I suspect there are few experiences as potentially awkward as publicly reviewing the creative work of someone you know.
In his most recent book, The New Atheist Threat: The Dangerous Rise of Secular Extremists, CJ Werleman lists me (as well as Nathan Phelps and a few others) as a friend… and apparently an exemption to the charge that New Atheism is essentially a hate cult.
CJ and I have crossed paths over the years, and our exchanges — even spirited disagreements — have been universally pleasant. Amicable. Friendly. We’ve spoken at conferences, on the phone, on the radio, and over brunch. He opened for me at a 2014 tour event in San Diego. I advised him when he was navigating his start-up podcast. Conversation came easily, if infrequently, and normally, I’d welcome the description of “friend.” But with CJ’s inflammatory new book, to be named in any capacity is not something I’m comfortable with.
Publicity-wise, there’s lot of flash and mud flying about in relation to The New Atheist Threat, and of course, it would be easy to intercept any of the hundreds of Twitter volleys tossed about in its promotion/detraction and build an analysis on hype alone. The responsible move, however, is to actually read the book. So, finally, I did.