Wednesday, April 09, 2014

How Evil Works: Understanding and Overcoming the Destructive Forces That Are Transforming America (book review)

Note:  This is a review that was originally posted on Epinions.  I'm reposting it almost as is.  This was one of my more detailed reviews, so I'd definitely like to get this one on the blog.

There have been a few movies that I’ve watched knowing that not many people would be affected by them.  Those that agreed with the message would be glad that someone made a film showcasing their views.  Those that disagreed would hold it up as a bunch of lies.  (I’ve usually been in the first group.)

When I checked out How Evil Works from the library, I thought it would be about the psychology of evil people.  You’d have maybe a chapter on dictators and another chapter on criminals or something.  When I started flipping through the book, I realized that I had gotten something entirely different.  The first chapter title I saw was Chapter 7’s Rejecting God.  (It’s subtitled Why Militant Atheism is Becoming a Badge of Honor.)  I realized that I was going to be part of that second group.

I wanted to read the whole book, mostly so that I could give examples of what I don’t agree with.  I did finish and I wanted to be more specific than “all of it”, so I took notes.  Normally, I don’t like giving too much detail on each chapter, but I think I’m going to have to here.  There are a lot of things that I want to point out.

Chapter 1 is In Government We Trust.  Basically, David Kupleian says that we elect leaders not to do the right thing, but to lie to us.  It’s easy for a politician to get in with a big lie because we don’t question them.  Some will even start a crisis, like global warming, so that they might solve it for us.

We tend to elect liars based on the lies that make us feel best.  Do you feel guilty about murdering your unborn child?  Then vote for a pro-choice candidate.  (This is halfway down page 13.)  At the end of the second full paragraph on page 23, he states, “You can destroy lives and civilizations” if you’re sinful and not sincere.

In Chapter 2, which is called Sexual Anarchy, the author states that sex is for marriage only.  It’s “obvious” that sex is for a man and a woman because if the irrefutable proof that a child needs one mother and one father.  (This is from page 44.)  One thing I disagree with is with the author’s equating homosexuality and wanting to have a sex-change operation with having sex with children.  If it’s not one adult male and one adult female in the confines of marriage, it’s not good.

With Chapter 3, or How Terrorism Really Works, the author explains how use Stockholm syndrome to control people.  We give in to our captors out of fear for our lives.  Governments can do the same thing.  His solution?  Be strong, like Reagan.  Don’t be weak like Carter.

On page 51, Kupleian says that the political left is the total opposite of reality where up is down.  It’s a worldview that emanates from anger.  He says that we shouldn’t give into terrorism.  Instead, we should be strong and bomb the crap out of those that would do us harm.  (So, Stockholm syndrome is bad unless we’re the ones perpetrating it.)

Chapter 4 is called The Secret Curse of Celebrity, in which the author states that you have to be an raging egomaniac to want to be a star.  Even if you’re not, you have so many yes men, fans and whatnot telling you how wonderful you are that it’s not healthy.  God created us to worship Him, not each other.

Well, according to this chapter, there really is a God and only man has choice.  He can either chose to be with God or he can chose to be prideful.  We can either chose to be good or we can chose to blame others for all of our problems.  I get the impression from this chapter that there are a lot of egocentric, prideful celebrities.

Chapter 5 is Doctors, Drugs and Demons.  Kupleian rails against handing out diagnoses (and, thus, medication) to solve all of our problems.  Does your son twitch too much?  He has ADHD.  Give him some meds.  Are you depressed after having a child?  On page 107, the author states that god didn’t make us to be depressed and/or suicidal after childbirth.  Does this guy have a medical degree that I don’t know about?

Chapter 6 is called False Gods and is about witchcraft, paganism and the various new age religions.  This is the chapter where I came to realize that the author is pretty much full of it.  The basic premise is that the Christian God is the one true God.  Given the title of the chapter, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the author doesn’t have a high opinion of other religions.

On page 126, he asks who would believe in good-luck spells and magical potions?  Yet, praying is supposed to work?  Well, actually, submitting to God is supposed to work.  We go against God and chose these other religions is that we’re not noble.  We seek alternate religions as a way to rebel against the Church.

Chapter 7 is Rejecting God, which is about what he calls “militant atheism”.  (You have to look no further than the subtitle to find the term.)  As I said, this is the one that caught my attention.  The chapter tends to be mostly how religion (read: Christianity) is good and not having Christianity as a moral framework is bad.

Kupleian points out that Obama put non-believers on equal footing with believers.  Almost half of all Americans would be willing to vote for an atheist.  (Both of these come from page 140)   Are these supposed to be bad things?

On page 144, he states that atheists view the three major religions as being “dangerous monotheistic fairy tails.”  I’ve never really thought of religion in general as being dangerous.  Yes, people have done dangerous things in the name of religion, but I don’t see religion itself as being dangerous.

What really gets me is on pages 148-9, where Kupleian calls the lack of proof for Intelligent Design to be nonsensical.  He says that the proof is in the complexity.  In fact, he claims that there’s no proof of evolution.  Forget all the fossils.  Mutating viruses?  Ha!  Your unproven set of beliefs is nothing more than a religion.

I’ve never accepted the complexity of a system as proof of a particular creator.  Yes, one might wonder if there was someone or some group playing a part in it or setting everything in motion, but just because something exists doesn’t mean it supports your particular version of events.

In Chapter 8, Kupleian feels that fathers are no longer respected.  In fact, he calls the chapter The War on Fathers.    He seems to believe that society has it in for men.  Girls are getting ahead in school.  There are more women than men going to college.  Colleges are having to resort to gender-based affirmative action.

On page 173, the author implies that being feminist means that you hate men.  On 177, it’s implied that rejecting stereotypes is basically hatred of men.    On 175, he calls those wishing to change their sex through surgery “obviously troubled.”  (Did it ever occur to you that maybe a few social factors might play into that?)

Chapter 9 is The Mysterious Power of Hate.  This chapter covers things like genocide and raising children to hate other ethnic groups.  On page 196, Kupleian says that there are two types of people.  There are those that accept God no matter how flawed they are and those that can’t face reality and their own shortcomings.  (So, if you don’t accept God, you’re delusional?  I don’t accept that.)

On page 200, Kupleian speaks of standing on a ledge and there being some force pulling you over.  This is called gravity, but he seems to think it’s the devil.  He holds the same to be true of head-on collisions.  Could it be that the road was a little wet?  Maybe you misjudged how sharp the turn was.  Or maybe the devil told you to do it.  The answer?  Trust in God.

Chapter 10 is So, Where on Earth is God?  The chapter doesn’t actually deal with physically finding God.  It’s more about accepting the emotional and spiritual path to God.  Instead of physically following Jesus, you’re dedicating your life to him.

On page 213, Kupleian calls Christianity a spiritual religion where Islam is more legalistic.  (Look at the fourth paragraph.)  Islam seems to be big on how often you pray or what kind of rug you use.  Christianity is about actually accepting the supreme being rather than going through the motions.  If I’m not mistaken, Islam literally means to surrender to God.  That doesn’t sound like someone that’s going through the motions.

Chapter 11 is the last chapter.  It’s called Turning the Tables on Evil in America.   Kupleian wrote a book before this called The Marketing of Evil.  Apparently, people wanted a sequel about marketing good.  He didn’t write the book, but he did write this chapter, partly in response.

He states on page 231 that “Deceivers have the upper hand.”  Deceivers are pumping you full of lies, like the government is there to help, homosexuality and abortion are good, and prayer and the Ten Commandments are bad.  (Instead, we should apparently think that homosexuality is bad and that the government is there to hurt is.)

One thing that stuck out in my mind about this chapter is a story starting on page 251.  Kupleian tells the story of William Wilberforce, who tried to end the slave trade in Britain in the late 18th century.  He couldn’t get the job done after 11 attempts.  His brother-in-law gave him an idea.  Instead of tackling it head on, use anti-French sentiment to sneak it in.

After he tells this story, Kupleian warns the reader that Democrats, tired of trying to get the Fairness Doctrine reinstated, used a set of laws to accomplish nearly the same thing.  So, the message here is that brilliant ideas are good so long as they accomplish something that you agree with?

This is the problem that I had with the book overall.  It seems like the author is saying that if you truly give your life over to God, then you’re in good hands.  If you’re a Muslim, an atheist, Wiccan, Democrat, liberal or feminist, you’re bad and there’s something wrong with you.

I’ve been able to comment on Chapter 7 mostly because I identify as atheist.  The chapter is misinformed at best and insulting at worst.  I have to wonder if the author spent any actual time with atheists or if he’s getting his information elsewhere.  There is evidence of evolution.  Those that don’t believe in it often make ridiculous arguments, like fossils were put there to trick us or to test our faith.  It’s like Groucho Marx said, “Who are you going to believe: Me or your lying eyes?”

I’d love to see what Wiccans and other believers of “false” gods have to say about Chapter Six.  I’d imagine that there would be a similar reaction.  Kupleian may get a few facts right, but I’d imagine that a good deal of it is his being misinformed.  There are a lot of other people that I imagine would have something to say, such as celebrities and doctors.

I apologize for the long word count, but I had a lot to say about this book.  I didn’t want to simply be glib or dismissive.  I realized that if I was going to pick apart the book, I might as well go all out and give examples of what I didn’t agree with.  There was very little about the book that I did agree with.

It seemed that overall, Kupleian was saying that God was good and everything not serving God is bad.   It came across as condescending.  It’s not that I think that abortion is good.  And I do agree that making an informed decision is the right thing to do.  It’s just that I think that there are times when having the option to abort the child should be made available.  I also don’t agree that homosexuality is bad.  I don’t think that it’s my place to tell people who they can date or marry.  Also, what’s the big deal about other religions?  What’s it to you if a law-abiding citizen wants to worship another deity or supreme being?

You don’t have to like everything that I do or believe.  I’m not going to like everything that you do or believe.  There are just times when I have to sit back and wonder.

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