Monday, July 16, 2007

Atheism Pays

The irrepressible CaptainB draws my attention to an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal by Peter Berkowitz about  the new atheism. The link may not work as the WSJ operates a subscription system. But here are some killer facts for any writer:
'According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, in less than 12 months atheism's newest champions have sold close to a million books. Some 500,000 hardcover copies are in print of Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion; 296,000 copies of Christopher Hitchens's God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything; 185,000 copies of Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation ; 64,100 copies of Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon; and 60,000 copies of Victor J. Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does not Exist.'
I observe that 60 per cent of these bestselling militant atheists have names ending in 's'. My career course is now clear and I shall be on to my agent immediately to instruct him to sell my new book - The Not Great God Delusion Hypothesis: How on Earth Did We Ever Fall for That One? by Bryan Appleyards


  1. Stick to the 'd', Bryan. The 's' may be a short-lived craze, like the frisby and the Manchester super casino. It could look a bit cynical if you had to change back to 'd' in a couple of years.
    I've just re-visited your review of Mary Midgley's 'The Myths We Live By'. In it you refer to her cutting down to size of Dawkins, Atkins and many others for their "ludicrous and extreme claims for the omnicompetence of science". What a lesson Midgley provides for these men of mind-boggling arrogance. It always strikes me as being somewhat comical, that a mere man, no matter the extent of his accrued scientific knowledge and vaulting imagination, can dismiss God, with apparent ease and certainty, from the Universe, and presumably from every parallel universe.
    Why have so many bought the books written by the men with an 's' at the end of their names ? I wonder to what extent it is the 'Stephen Hawking (ah, no 's') Effect', the runaway literary steamroller, the must-have book whose pages start to stick together after about page 12.
    I'll keep to my agnosticism and wait for that flash of light when all truth will be revealed. It could be a long wait, but I doubt the author of that truth will be a man with an 's' at the end of his name.

  2. 'Appleyard' also has heft, concision, conclusiveness. An extra 's' is feeble. i can refer to you as "The Yard", which has just the right prison jargon feel, e.g. "Saw some dead chavs in Rusholme: must have been The Yard."

    "The Yards" would sound strange, & i'd keep tripping over apostrophes.

  3. Hmnn, atheism is the new black and all that.

    I wonder if this is something that people like to indulge without actually professing. There are only 11,900 entries on the Google web for "committed atheist" and a mere 18 for "very committed atheist". Alas, "very very committed atheist" scores 0, though there is an entry for "Dial an Atheist" in Portland OR on Google Maps. Committed to what, exactly, is the kicker for most folks, I would guess. Personally, I would prefer to read the wise, humane Geza Vermes - another -s, of course - any day. He is the man in Athens who knows he knows nothing.

    But imho the key news today is the rediscovery of Attenborough's long-beaked echidna Zaglossus attenboroughi in the remote Cyclops Mountains of Papua. Such names, such adventure! To be honest, I can't imagine the wearers of the new black coming up with anything so delightful.

  4. Great news indeed about the Zaglossus. And with you on Vermes - top Geza...

  5. Ah not having read Mark's comment when I read yours, Nige, I assumed, not for the first time, you had gone mad.

  6. Nah, you've missed the obvious. 100% have disyllabic surnames, so may I suggest Bryan Apeyard?

  7. Or perhaps: 'Harry Potter and the Dangerous Book of Not Great God Delusions for Boys: I Mean, Come On Guys, What Were You Thinking? Also, the Nuns Abused Me as a Child' by Dan Browns.

    A surefire smash, I think.

  8. Or was it - this surge in strident atheism - because of 9/11 and all that? Line of 'reasoning': Islam turned these guys into suicidal muderous maniacs, but we can't say anything about Islam on account of we'd rather stay alive, by and large, so, erm, it must be Religion in general then - so, tell you what, let's have a pop at it via flabby old milksop Christianity. Sorted.

  9. Susan B., remembering The Yardbirds,July 16, 2007 9:37 pm

    Meanwhile, "Time" magazine points out something very interesting about Harry Potter: No God. No religion whatsoever besides magic. Purty interestin', huh?

  10. Meanwhile, I think it's time for me to move into religion. According to The Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Archdiocese has real estate holdings worth more than $4 billion. Although paying the compensation for their latest child abuse scandal may reduce their wealth somewhat.