I didn’t want to like this book. I had read up a little on the internet polemicist known as Vox Day after learning that I was going to get to review his book The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. Finding authentic information about Mr. Day is easier said than done, as is finding fair opinions about him. There are photographs of him, most of which put him somewhere between professional wrestler Lance Storm and perhaps a hairier update to Agent 47.
Day is, according to the jacket of the book, a “video game design expert and a libertarian opinion columnist.” He does indeed pen a column for WorldNetDaily, a social conservative website that has featured such winning articles in the past as Jim Rutz’s “Soy is Making Kids Gay.” Day is featured on WND along with columnists like Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michael Medved, and Chuck Norris. Yes, that Chuck Norris.
Vox Day also speaks three languages and is a member of Mensa. His real name is Theodore Beale.
With The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, Mr. Day hopes to target the “New Atheists” and dismantle their arguments without resorting to the Bible or any sort of theology. He hopes to use their best weapons against them.
Day’s book is a polemic commendable of standing against his targets. Antagonists complain about ad hominem attacks and other sorts of logical fallacies, but their unawareness to the same material in the books of their heroes is raucously unambiguous. Day plays the same game as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and others. He does not claim to do otherwise.
This is not a book that presents a substitute premise to the claims of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. It is, fundamentally, a volume unmistakably designed around the initiative of simply proving them wrong.
The first few chapters serve as preparatory pieces of rhetoric. Day sets his groundwork early before journeying into the particular arguments of his opponents, proposing a classification of High Church and Low Church atheists and arguing that science has done more injury than religion in terms of history. This argument is set up, according to Day, on rhetorical grounds. At any rate, this segment of the book is rather one-dimensional and unpersuasive.
It is when Day gets explicit that The Irrational Atheist takes off.
The bulk of his rancorous hostility is crooked towards Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. He starts with the weakest of the New Atheists, Harris, in a chapter rightly dubbed “The End of Sam Harris.” Day refers to Harris as an “ecstasy using dropout” and takes on Harris’ notion that religious people are intolerant towards atheists/agnostics. Day claims that atheists are not being persecuted anywhere in the world, whereas religious people are being persecuted with great constancy by atheists in China, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea. He especially has fun with Harris’ farcical Red State-Blue State argument.
The chapter entitled “Darwin’s Judas” takes aim at Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Day claims that Dawkins has abandoned science in trying to make his arguments against religion, noting that Dawkins’ lack of contact with the preponderance of religious arguments in The God Delusion. Day claims that Dawkins is not actually interested in considering the question of God’s existence with any authenticity and relies on an obsolete understanding of the “arguments” for faith. The chapter also points out that Dawkins has never explained what scientific proof for God would be adequate and utilizes a reasonably convincing argument involving well-known fractals like the Sierpinski Triangle to counter Dawkins’ “Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit.”
“A Marxian Apostate” is reserved for Christopher Hitchens. Day chooses to let his footnotes (there are a lot of them and not all of them are helpful) do the talking in this chapter, as he takes about five pages in the form of a chart to discuss direct quotes from Hitchens’ god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Day insists that the quotes from Hitchens’ were made without substantiation and, thus, can be refuted without evidence.
Vox Day moves beyond his Unholy Trinity to take on Daniel C. Dennett in “The Pragmatic Philosopher.” Originally intended to be a part of the Trinity, Day explains that Hitchens’ fame actually flung him to the front of the line and left poor Dennett in the backdrop. Day is unseasonably kind with Dennett here, showing admiration for his work and many of his philosophical conclusions. He finds Dennett to be the most thoughtful and courteous of the New Atheists and the chapters regarding him are quite docile.
Day’s final target is an elusive one and a French one. Michel Onfray is given the Vox Day treatment with “The Robespierre of Atheism.” Having read Onfray’s book recently, I found this chapter particularly interesting. Day’s assessment of Onfray and his rejection of common morality are pretty much on target. His notation of Onfray’s “spirituality of the profane” deserves a look, as does his setting apart of the French philosopher from the rest of the New Atheists with Onfray’s “evilness” well in tow.
Day finishes up the book with a succession of chapters that take part in the usual game of Matching Atrocities and playing with comparative behaviour. These chapters are all worth a look, but tend to drag as the book carries on. No one group can claim imperviousness from human horrors; we all have blood on our hands.
Overall, Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist is a level-headed deconstruction of the New Atheists and their particular tomes. It is engaging, snappy, and crammed with derision and humour. A read-through of the reviews at Amazon will find that Day’s writing style is a sticking point for many of his opponents, although they seem to praise Harris, Dawkins, and especially Hitchens for proceeding along the same lines. Will wonders never cease?
If an intelligent and well-written evaluation of the New Atheists’ core arguments is an attractive notion, Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist is one of the most precise works available to date.Powered by Sidelines