Avoiding America's Suicide

One needs courage to take on the challenge of reviewing a book like Michael H. Davison's America's Suicide (Dapa Publishing, 2014).  Many such volumes fill bookstores every year, with a few remnants from each crop to gather dust for untold years to come.  When they're not narrowly focused – and such iterations are often quite good – they serve as an outlet for their authors' opinion on any number of often barely connected subjects.  America's Suicide is one of the latter types.

A two-pronged theme does tie the book's peregrine chapters together – namely, (1) we as Americans have drifted away from our founding traditions, which is bad, and (2) appealing to traditions to govern personal or governmental behavior is also bad.

In other words, Davison wants all the good that came out of the American founding and the Constitution while still reserving the right to despise Christianity, which undergirds that same wellspring of good.

An examination of one particular chapter will illustrate the point.  Davison titles his finale "Dénouement" (calling to mind the political axiom "If you're explaining, you're losing"), but the book's true climax arrives in Chapter 6, titled "Religion Illusions."

To catalogue the vicious straw men and question-begging here would make this review too long for even its author to want to read.  (An appetizer from another chapter [28]: "the medieval inquisitor who readily meted out the most unspeakable tortures while piously claiming to be but a humble instrument of God.")  It suffices to call out the umbrella under which all of these offenses huddle: the tendentious zooming out of the concept of "religion" to include all religions, without any scrutiny of or appreciation for the differences among them.  This – the weird personification of vague, all-encompassing "religion," especially as a less biased-looking stand-in for Christianity – is a favorite tool of militant atheists and embittered ex-religious, no worse for wear after many years.

Thus come phrases like "Religion has become more wary about using force because it can no longer get away with it, not because of some recently developed respect for free choice."  The author may be ignorant of the brutality of modern-day Islam, or he may be lashing out at his own distorted concept of Christianity.  That the sentence is sandwiched between tut-tutting against "creation science" and a jeremiad against the Garden of Eden makes the latter guess a certainty (without ruling out the former one).

Chapter 6 typifies the style and content of America's Suicide.  Whatever valid points may exist in the work are too muddied by arrogance, historical and theological confusion, and problematic grammar to appreciate.  A book that devotes a four-page chart (178-182) to savaging "religion" – "unrelenting indoctrination," a "pious mask for malice, vengeance and power lust [sic]," "[s]anctify human life in word; disdain, scorn and stifle it in practice" – in order to hamfistedly equate it with socialism will please neither America's huge proportion of Christians nor the Dawkins fanboys who might otherwise lap it up.

In a book that devotes over two hundred pages to how awful things are and how stupid everyone is (but not you, dear reader! never you!), Davison's conclusion – "For all its violence, deceit, pain, and disappointment, the world can be a glorious experience" – reads like the classic record-scratch.  He prescribes "keep[ing] virtue foremost" while rejecting the millennia-old foundation of quintessential American virtue; he lauds "wisdom" while excoriating one of the most undeniably profound sources of wisdom in the world's history.  He dismisses age-old, time-tested fairy-tales for not portraying the world literally (103-104); he wags his finger at Albert Einstein (14); and he blasts Aristotle for "pontificating" (12).  And then his penultimate paragraph reads, in part, "I have no deeply reassuring and effective political solutions to offer.  Neither does anyone else."

Perhaps Davison's book – reliant as it is on the contention that everyone is too dumb to function without his prescription to "[s]trive not to deceive yourselves" (ahem) and "reserve your counsel for receptive ears" (ahem!) – is just ill-timed.  Americans now have Jonathan Gruber to tell them how stupid they are, and they are fairly sick of hearing it.  Best leave America's Suicide on the shelf.

Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.  Contact him at drew@americanthinker.com, and follow him on Twitter @DJB627.

One needs courage to take on the challenge of reviewing a book like Michael H. Davison's America's Suicide (Dapa Publishing, 2014).  Many such volumes fill bookstores every year, with a few remnants from each crop to gather dust for untold years to come.  When they're not narrowly focused – and such iterations are often quite good – they serve as an outlet for their authors' opinion on any number of often barely connected subjects.  America's Suicide is one of the latter types.

A two-pronged theme does tie the book's peregrine chapters together – namely, (1) we as Americans have drifted away from our founding traditions, which is bad, and (2) appealing to traditions to govern personal or governmental behavior is also bad.

In other words, Davison wants all the good that came out of the American founding and the Constitution while still reserving the right to despise Christianity, which undergirds that same wellspring of good.

An examination of one particular chapter will illustrate the point.  Davison titles his finale "Dénouement" (calling to mind the political axiom "If you're explaining, you're losing"), but the book's true climax arrives in Chapter 6, titled "Religion Illusions."

To catalogue the vicious straw men and question-begging here would make this review too long for even its author to want to read.  (An appetizer from another chapter [28]: "the medieval inquisitor who readily meted out the most unspeakable tortures while piously claiming to be but a humble instrument of God.")  It suffices to call out the umbrella under which all of these offenses huddle: the tendentious zooming out of the concept of "religion" to include all religions, without any scrutiny of or appreciation for the differences among them.  This – the weird personification of vague, all-encompassing "religion," especially as a less biased-looking stand-in for Christianity – is a favorite tool of militant atheists and embittered ex-religious, no worse for wear after many years.

Thus come phrases like "Religion has become more wary about using force because it can no longer get away with it, not because of some recently developed respect for free choice."  The author may be ignorant of the brutality of modern-day Islam, or he may be lashing out at his own distorted concept of Christianity.  That the sentence is sandwiched between tut-tutting against "creation science" and a jeremiad against the Garden of Eden makes the latter guess a certainty (without ruling out the former one).

Chapter 6 typifies the style and content of America's Suicide.  Whatever valid points may exist in the work are too muddied by arrogance, historical and theological confusion, and problematic grammar to appreciate.  A book that devotes a four-page chart (178-182) to savaging "religion" – "unrelenting indoctrination," a "pious mask for malice, vengeance and power lust [sic]," "[s]anctify human life in word; disdain, scorn and stifle it in practice" – in order to hamfistedly equate it with socialism will please neither America's huge proportion of Christians nor the Dawkins fanboys who might otherwise lap it up.

In a book that devotes over two hundred pages to how awful things are and how stupid everyone is (but not you, dear reader! never you!), Davison's conclusion – "For all its violence, deceit, pain, and disappointment, the world can be a glorious experience" – reads like the classic record-scratch.  He prescribes "keep[ing] virtue foremost" while rejecting the millennia-old foundation of quintessential American virtue; he lauds "wisdom" while excoriating one of the most undeniably profound sources of wisdom in the world's history.  He dismisses age-old, time-tested fairy-tales for not portraying the world literally (103-104); he wags his finger at Albert Einstein (14); and he blasts Aristotle for "pontificating" (12).  And then his penultimate paragraph reads, in part, "I have no deeply reassuring and effective political solutions to offer.  Neither does anyone else."

Perhaps Davison's book – reliant as it is on the contention that everyone is too dumb to function without his prescription to "[s]trive not to deceive yourselves" (ahem) and "reserve your counsel for receptive ears" (ahem!) – is just ill-timed.  Americans now have Jonathan Gruber to tell them how stupid they are, and they are fairly sick of hearing it.  Best leave America's Suicide on the shelf.

Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.  Contact him at drew@americanthinker.com, and follow him on Twitter @DJB627.