BRIAN BRINDLEY on a clumsy attack on the Church
The Failure of Faith: from Calvary to Tokyo by Muir Weissinger, Forum Editions IT IS NOT OFTEN THAT I am sent a really bad book for review. This, I am afraid, is one. From its pretentious beginning: All is paradox. Thc cosmos and the human bring. As man speculates on his existence, on purpose, on ideas of right and wrong, he uncovers deep contradictions. And where he had hoped to find absolute values he encounters relative ones. Human bvings search for an end to searching and that end can only be an unchanging absolute, something immortal, which is capable of surviving the complexity and change surrounding mankind. Once found, that 'absolute', that God or Faith Answer, is enshrined by its 'clergy' and protected, extended, and fought for by an army of messianic followers,
to its would-be skittish ending:
Present-day Christianity is more vigorous where it least attempts system-building and Augustinian-Thornian intellectual justification. Where is 'sticks to its last', staying away from inter-disciplinary pronouncements of a technical nature, and offers emotional excitement and ecstasy, it fills its coffers and its churches,
there is hardly one sentence that is not ungrammatical, meaningless, banal or absurd sometimes more than one of these at the same time.
Mr Weissinger's Idea (if such it can be called) is that throughout human history man has been enslaved by "Faith Answers", which are human constructs; all
mankind is divided into Them the enslavers and You the enslaved. Aside from them all stands the omniscient and omnicompetent Muir Weissinger, ready to solve the problem with a homely wisecrack or a newlyminted anecdote (like the one about the Inquisition stoking their fires with copies of Copernicus's' astronomical works).
The author tells us, with an excruciating pun, "I was a 'sometime' graduate of
Columbia University, which also defines my attendance record. The arguments expressed in this work were formed in my "post graduate" years. This book might qualify as my unsubmitted thesis based on many years of reading and observation beyond the reach of Academe." There is a lot to be said for formal education: perhaps he should go back to school; his book is full of facts, but he lacks the intellectual equipment to deal with them.
His chief hostility is reserved for the Catholic Church, of whose history he prints a kind of' Progress Chart. This is self-evidently useless: both “Death of Thomas Aquinas" and "Henry VIII Act of Supremacy" are described as "Increasing influence", while "Collapse of Marxism" is seen as "Declining Influence".
The book is printed in China. From certain internal features I hazard a guess that it was computer-set direct from the author's own computer input; in other words, if I am right, it has never had the benefit of an editor, or a compositor; certainly it has never been through the hands of a competent proof-reader; the result of this is that there has never been anyone in authority to say to Mr Weissinger., "Muir, old boy, this simply won't do; go back and rewrite it."
As I read the book I imagined myself stra,pped into the window-seat of a transatlantic air-liner, with the next seat occupied by a large, bland, kindly American, who treated me for the next 12 hours to his thoughts on everything, proving his point from time to time with presscuttings extracted from his brief-case. Not a happy fate.
My principal worry is that this book, having attained the undeserved dignity of hard covers, will be swiftly remaindered, and fall into the hands of "the more cultivated portion of the ignorant" (as Stevenson called them) and will be regurgitated at us in taxis and pubs for many years to come as arguments against Catholicism. Sit tight; you will not increase your ability to reply by having read this book.