Godless: The Church of Liberalism
by Ann Coulter
(Crown Forum, 310 pages, $27.95)
What's most amazing about Ann Coulter's book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, is the amount of intellectual meat she packs into 281 breezy, barb-filled pages. Among the topics the blonde bomb-thrower discusses in some depth are the following: liberal jurisprudence, privacy rights and abortion, Joe Wilson's modest career and inflated ego, and the solid record of failure in American public schools. The topics of Intelligent Design and Darwinism, to which the last eighty pages of text are devoted, are analyzed in even greater detail.
As one would expect from an author with a legal background, Supreme Court cases are high on Coulter's hit-list -- especially the idea of a "living Constitution." Citing various cases-in-point, Coulter shows that this popular doctrine is nothing more than a paralegal pretext for making the Constitution say whatever liberal judges want it to say. Though such a philosophy grants to the nation's founding document all the integrity of a bound and gagged assault victim, it at least has the virtue of mirroring liberals' self-referential view of morality.
Another dogma that Coulter skewers is the liberal commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Punish the Perp." This counterintuitive principle not only rejects the link between incarceration and lower crime rates, it also permits benevolent judges (like Clinton federal court nominee Frederica Massiah-Jackson) to shorten the sentence of child rapists so that other innocent children can pay the price for society's sins.
An unexpected bonus in this chapter is the author's extended sidebar on Upton Sinclair, the muckraking author of Boston, who, as his own correspondence shows, knew Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty but chose, for ideological and financial reasons, to portray them as innocent victims. In a related chapter, "The Martyr: Willie Horton," Coulter provides detailed information about Horton's crimes, Michael Dukakis' furlough program, and the precise nature of the Horton ads aired in the 1988 presidential campaign
CONTINUING THE RELIGIOUS IMAGERY, Coulter asserts in chapter five that abortion is the "holiest sacrament" of the "church of liberalism." For women this sacrament secures their "right to have sex with men they don't want to have children with." A corollary of this less-than-exalted principle is the right to suck the brains out of partially born infants. How far liberal politicians will go to safeguard this sacrament whose name must not be spoken (euphemisms are "choice," "reproductive freedom," and "family planning") is shown by an amendment offered by Senator Chuck Schumer that would exclude anti-abortion protestors from bankruptcy protection. How low these same pols will go is illustrated by the character assassination of Judge Charles Pickering -- a man honored by the brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers but slimed by liberals at his confirmation hearing as racially insensitive. Coulter notes that the unspoken reason for this "Borking" of Pickering was the judge's prior criticism of Roe v. Wade.
The single chapter that Coulter's critics have homed in on is the one that exposes the liberal "Doctrine of Infallibility." This religiously resonant phrase applies to individuals who promote the left's partisan agenda while immunizing themselves from criticism by touting their victim-status. In addition to the 9/11 "Jersey Girls," Coulter identifies Joe Wilson, Cindy Sheehan, Max Cleland, and John Murtha as persons who possess, at least by Maureen Dowd's lights, "absolute moral authority." Curiously, this exalted status isn't accorded victims who don't push liberal agendas. Perhaps the fact that Republican veterans outnumber their Democrat counterparts in Congress, 87 to 62, has something to do with this inconsistency.
Coulter's next chapter, "The Liberal Priesthood: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Teacher," focuses on the partisanship, compensation, and incompetence level of American teachers. A crucial statistic in these pages concerns the "correlation [that exists] between poor student achievement and time spent in U.S. public schools." In this regard, comments by Thomas Sowell and Al Shanker stand out. Sowell notes that college students with low SAT and ACT scores are more likely to major in education and that "teachers who have the lowest scores are the most likely to remain in the profession." From a different perspective, the late president of the American Federation of Teachers stated, with refreshing bluntness, "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children." The words of John Dewey, a founder of America's public education system, also fit nicely into Coulter's state-of-the-classroom address: "You can't make Socialists out of individualists -- children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming, where everyone is interdependent." Coulter responds, "You also can't make socialists out of people who can read, which is probably why Democrats think the public schools have nearly achieved Aristotelian perfection."
The last third of Godless focuses on matters scientific. Chapter seven, "The Left's War on Science," serves as an appetizer for Coulter's evolutionary piece de resistance. Prior to that main course, Coulter provides a litany of examples that illustrate the left's contempt for scientific data that doesn't comport with its worldview. Exhibits include the mendacious marketing of AIDS as an equal opportunity disease, the hysterical use of anecdotal evidence to ban silicon breast implants, and the firestorm arising from Lawrence Summers's heretical speculation about male and female brain differences.
THE REMAINING CHAPTERS OF GODLESS all deal with Darwinism. Nowhere else can one find a tart-tongued compendium of information that not only presents a major argument for Intelligent Design but also exposes the blatant dishonesty of "Darwiniacs" who continue to employ evidence (such as the Miller-Urey experiment, Ernst Haeckel's embryo drawings, and the famous peppered moth experiment) that they know is outdated or fraudulent.
Within this bracing analysis, Coulter employs the observations of such biological and philosophical heavyweights as Stephen Gould, Richard Dawkins, Michael Behe, and Karl Popper. The price of the whole book is worth the information contained in these chapters about the statistical improbability of random evolution, the embarrassing absence of "transitional" fossils, and the inquisitorial attitude that prevails among many scientists (and most liberals) when discussing these matters. Unlike biologist Richard Lewontin, who candidly admits that a prior commitment to materialism informs his allegiance to evolution, most of his colleagues (and certainly most of the liberal scribblers Coulter sets on the road to extinction) won't concede that Darwinism is a corollary, rather than a premise, of their godlessness.
Coulter's final chapter serves as a thought-provoking addendum to her searing cross-examination of evolution's star witnesses. "The Aped Crusader" displays the devastating social consequences that have thus far attended Darwinism. From German and American eugenicists (including Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger), to Aryan racists, to the infanticidal musings of Princeton's Peter Singer, Darwinian evolution boasts a political and philosophical heritage that could only be envied by the likes of Charles Manson. Yet it is a history ignored by liberals for whom Darwin's theory provides what they want above all else -- a creation myth that sanctifies their sexual urges, sanctions abortion, and disposes of God.
Coulter's book is clearly not a systematic argument for the idea that liberalism is a godless religion. Indeed, prior to the material on evolution, the concept is treated more as a clever theme for chapter headings than as a serious intellectual proposition. In those final chapters, however, Coulter manages to present a cogent, sustained argument that actually begins to link modern liberalism (or more specifically, leftism) to an atheistic perspective. At the very least Coulter succeeds in raising an important issue -- namely, that American courts currently ignore the religious or quasi-religious character of a philosophy that pervades public institutions and is propagated with public funds. This fact, if honestly recognized, would render contemporary church-state jurisprudence untenable. A court taking these arguments seriously would have to recognize that all philosophies, including "liberalism," swim in the same intellectual current as religion.
THUS FAR, THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA have focused almost all their attention on Coulter's take-no-prisoners rhetorical style -- and particularly on the "heartless" remarks about those 9/11 widows who seem to be "enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." Clearly, diplomatic language is not Coulter's forte, as one would also gather from this representative zinger: "I don't particularly care if liberals believe in God. In fact, I would be crestfallen to discover any liberals in heaven."
What undercuts the liberals' case against Coulter on this score, however, is their own (not always tacit) endorsement of vile epithets that are regularly directed against President Bush and his supporters by the likes of Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, and a gaggle of celebrity politicos. Coulter employs the same linguistic standard against liberals (with a touch of humor) that they regularly use (with somber faces and dogmatic conviction) when they accuse conservatives of being racist homophobes who gladly send youngsters to war under false pretences to line the pockets of Halliburton executives. Hate-speech of this stripe is old-hat for leftists.
Until Air America, Helen Thomas, and most Democrat constituencies alter their rhetoric, I see no reason for conservatives to denounce Coulter for using, more truthfully, the same harsh language that leftists have employed, with no regard for accuracy, since the time of Lenin. When liberals denounce communist tyrants as fervently as they do real Nazis, then it will be time for Coulter to cool the rhetoric. Until that time her "verbal reprisals" serve a useful function within an intellectual marketplace that resembles a commodities pit more than a debating society.
Richard Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Oceanside, California. He is a regular columnist for San Diego's North County Times. His book reviews have also appeared in the American Enterprise Magazine, First Things, and Touchstone.
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