Friday, April 22, 2016

A revealing dichotomy

My wife just sent me a link this morning to this page on Amazon.com:

The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist

It popped up in her Amazon homepage, certainly because of the nature of the books I've asked her to include on her Amazon orders.

It was interesting enough that a Christian public figure who was a well-known friend of Christopher Hitchens should write a memoir of their relationship. However, what immediately grabbed my attention was the reaction of those who have allegedly read the book and posted reviews.

As of today, April 22, 2016, there were 78 customer reviews. The first indication of polarity is in breaking down the numbers:

5 stars - 69%
4 stars -  6%
3 stars -  0%
2 stars -  3%
1 star  - 22%

Not surprisingly, the 3-star middle ground is completely absent. The believer/new-atheist issue doesn't lend itself much to temperate response. In keeping with this phenomenon, the 4- and 2-star reviews are also comparatively minimal.

The most revealing aspect of this page, however, is when one actually takes the time to read both the 5-star and 1-star reviews.

For the reader of this blog to verify what I'm about to describe, they need only click on the link above, choose customer reviews, then filter out the 5-star and 1-star reviews in turn, and take a look.

The 5-star reviews concentrate on:

1) Intelligent, thoughtful, and often extended commentary on a book that deals with a complex personal relationship.
2) Pleased surprise at the friendship between two men who were so completely opposite in their views on God.
3) The effective way the author relays the memoir, thus the moving nature of the book.
4) The pleased recognition that the end of the book does not include a death-bed conversion, as one might expect from an author who is a public Christian and could possibly be motivated to take unfair advantage of a deceased person.

Nowhere in any of the 5-star reviews, did I find any customers that cackled about nor celebrated the alleged demeaning of Christopher Hitchens. This is first and foremost because nothing but respect is expressed for Hitchens throughout the book, according to the positive reviews.

On the other hand...

The 1-star reviews are almost all very short, and concentrate on:

1) Calling the author a "shallow huckster," a "Liar for Jesus," "another Lying Christian," "The Evangelical Judas," and a "hyper-religious nut of an author."

2) Accusing the author of "fraud," "heresy," "slanderous claims," "veiled, judgmental barbs of his deceased friend," "ham-fisted moralizing," a "quite repugnant, backhanded snipe," "poor taste to write such an undignified book," "us[ing] that friendship as a vehicle to proselytize and besmirch the character of a deceased man who was more substantial than himself," "exploit[ing] their relationship to sell books," "promot[ing] his own tawdry religious superstition," "defecating on the memory of Christopher Hitchens," "Another 'Christian' out to make a buck," "trying to poison Christopher's contribution," "outwardly t[aking] advantage of the death of an Atheist to lie to people," "misrepresent the truth," and "cowardly demean[ing] a dead man."

3) Describing the book as "a despicable act of literary malpractice," "one of the most morally reprehensible books to be published this year," "tripe," "fiction," "a load of BS," "Outrageous lie," "Pathetic," "A post-death attack on everything Christopher was and thought," "A smear by a religious fanatic," "disrespectful and pathetic," "Unsubstantiated bull," "Double BS," "revisionist history," "An obvious cash-grab," "Unverifiable lies," "Lies upon lies," "Another Christian delusion," "plebeian," "the second greatest fiction in the entire history of christianity," "disgraceful," "typical of the dishonest tactics evangelicals employ," "rife with fallacy," and "Typical religious nuttery."

...

In conclusion, still not having read the book myself, I am bound to ponder: if I explore its pages, which of the two entirely different books described above am I going to find?