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Thursday, September 21st, 2006 | ISSN 1556-5696

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Why Darwin Matters:
The Case for Evolution & Against Intelligent Design

with Dr. Michael Shermer

Sunday, September 24th, 2pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech, Pasadena, CA

Evolution happened, and the theory describing it is one of the most well founded in all of science. Then why do half of all Americans reject it?…

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In this week’s eSkeptic, Matthew Provonsha reviews Ann Coulter’s book Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, 2006, ISBN 1400054206).


Godless: The Church of Liberalism

a book review by Matthew Provonsha

Ann Coulter’s new book is vulgar propaganda that goes against both science and reason. She has made a living as the cruel darling of the Religious Right, and in this book she aims her harsh rhetoric against, among other things, evolutionary biology, atheism, and what she calls “liberalism.” The entire book in fact is a sustained attack on a group that doesn’t even exist, namely “liberals,” in the sense of the word that Coulter has made up.

In her own words, Coulter’s thesis is that “Liberalism IS a religion.” She even refers to liberalism as “the state-sanctioned religion.” This is borderline conspiracy theory, from the woman who called the Branch Davidians “harmless American citizens.” In a kind of transubstantiation, we are supposed to believe that despite all outward appearances, our government is actually controlled by atheists. She says, “Democrats revile religion,” and “liberals love to boast that they are not ‘religious.’”

This is absurd. Coulter sticks to generalizations because she can’t give any cogent examples. Martin Luther King Jr. was undeniably Christian and liberal, but I doubt she had him in mind when she wrote, “I would be crestfallen to discover any liberals in heaven.” Ann Coulter is going to heaven and Martin Luther King Jr. is not? For shame.

Coulter can’t name a godless president or member of Congress. The last two Democratic presidents have been born-again Christians, and the vast majority of liberals are Christian, yet Coulter defines “liberals” as people who reject notions of God and an immortal soul. Meanwhile, the overtly Christian Republican Party is in control of all three branches of government. In this aspect of the book, as in others, it is exceedingly difficult to take Coulter seriously, and it is hardly surprising that many commentators on the left and right have questioned her sincerity.

Godless (cover)

ID proponent William Dembski wrote on his blog that he takes full responsibility for any errors in the last few chapters of the book, which deal with evolution. Several websites have pointed out plenty of them, so if he was being honest, he has got his work cut out for him. But it doesn’t matter how much evidence there is against Coulter because she just lies when the truth gets in the way of her agenda. She lies brazenly in the book about the Dover trial, which ruled the teaching of ID in science classrooms unconstitutional. According to Coulter: “They won the way liberals always win: by finding a court to hand them everything they want on a silver platter.” Here Ann Coulter shows herself to be either completely incompetent or deliberately deceptive. The judge that presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District is a life-long Republican and a church-goer, appointed to the federal bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush. Clifford A. Rieders, the former president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and a Democrat, said Judge Jones is “universally well regarded.” Coulter’s attempt to smear him is transparently motivated by her ideological concerns, not the facts.

Like other bigots, Ann Coulter attacks what she perceives to be easy targets. In the past she has attacked Arabs, Muslims, and homosexuals, and in this book she saves some of her harshest words for environmentalists and America’s most mistrusted minority, atheists. She writes, “The theory of vegetarianism is that Americans consume ‘too much’ energy.” To the contrary, vegetarianism is not a theory at all, it is the practice of not eating meat. There are a variety of reasons for practicing vegetarianism, and an individual vegetarian’s choice to avoid meat may have nothing at all to do with concerns about over-consumption or inefficient consumption. She adds, “Environmentalists’ energy plan is the repudiation of America and Christian destiny, which is Jet Skis, steak on the electric grill, hot showers, and night skiing.”

This consumerist position is untenable in light of much of Christian and American intellectual history. Coulter can’t point to a verse in the New Testament promoting self-indulgence that could justify the conspicuous consumption of the rich while tens of thousands die every day due to malnutrition and easily treatable diseases. Jesus exhorts his followers, “Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy,” and seek treasures in heaven instead of on earth. Nowhere in Coulter’s book does she express concern for the troubled people of the third world where there are food and drug shortages, or for the poor in this country who can’t even afford healthcare, much less jet skis or night skiing.

Coulter’s religion is not like that of the author of the Book of Proverbs, who prayed for neither poverty nor riches but, “only the necessaries of life.” Her religion is not like St. Thomas Aquinas’s, who went so far as to say that anything held in superabundance must be given to provide for the sustenance of the poor. If we are to infer “Christian destiny” by looking at Christian history, we see that Coulter’s ideal is nothing like the ideal put forth by most Christian leaders of the past. St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek,” but Coulter has said that the Biblical view is to “rape the planet.”

Coulter’s distortion of history in order to misrepresent atheism is particularly disturbing. She wants us to believe that the horrors of Nazi Germany, the USSR, and the People’s Republic of China are in some way due to atheism and acceptance of evolution. “Hitler’s world-view was based on Darwinism, not God,” she writes. This is clearly a lie designed to denounce Darwinism by association. It is contrary to Hitler’s own words, as even a cursory reading of Mein Kampf shows. In it Hitler writes, “Hence today I believe I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Though she claims that Hitler cited Darwin, she can’t substantiate it, and thus this is yet another baseless assertion. Hitler was obviously either heavily influenced by Christian beliefs, or wanted to appear as though he was. Along with various other influences, Nazism undoubtedly drew from a long-standing Christian tradition of anti-Semitism. As far as I can discern, Hitler never even mentioned Darwin; rather, he repeatedly claimed to be doing the will of Providence.

Coulter’s attempt to blame Darwin for the horrific famines in China is ironic given that they occurred partly because Communist scientists rejected Darwin. Denying what they called “capitalist science,” they paved the way for agricultural catastrophe. Coulter even suggests that Darwin is to blame for “Stalinist gulags.” In reality, Stalin sent scientists to gulags for espousing Darwinian evolution.

Throughout the book Coulter never argues her points, but makes ad hominem attacks and false analogies, attacks straw-men and blatantly misrepresents history. She can’t even distinguish between Darwinism and Social Darwinism. She is as bad on ethics as she is on science, and is completely inept regarding logical reasoning. When she says atheists are always the ones practicing genocide, she shows that she hasn’t even read her scriptures.

There is no “church of liberalism,” there isn’t even “liberalism,” in Coulter’s sense. Liberals are not “pro-abortion,” and no atheist hates God. Godless is a ridiculous book and Ann Coulter lies flagrantly and is as self-righteous as she is malicious. The most controversial line in the book is her condemnation of four 9/11 widows who chose to involve themselves in politics: “I have never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much.” But it’s not the only nasty thing she wrote in the book and she has said even worse things in the past. She has used epithets like “raghead,” “paki,” and “gay boy.” She actually said, “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”

Coulter’s fans apparently consider death threats and violent rhetoric humorous, and she doesn’t disappoint them. She is a hate-mongering reactionary who has said she is for public flogging, and against women’s suffrage. I wish I were making this up. Godless is a boring collection of rants filled with utterly mind-boggling absurdities, like, “public schools are the Left’s madrassas,” “The most important value to liberals is destroying human life” (in reference to abortion), and “liberals made up Watergate.” We needn’t worry about misinterpreting her words because she has repeatedly told interviewers that she believes everything she wrote in the book. She has even said that she never regrets anything she has ever said and she wouldn’t have said anything differently. Even if the cynics are right to say that Coulter is laughing all the way to the bank and that she doesn’t really believe any of it, it still reflects horribly on our media that gives her a national platform, and on our culture in which she is thriving with a lucrative speaking career and best-selling books.

7 Comments »

7 Comments

  1. Arnold says:

    You’re making the same mistake as Eric Alterman. In your heart of hearts, you know Coulter is a performance artist who puts Borat to shame. She believes none of what she writes, and writes what she writes to make money. The second reasonable people realize this and stop taking her seriously is the second she vanishes from relevance.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Arnold. I agree that Coulter is out to make money, but i am not convinced that she is just a performance artist who doesn’t believe what she spews out. Ive read quite a few of her books and some members of my family just love her and swallow her garbage unquestioningly.

  3. Aric says:

    Walk into most colleges in North America and ask someone randomly if they are religious. Once they say “no” ask if they agree with the War in Iraq. Once they say “no” ask them if they believe capitalism is the best way for an economy to run. Once they say “no” go to another college student and repeat the same questions. Liberalism may not be a system of beliefs, but it is a system of negations so I can see where Ann Coulter is almost justified calling “liberalism” a religion. Coulter is making large exaggerations and offensive statements to draw attention. It isn’t right, but the left-wing has been doing this far more extreme and for far longer.

  4. John says:

    “Large exaggerations”? What a nice euphemism for outright lies. And pointing to a wrong to justify a wrong is classic conservative tactics. Asking three educated people a question and getting the same answer doesn’t a religion make. Talk about reaching.

    Whatever she is, liar, hate-monger, or performance-artist the horrifying thing is that there are enough ignorant people out there that buy her books to make them best-sellers.

    • David says:

      “Whatever she is, liar, hate-monger, or performance-artist the horrifying thing is that there are enough ignorant people out there that buy her books to make them best-sellers.”

      So true. Not to worry though. When they blow us all up, at least they’ll be saved and live on streets paved with gold or sit at the right hand of Jesus or in a house with their 72 virgins etc…

      • Mudz says:

        I don’t think Muslims believe in that ‘sitting at the right hand of Christ’. But at least they get something out of it. Who knows what the Tamil Tigers expect to get?

        Besides, I think Ann is a Christian. She doesn’t seem particularly fond of Islam.

        @John

        How many people does it take, Admiral?

  5. Mudz says:

    @ Matthew / OP

    No atheist hates God? That affirms my belief that few true atheists really exist.

    I have little attachment to American political polarisation, but I kind of want to read her book now, if only to try and understand you guys. (Or possibly because in NZ, the equivalent of ‘liberalism’ is the only thing that exists.) After reading a slew of stuff like ‘The God Delusion’ and 50 zillion different sites devoted to hating God and Christians, I’ll admit to a little generosity towards people who forget Christians are supposed to be mild. Though honest denunciation may be warranted sometimes.

    What’s with the objection to ‘church of liberalism’? Isn’t liberalism a large enough ideology to be given a group denomination? ‘Church’ is used for everything. You could have the ‘Shrine dedicated to the god of football’ if you decide TV is too abbreviated.

    And I think you’ve find there could be an association betwen ‘liberal’ ideology and ‘women should be given liberty of choice about their own bodies’. Those are the things that I would probably identify as liberal. The desire to create a less restrictive society, as opposed to what I assume is the conservative desire to strengthen restrictions or preserve them.

    And you’ll find that many, many people, atheists included, have a lot of trouble not applying Darwinian principles to society. ‘Survival of the fittest’ isn’t that basically the most cliche social phrase ever now, along with ‘dog eat dog’? I fairly recently was discussing with atheist evolutionists about the morals of ‘designer babies’, which was a euphemism for aborting retarded or crippled children. The very first comment in it’s defense was (from memory), ‘you just have to face up to the fact, that we’re just speeding up what nature does naturally, so it’s silly to complain about it’.

    “She wants us to believe that the horrors of Nazi Germany, the USSR, and the People’s Republic of China are in some way due to atheism and acceptance of evolution.”

    Strangely easy to believe, at that. Considering the Nazis’ and Communists’ evolutionary propaganda and the Communists’ hatred of religion. (Hitler was more specific in his religious views.)

    Hitler’s ideology was more conformative with evolutionary ideology. He was trying to breed a race of genetically superior ubermench through eugenics, and used this ideal to inspire his country and armies. It justified so many of his evils, it was endlessly useful for ‘improving’ things, when you took a ‘beast of nature’ vs. ‘image of God’ approach. It was in no form a Christian or Jewish philosophy.

    Yes, he did appeal himself to Christians in Germany, quite effectively bullshitting them. But I can see you seem to understand he was full of shit. The best estimation I’ve heard is that he was a pagan. I don’t blame atheism for Hitler, but I do attribute a hatred of, if not God, then Christianity, to him (as evidenced by his quoted desire to make them ‘betray their God’).

    According to rationalwiki – “If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.” — Hitler

    “Nazism undoubtedly drew from a long-standing Christian tradition of anti-Semitism”

    Considering that all the anti-semitism I heard on account of Nazis and Hitler seemed to revolve around things like ‘blue eyes, blond hair’, genetic superiority and evolution as opposed to extended scriptural apologetics, I do in fact, entertain some doubts.

    “As far as I can discern, Hitler never even mentioned Darwin; rather, he repeatedly claimed to be doing the will of Providence.”

    I suspect that the fact you didn’t say ‘God’ means that ‘Providence’ means something entirely different and pointless, and you’re trying to sneak one past with implication. (I won’t hold it against you, it is a beggar right there.)

    “Christianity is an invention of sick brains,” — Adolf Hitler, 13 December 1941.

    “So it’s not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the Churches. The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death,” — Adolf Hitler, 14 October 1941.

    “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” — Hitler

    I can accept your counter of about genocide, largely. Yes, God did command the land to be cleared out so they could inherit it. Their race, even if such a thing was of any importance to Him, had nothing to do with it. It was conquest, pure and simple.

    What communist and atheist leaders have a purported habit of doing, is the slaughter of their own population according to communistic atheist ideals, in the tens of millions.

    There is some but not an overwhelming amount of moral equivalency, if all warrants were equal.

    If memory serves, the communist scientists did indeed reject Darwin, and absorbed an even more ludicrous adherent of evolutionary thinking that even Darwinists consider batty. It was still evolution.
    (Can’t remember if it was Lamarckism or some other L word. Funnily enough, Lamarckism’s making a come-back via epigenetics.)

    And I’m presuming we’re talking about Pol Potz who starved millions his peasants to trade foodstuff for weapons? Why, yes, he was a communist and an atheist, who felt no moral compunction about sacrificing two kinds of biological matter for his weapons.

    As for the rest of your complaints, flogging, suffrage, abortion, I’ll let ‘em pass. Though I’ll mention I was amused by her 9/11 comment.

    And I’m sure Coulter’s fans would be fans of her for that reason, we generally do feel that way about people that say the things we believe in.
    Just think Christopher Hitchens or Dawkins, you probably felt some sort of relief and joy that they would take the evils of the world so bravely to task.
    (The fact that I think they’re hate-twisted and that Dawkins is a douchebag and that they’re both terribly, terribly misguided, probably wouldn’t dissuadeyou.)

    I have no idea about the ideological swing of Christian vs. Atheist in the U.S.A.
    All I can tell you is whenever I switch on my TV or go to the movies in NZ, I’m not watching Christian-oriented news and entertainment.

    I will agree with you about consumerism, however. Though it must be said there’s a distinction between the pursuit of money, and the pursuit of a fun life.

    To be honest, it’s because of the fact that people I shall broadly define as ‘you’, seem to hate her, that kind of makes me want to read her stuff.

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