from the Foreword

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An open letter to those spokesmen for the new Atheism who have labored mightily these last few years to sweep aside religion's paralytic webs of superstition and prejudice, and to liberate the rest of our Species via Science and Enlightenment:

Dear Sirs,

Speaking just for this Atheist convert, congratulations, guys — You really did it! Thanks to all Your hard work, the rest of us know once and for all that the so-called "God", that Loser, is everything You say he is: the biggest fraud of all time, cosmic zero, ultimate no-show — and after all those centuries and promises too. It's like throwing the biggest rave ever, only to cancel at the last minute after everyone'd already bought tickets and drugs for it. What kind of deity does that, anyway? If this were Facebook, no one would be friending him now.

But You have to admit: that same Loser sure has been great for the book business — including and especially all those books on the new Atheism, I'm happy to say. Almost a million volumes sold in twelve months' time; covers in every major newspaper and magazine; publicity on all the best talk shows and Web sites and campuses; national and international book awards up the wazoo — talk about knowing how to make "something" ($$$) out of "nothing" (Loser)!

It really is marvelous — sorry; I almost said "miraculous" there (I'm new to the Atheist party and hope You'll pardon any slips) — how Your ideas have taken so much of the Western media by storm. You'd almost think Atheism had friends in some pretty high places! Whatever, You probably think we Atheists have earned the right to sit back and chill. I mean, it's pretty clear we've won by now — isn't it?

Except, well, maybe not — and that's why I'm writing You this letter. Because there's one thing that's still missing from Atheism's final victory, and it's something that just can't be sugarcoated. Ahem: apart from me, where is the testimony of anyone Your writings have actually convinced? After all, as one of You said somewhere and all of us want to believe, "If this book works as I intend, religious readers will be Atheists when they put it down." So where are the rest of them, I'm starting to wonder — these other converts (like me!) to the new godlessness? (show more..)

I'm not asking about the numbers to depress any of You. One of the things I love about our side — the winning side, the Atheist side! — is we get that it's good enough just being in everybody's face about "God" not existing, even if no one but me was persuaded despite a few million more books in circulation. And I know that it wouldn't be the first time that Atheism fell short on the convert count. "It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly)", as our most illustrious Forebear Charles Darwin once put it, "that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public." And He should certainly know!

Even so, as Your convert, in fact as maybe Your one and only convert, I worry for us. Sooner or later, one of the believers will come along and point out a fact he'll think is damaging to this new Atheism — I mean, that it hasn't actually convinced anyone. In other words, he's going to paint our side as somehow intellectually unfit. And the idea of being called unfit, to this newly minted Atheist, is just too much to bear. Back when I was a Christian, I was taught to embrace those kind of people — You know what I mean, the maladap-tives. But as an Atheist, even a new one, I've learned to despise them all as Nature's mistakes. Being put on the losing side would be what You might call a personal devolution for me, something gross and unnatural — like having an opposable thumb and not even texting with it!

And so, to protect us Atheists from that charge before our religious enemies even get to it, I've decided to write the following Letters to You. They offer up the earnest confession of one who — as someone once said of our fellow Atheist Allen Ginsberg — "did not come back from Hell empty-handed." I mean Hell figuratively, of course! Little joke there! But seriously, I've ascended from the darkness of the believers by clinging to each and every one of Your words — and I bring with me recent firsthand knowledge of them and their ways that I want to share with You.

About the reasons for my conversion to Atheism, I'll have lots more to say in what follows. But let me first thank some of You for introducing that amped word, "Brights", to describe our side. It's meant to distinguish the "vigorous" and "healthy" souls of Atheists, as one of You put it somewhere, from those of the believers (sorry on "souls" BTW). In these pages I want to take that logic of "Brights" to another level — because, of course, if there are Brights, then by necessity our adversaries, a.k.a. the Christians, must be known by the opposite descriptive, "Dulls". And so they will be in the Letters ahead.

In short, I offer to You my own conversion story — that of a former Christian who has adapted at last to Atheism. It's a personal tale, by the way, not a point-by-point engagement with all of Your arguments and themes. After all, I'm no theologian (and neither are any of You, of course!). But before getting into all that, I'll start at the beginning: by explaining what kept me — and not only me, but a great many other potential converts for our side — away from Atheism for so long.

Above all, I want all my Letters to be useful. I've read what Marxist Leninist Atheists had to say, back before they all went to wherever all the Marxist Leninist Atheists went after 1989. And I have to confess, at times I really miss their verve! Don't You? Especially their sense of how the highest purpose is to be useful.

Well, I think the most useful thing I can do here is to show You something of how the Dulls really think from the inside, so You can see what we're truly up against in trying to convert them. Just think of me as Your own private Project Runway or What Not to Wear — someone who just wants us Atheists to be all we can be.

I do hope everyone reads my story of personal evolution through. After all, it's the only one You have, at least so far. But don't let the numbers bother You much. One down, and just a few billion more to go!

Your huge fan,

A. F. (A Former) Christian