I’m a fan of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters
, as much for its insight into human nature as anything else, and I think Lewis now has a rival: The Loser Letters , by Mary Eberstadt. But instead of insight into the moral and religious problems at work among Christians as one finds in Lewis’ classic, Eberstadt’s book explores the logical and moral problems at work in new atheism.
What does her book do? It’s a series of ten letters to the New Atheists. Ten satirical letters, and I’m not a fan of cheap satire. This is good satire, uplifting and insightful and edgy and fun. The letters are written by the new convert to atheism, A.F. Christian (A Former Christian), to the upper echelon of new atheists, like Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris, on why the new atheists have got to shape up or they’re not going to get many converts (like A.F. herself). In short, A.F. Christian exposes the weaknesses of the new atheists.
And this is witty and wicked satire.
I begin with Letter #1, a letter about sex, or about the new sexual ethics of untrammeled atheism. Where does it get us?, she asks.
Did the sexual revolution help us? hurt us? help women? help men? hurt women? hurt men? What happens when we get sex without constraint? Sex that is shaped by consent? Sex that is shaped by privacy? Which world is better, the sexually constrained the sexually unconstrained?
In trouble, she answers. The Brights (atheists) want to rid the world of the ethic of the Dulls (the Christians) when it comes to sex. What ought to matter, the new atheists argue, is consensual actions and privacy; what ought not to matter is monogamy and staying together for the kids and self-restraint.
A.F.Christian thinks this teaching about sex is dangerous for new atheism. The sexual revolution is here and it’s taught us (all of us, she says) something, and it’s not good for the new atheists. The Dulls will all say we Brights don’t know what we’re talking about. (She fears the Dulls are right.)
Ever try a college campus, she asks. And ever think of pornography and diseases all over the place, red light districts and more and more children abused by conscience-less amoral thugs. She asks if they want their daughters living like this. Experience shows her that living like that isn’t the path of happiness. The Dulls get this best. Throwing out the rules made lots of folks miserable.
That life is worse for women than men. And it has rendered many families miserable.
Thus: “If our Movement,” A.F. Christian observes, “is really going to go around arguing that the sooner we get rid of all those rules, the happier humanity is going to be, we’re going to get blown away by the counterevidence” (22).
And she tells her superiors: if we actually followed the Dulls, we’d all be happier. For example: “Do guys who have already slept with a hundred women make worse boyfriends than those who haven’t?” (23).