Comes the Millennium

Purporting to be “a look at the burgeoning hysteria, religious mania, and anti-intellectualism as the millennium approaches,” this book is actually a polemic against the much narrower threat of the “Christian Right”. The premise is that, due to religious extremists’ apocalyptic worldview, we should be very concerned about our survival past Dec. 31, 1999. Blake, a self-professed “rational person”, takes this threat quite seriously, it seems, though he fails to offer much in the way of actual doomsday scenarios, other than Ronald Reagan starting WWIII. He goes about dissecting and refuting the political and pseudoscientific claims of fundamentalist bigots — claims which are patently absurd to begin with. His critique is meticulous indeed, explaining to us the many reasons why racial diversity, sexuality, homosexuality, secular humanism, and the theory of evolution are valid areas of human activity, instead of the work of Satan. But reading his litany of self-evident arguments I began to wonder, “Why bother?” Rationality is only an antidote for irrationality once its premises have been accepted. It is not the case that irrationality exists only to the degree that reason is absent; they are qualitatively different, not opposites. What Blake does is to engage his somewhat contrived enemy on its own terms, thereby keeping the debate on a level not much higher than the average Geraldo showdown. When I finished the book, I felt that I had just been lectured to by a sophomoric high school student. For a rationalist, Blake is embarrassingly smug, and besides, doesn’t he know the world isn’t going to end until 2012?

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