The “Sixth Horseman”

Here’s a snippet from the end of Paul Kurtz’s lead editorial/article in the last Free Inquiry:

I am astonished by the fact that six books on atheism have been published by five authors (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger) to such vitriolic comment in the press. . .

Incidentally, to our list of six books by the so-called five horsemen, we should add a new one, which is perhaps equally significant: An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam, by Taner Edis. I should point out that this book is published by Prometheus Books, which I founded. Nonetheless, An Illusion of Harmony is important because, of all the major religions of the world, Islam stands out for its doctrinal defense of creationism and its rejection of evolution, allegedly supported by the Qur’an. Indeed, a new eight-hundred-page, glossy, pro-creationist book, the Atlas of Creation, has just been published and distributed worldwide to defend Islamic creationism. Penned by the prolific (and pseudonymous) Harun Yahya, a household name in Islamic countries, this book will no doubt enjoy significant sales among believers. Edis’s work, by contrast, critical of intelligent design and creationism, will no doubt have modest sales.

Will the pundits who’ve deplored recent books on atheism likewise deplore Edis and his criticism of Islam as an unwarranted assault on religion? The paradox is that books on religion far outnumber by many hundredfold books on atheism. The number of religious books in print dwarfs the sales of the recent best sellers on atheism. What I find so puzzling is not the outcry of religious folk—which is to be expected—but that of the so-called neutral liberal and conservative pundits of our time. What an unfair assault on the effort to apply science and reason to religion.

Good for my ego, as you might imagine. Only slightly good for An Illusion of Harmony, which was stuck in a pathetic 400,000 range in the amazon.com rankings when I last looked. Sigh.

Mind you, it’s somewhat odd for me to be listed among the “horsemen.” Mainly because, let’s face it, my influence is virtually nil compared to the proper five horsemen. And really, my approach to criticism of religion is pretty different. Then there’s the fact that I probably wouldn’t get along very well with Hitchens or Harris if we were put in the same room. Again, sigh…

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University


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