Register Tuesday | August 20 | 2019

Bad Religion

A review of Ann Coulter’s <i>Godless: The Church of Liberalism</i>

The bilious sarcasm, the rage, the distortion of fact and hysteria of tone-all the trademarks of the endearing Ann Coulter are evident in her latest epistle, Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Limbaugh, Hannity and O'Reilly are mere pretenders to the throne; it is Ann Coulter who holds the crown as the churl of the American right.

Godless is Coulter's no-holds-barred attack on liberalism, and she roils the waters with her very first sentence. "Liberals," she writes, "love to boast that they are not 'religious,' which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion." That some liberals practice religion and others do not is, to Coulter, a minor point.

A small history lesson is in order. The abiding liberal principle, established by seventeenth-century English philosopher John Locke and developed further by the likes of Kant and Mill, is the distinction between a private sphere and a public one. In this vein, the establishment clause of the American Bill of Rights limits the state's powers by barring it from sanctioning any religion. But to Coulter, liberalism itself is a religion, replete with "its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, its own saints and its explanation of the universe."

Liberalism's "holiest sacrament," Coulter argues, is abortion. I'll reveal my stripes here: I'm a liberal who opposes abortion. But if it is by now a settled matter that there is a private realm upon which the state cannot intrude, doesn't the principle apply en force to what a woman decides to do with her body? Coulter can rail all she likes against Roe v. Wade, sloughing off the right to abortion as nothing other than "the right of women to have unprotected sex with men they don't like," but she avoids the question at the core of the pro-choice movement: Are women the property of the state?

Coulter further assails liberalism in a chapter titled "The Passion of the Liberal: Thou Shalt not Punish the Perp," by cherry-picking some egregious blunders that have occurred in the criminal justice system-all of which predictably stem from liberal laxity on crime. "If it has to do with punishing criminals," Coulter opines, "democrats are against it." As adamant as Coulter is in her opposition on abortion, she has no problem when the state shunts humans from the other end of the mortal coil. "Death penalty opponents," Coulter argues, "would love nothing more than to produce a case of an innocent person who has been executed in this country, but after decades of fanatical research they have not been able to find a single case."

There is, of course, the usual conservative carping about the media. The Fox Network, home to such wholesome family fare as "Growing Up Gotti," is the one conservative beachhead in the great sea of liberal dissimulation. The fawning mainstream press, on the other hand, advances a liberal "doctrine of infallibility" by eagerly lapping up and spitting out stories of liberalism's apostles. From the lips of saints like Cindy Sheehan ("the Left's human shield") doth spring a veritable font of wisdom-or so sayeth Ann. (That Coulter can't, or won't, admit the rough ride Sheehan has been given in some circles is beyond me.)

Coulter takes time out of her rant to denounce the "Jersey Girls," a quartet of New Jersey moms who lost their husbands on 9/11 (a tragedy predictably blamed on "Clinton's utter incompetence, cowardice and utter capitulation to enemy regimes"). Reflecting on the motives of the widows-who helped spearhead the 9/11 Commission-Coulter writes, "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, revelling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis." She ends with this belletristic flourish: "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." Tell 'em, Ann. You go, girl!

Public school teachers constitute the liberal "priesthood," Coulter says-a cadre of would-be saints, forever bitching about burnout and class sizes, who are spoken of in hushed tones of reverence. When they do eventually get around to teaching math, Coulter says, they do so poorly because they first have to educate youngsters about sex and condom use. With minds astir, and privates enflamed in priapistic fantasies, it's no wonder the kids can't concentrate on their times-tables.

There is more, distressingly more. On the so-called "science" of global warming, Coulter coughs up tautologies: "The law of large numbers means that someplace will always be having its hottest, coldest, wettest, or driest month."

She attacks the evolutionists, gnawing away at the lacunae in Darwinian Theory in order to admit a counter-hypothesis known as "Intelligent Design" and, by inference, a designer. We're back to Arthur Lovejoy's Great Chain of Being; to Aristotle's metaphysical biology; to Aquinas' argument from design ... this is science? Hedging her bets, Coulter squares the circle with this logical howler: "If evolution is true, God exists."

The bulk of Coulter's Godless is, in short, a hysterical attack on a public modus vivendi. Nevertheless, amid all her absurd and fallacious contentions, the reigning conservative queen gets one thing indubitably right:

"The moment self-righteousness takes over," writes Coulter, "you are dealing with dangerous psychopaths."