Infidel Bestsellers

After reviewing The God Delusion yesterday, I checked how it was doing on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. Number 8—not bad. Also intriguing: Sam Harris’s latest is number 6. Better than Thomas Friedman’s silly The World is Flat (9), but worse than Bill O’Riley (2—sigh).

One reaction I have, naturally, is envy. I just received the sales report on the first six months of my latest book, Science and Nonbelief, and it seems it’s already sold 250 copies. Whee. (OK, so it’s obnoxiously priced at $65. Still…)

Besides that, though, I don’t know what to make of having two infidel books in the NYT top ten. What is it—more people are curious, sick of religiously-inspired violence, fed up with the Religious Right and willing to check out its opposite—what? Still, even if it’s probably just a flash in the pan, it doesn’t hurt if the wider world occasionally notices that not everyone is a “person of faith.”

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • Anonymous

    Richard Dawkins has an established fan base since 1976 as a science writer who occasionally tackles religious issues, so his current publishing success doesn’t overly surprise me.

    The Sam Harris phenomenon, by contrast, just strikes me as really unexpectable. For years Prometheus Books has published titles with similar themes that consistently fall “dead-born from the press,” as David Hume characterized his books’ poor reception in the 18th Century. But an unknown like Sam Harris comes along with a Prometheus-like book published through a regular company, and all of a sudden he becomes a media figure and one of the main public faces of religious nonbelief in the U.S. I don’t understand exactly how this happened, because the American people clearly haven’t had the educational preparation for receptivity towards this point of view.

  • Sastra

    I suspect Sam Harris’ success is partly the result of a huge anti-Bush backlash, and partly the result of his coupling an attack on religion with a rather obscure defense of “spirituality.”

    I have some liberal friends who can’t stand the Republicans, the war, or the Religious Right, but who are rather heavily into mystical, science-mimicking paranormal woo. They love Sam Harris, and count him as one of their own.

    Is he? Well, he does endorse Radin’s silly book on Consciousness and psychic powers in one of his footnotes, and elsewhere he hints at the survival of the soul. The mere fact that he talks so highly of the Spiritual might be enough to persuade people who don’t care for organized religion that they’ve got nothing to fear from him, he’s on their side — despite his attacks on the so-called “moderates.”

  • Harvey Morrell

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  • Harvey Morrell

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