I still remember my last argument about whether God exists. It was sophomore year in college, and I was attempting to weave a convoluted proof that He does. John Hinderaker told me I was “giving metaphysics a bad name.”
Nowadays, much is once again being written on this subject – not just on the internet but also between hard covers. I haven’t been reading it, though. I figure one either believes in God or one doesn’t
I made an exception for Mary Eberstadt’s book, The Loser Letters, for two reasons. First, I have been a fan of Mary’s since reading Why I Turned Right, which she edited. Second, The Loser Letters is not a polemic; it is, instead, a work of fiction – a debate about God in the form of a black comedy.
The Loser Letters consists of letters written by A.F. (Ä Former) Christian to the leading atheists of our time. As her name suggests, Ms. Christian, a confused 20-something, is a former believer who has become an atheist. She fancies herself as atheism’s only convert. The idea here (pretty much true, I think) is that people generally don’t convert to atheism, as they convert to religion, but instead drift into it.
As a convert, Ms. Christian wants above all to be helpful to her new cause. Thus, her letters take the form of advice to atheism’s leading lights – men of a certain age – about how atheism can win converts among her generation and among women generally. She focuses in particular on those arguments raised by believers that she thinks are the major obstacles to consigning “The Loser” (God) to the rubbish heap.
This premise enables Eberstadt to argue the key issues in the debate over atheism in the tragicomic tones of 20-something female-speak. Consequently, The Loser Letters never becomes didactic (and certainly not metaphysical in the bad sense). The touch is simultaneously light and profound – more profound because of the touch of lightness.
To those who enjoy books that debate the existence of God, I recommend The Loser Letters. To those who are skeptical about such books, I recommend The Loser Letters.
NOTE: The Loser Letters first appeared on National Review Online. Kathryn Lopez interviewed Mary Eberstadt about the book here.
JOHN adds: I don’t remember that particular argument. In general, my recollection is that Paul won most of our arguments, but it’s probably too much to expect him to have proved the existence of God as a college sophomore. For the record, though, I do now believe in God. This is probably as good a moment as any to offer one of my pet theories: the “Big Bang” was the ontological argument being valid. Just a thought.
PAUL adds: I only remember winning one argument, but it was an important one: baseball is superior to football.
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