I finished reading The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism (Oxford comma provided courtesy of the book’s erudite Author, Mary Eberstadt) about a week ago. Life being what it is, this book review was slightly delayed, but, better late than never, right?
This novel takes the form of a collection of letters written by A. F. Christian (“A. F.” being “A Former”) to the demagogues of the New Atheism, in an attempt to improve their PR standing by showing them what they are doing wrong. A. F. Christian sets out to explain why their list of converts to atheism is so short, and the list of converts from atheism is so long, and to give them some pointers on how to reach out to their target demographic, i.e. the “Dulls” who still believe in “Loser.”
Along the way, A. F. Christian comments on the culture of death, the philanthropic record, Atheism’s track record in the violence department, the role of the family, the lack of feminine voice among the prophets of the new atheism, and other subjects, all from the perspective of helping them package their message more attractively, in the hope of converting more “Dulls.”
Mary Eberstadt’s broad learning and piercing wit come to the fore throughout in a delightfully snarky, tongue-in-cheek look at what is “wrong” with atheism. Without spoiling the story, the letters also pack an intense emotional punch when she moves from general commentary on the atheist message to her own story of conversion to atheism, and what drove her to it. I will say no more except that it made me want to put the book down and go snuggle my baby girl.
Some weirdness ensues at the end (regarding which European languages are spoken where in what afterlife) and I thought that this and a couple of other seemingly random visions robbed the final letter of some of its credibility, but not enough to drop the book from four to five stars.
I highly recommend this book. Also, it is a short read. It is not daunting at all. I read about half of it in a couple of hours one afternoon, and finished the rest the next morning, all while taking care of the baby, making food and procrastinating on schoolwork. You’ve got this. I have faith in you.