By: Mary Eberstadt.
Publisher: Ignatius (2010)
Review by: Dr. J. Scott Horrell
Twenty-five year old A. F. Christian has converted to atheism. Through disinterest in her Catholic upbringing, a university education, some drugs, her “idiotosaurus” boyfriend Lobo, an abortion, and a full diet of the New Atheism, the spunky young writer with total enthusiasm has left the Dulls (those religious people) and joined the Brights. In ten letters the buoyant correspondent sets out to inform Dawkins, Dennent, Harris, Hitchens, and company how they might improve a bit on their atheist arguments—mind you, with total eagerness for the cause. She’s feeling a little left out as a woman in what feels likes like a white male lodge, so our plucky devotee sets out to help her dear “Awesome Leading Atheist Idols” (as one letter begins) understand why a lot of people don’t find their arguments especially convincing and, well, really don’t like them as their spokesmen too well either—notably women, children, and families.
Mary Eberstadt is not a twenty-five year old. As a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, consulting editor to Policy Review, and contributor to a host of national publications, Eberstadt has led a distinguished political and editorial career since the 1980s—including as a special assistant to the US Ambassador to the United Nations and a speech-writer for the US Secretary of State. A conservative scholar and Roman Catholic by conviction, the author is a strong defender of human dignity (from conception) and the freedom of religion.
None of this is in the least evident (at first) in this hilarious, “wickedly witty satire” on the New Atheists, in which raising her four teenagers provided the freight-load of the book’s vocabulary. Yet behind the ditsy new Bright correspondent A. F. Christian, Mary Eberstadt has done her homework. The ten letters were originally published in National Review online. And while readers may find some of the language over-the-top or certain themes worn a bit thin, the book forcefully and repeatedly drives home intellectual arguments for the superiority of classical Christian faith over a morally bankrupt atheism. Compared by some to C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, The Loser Letters will keep the reader laughing, while learning with every page.
J. Scott Horrell