up: the book is nothing but a polemic. It will delight the conservatives and disgust the liberals. However, I see one danger: any neutral person reading the book might believe the “facts” presented by Ms. Coulter, because of the superficial semblance to truth they carry. I would advise such readers with “open” minds to read the other side of the debate also. To balance Ann, I suggest Michael Moore!
One last word, especially to Indian readers:
- Ann Coulter considers liberals’ tolerance of Muslims as treasonous, as she considers most Muslims as terrorists and Islam as a religion of violence.
- She considers any consideration of the environment as a potential roadblock in the path of development and progress.
- She believes Democrats develop African-Americans as a vote bank; she believes that illegal immigration is encouraged by them to swell their vote banks.
- She believes gays and lesbians have no legal rights.
- She believes there should not be any separation of the Church and the State, and America should be a Christian nation.
…Any of the above ring a bell?
Yes, conservatives are the same everywhere. Their philosophy is one of hatred – hate the “Other”, because they hate you. Kill them, before they kill you. If you listen to them, sooner or later fear will get into your heart – then hatred. From that to murder is only a step. It happened in Germany in the last century.