One of My Books Has Been Parodied

I occasionally do searches on myself and my book titles on Google. I’m curious to see if there are any reviews or other commentary out there about them or me. Last night, when I was once again having trouble going to sleep, I googled the title of my latest book, The Bible: A Reader’s Guide. It was published by Sterling in the U.S. and New Burlington in the U.K. last November:

To my surprise, I discovered that a parody of my book cover had been created by someone and then spread among an enormous number of atheist websites (for instance, Atheist Meme Base):

I thought it was odd. If any of them had actually bothered to read my book (rather than just using the cover to create a parody), or for that matter, actually read the Bible and understood it, they wouldn’t be quite so libelous in their charges against it. But when one ignores the context and point of a text, it is easy to set up strawmen and then trash them. I was reminded of something attributed to Larry Niven, the science fiction author who has penned many books both by himself and in conjunction with Jerry Pournelle. He once got a letter from an irate reader excoriating him for believing the awful things that appeared in one of his books, basing the condemnation on the attitudes and behavior of certain characters.

Niven responded: “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot.”

The same thing very often happens to people who read the Bible. Besides suffering from a biased mindset, cherry picking and ignoring context, and generally lacking the necessary linguistic and historical background and forgetting the ordinary reading skills that they probably easily apply with anything else they read, these atheist websites also suffer from the problem afflicting Niven’s critic. They fail to reckon with the possibility that the readers of the Bible were supposed to be appalled by the horrid things that sometimes happen in the Bible. Sometimes bad guys appear and bad things happen in a book. I suspect none of them would imagine that 1984 is a how to book for dictators. They fail to reckon with the possibility that if something gives them the willies, that maybe that was the point. Perhaps if they read the Bible as they might other literature (admittedly something most fundamentalist Christians also fail to do), understand that some stories can be designed to make a point, it would make more sense to them. Frankly, the way these atheists read the Bible is incredibly naive and simple-minded.

Additionally, they tend to read the Bible as filtered through the nonsense spouted by some of the less well educated and less intelligent members of the Christian community.

Which illustrates that these particular atheist websites also fail to consider another of Niven’s dictums: “No cause is so noble that it won’t attract fuggheads.” And admittedly, Christianity has its fair share of “fuggheads,” especially given that there are so many Christians: well over two billion. I doubt if percentage-wise the number of idiots who are part of Christianity is any greater than the number of idiots in any other group, but even a small percentage of two billion is still going to be an awful lot. It doesn’t help that “fuggheads” also tend to be noisy and attention seeking. Of course, just about any human being on occasion will have one of those days when he or she just happens to behave in a fuggheaded way, even if that isn’t one’s normal practice. So the number of fuggheads probably rotates and varies a bit from day to day.

If you already have a bias against Christianity, perhaps triggered by mistreatment at the hands of certain Christians, you’ll easily notice every bad choice, behavior and general stupidity perpetrated by the group you’ve learned to hate. That’s the nature of the biased mindset: it is self-confirming. If you believe all bureaucrats are evil and stupid, you’ll notice every moronic bureaucrat. The non-bureaucrats who do the same thing–you’ll not notice. And the good bureaucrats, you won’t notice them either. But every idiot bureaucrat you find will further confirm your opinion of them and generally speaking, you’ll never notice any bureaucrat who isn’t dispicable.

I was taken aback by just how hateful so many of these atheist sites are. Their bigotry is appalling. But I suspect they would not generate similar, blanket condemnations of ethnic groups, disabilities, or various sexual persuasions. Nevertheless, the attitudes, methods and ways of expressing themselves that I found on so many of the atheist sites reminds me of the racists I’ve occasionally had the misfortune of running across.

But, I refuse to believe that these hateful sites are true representations of most atheists. I’ll assume instead that most of them are not blinded by unreasoning hatred and that these particular websites merely happened to suffer from perhaps temporary fuggheadedness. As I said, everyone has days like that, where they happen to be in a bad mood or something.

In any case it’s rather interesting to be parodied and to have become a meme. Perhaps I was already more famous than I knew.

They even left my name on the modified book cover.

I wonder if this will help book sales?

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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