Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Also in The New Republic, Alan Wolfe eviscerates Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism:

Her book is not a criticism of religion and a defense of non-belief. It is instead an attack on those believers with whom she has little political sympathy and an appreciation of those with whose views she agrees.

This is a case of one non-believer trashing another on the subject of non-belief, which is what I've always loved about TNR. The magazine has a long history of skepticism from within, of testing and often trashing the things people aligned with one side of a debate are "supposed" to believe in. Part of the reason the Wolfe article is so refereshing is that TNR has been on such a vicious anti-God track for some years now; for the magazine that always helps set the national debate, atheism seems to be the direction they're pushing for. The low point -- and I say low because it was so pathetically uncritical -- was Simon Blackburn's book-length hand-job on Richard Dawkins. (If you want to read the review that should have appeared in TNR, read H. Allen Orr's takedown in The New York Review of Books.) Then there's James Wood's book criticism -- which, I'll admit, I don't do much more than scan these days -- which always involves the same scenario of Wood trying to bulldoze one more marked-up Penguin paperback into the God-sized hole in his head. The temptation is strong to say "And then there's Leon Wieseltier and his embarrassingly cranky phillipic against The Passion of the Christ..." -- but I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't really, really say. Gibson did put a boil on his ass though.

Anyway, enough of this. Let's just say for the evening Wolfe's article restored my own sometimes wobbly faith in the magazine.

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