Sunday, July 10, 2011

(non-) BOOK REVIEW for "Divinity of Doubt: The God Question"

Former LA prosecutor and best-selling author Vincent Bugliosi released his latest book "Divinity of Doubt: The God Question" recently and I decided to buy it. I like to use the investigative method when approaching truth claims and it sounded like Bugliosi was doing the same thing despite reaching a different conclusion. So I had to try it. Bulgliosi describes this work as the culmination of a two-year research project. He's written on the OJ case, JFK assassination, and George W. Bush but now steps out of his field to give his best case for agnosticism in this latest work. Bugliosi says he employs his prosecutorial skills to sift through the evidence for a rational conclusion. In that, I applaud him but the praise stops there.

This book was brought to my attention by an agnostic friend. I offered to read it with him but I'm not sure he has the time or interest. I finished the third chapter and put the book down for good. Perhaps it's unwise to dismiss a book with content I disagree with so quickly. After all, there are many things to be learned by reading authors who share a different point of view. But Bugliosi proved to me very early in his book that there would be little to learn. Here are my reasons for shutting down the project:

1. Intellectually Dishonest
Bugliosi mentions in his first chapter his definition of a fact is that which can be observed. He also is so convinced that God has no justification for allowing suffering in the world that he insists God would have to appear in the sky to convince us he exists. While Bugliosi claims to apply his prosecutorial framework to the God Question, he changes the rules before getting started. He would have won 0% of his cases in his long career as a prosecutor had he applied the same standards in court as he does to God.

2. Uninformed
Bugliosi clearly doesn't understand Christianity which he claims is a false religion. He may be agnostic about "a god" but wants the reader to know that the Christian God most certainly doesn't exist. That would be fine if he had good reasons to back it up. But instead, Bugliosi attacks a straw man. He makes up his own view of Christianity and then creating a case against it. His mention of Frank Turek and Norm Geisler are the only recognizable apologists he cites from the 21st century, but only in one quotation in the entire first three chapters and in an irrelevent part about prayer. Not only is he ignorant to Christianity, but he is clearly unfamiliar with leading arguments against it. There are much better arguments to draw from than the ones Bugliosi came up with.

3. Tacky
Bugliosi includes in every section of the book a sarcastic tone that doesn't belong in an intellectual conversation especially one as important as God. Much like the angry new atheists he's also critical of, Bugliosi presents a tone that seems like a desperate attempt to make a point that his arguments fail to do for themselves. If he had presented more informed and honest reasoning, the tone would only be annoying. Instead, it made it even more difficult to read a terrible book.

I hope Bugliosi's eyes have been opened by this experience so that he reexamines his own worldview. Two years may be a long time for him, but there are thousands of scholars of all beliefs and backgrounds who have devoted their lives to the topic. Reading just a few of them would have made a big difference to the author's knowledge base. Bugliosi warns the believer not to read his book if easily offended. I would take it further, whether atheist, theist, or agnostic, this book is not for you. You will get more out of the reviews like that which is available on the Please Convince Me website. Prosecutor Al Serrato has written extensively on the book in a very clear and fair way. His reviews are highly recommended.

1 comment:

David W. Mantik said...

This is an egocentric book, too often superficial, and way too often wrong or misleading. Like many narrowly-trained experts before him, Bugliosi mistakenly thinks that his brainpower will succeed outside his area of expertise. He is not trained in biology or physics or cosmology or theology or philosophy or, for that matter, in any specialty that makes him required reading on God’s existence. He even blunders in history, especially in the history of the early church. Inevitably, therefore, his recurrent idiosyncratic comments are only characteristic of the rank amateur. For these reasons, I cannot even recommend this as an introductory book—the novice reader would not emerge properly grounded. Nor can I recommend it to a moderately sophisticated reader, except possibly for its entertainment value (sometimes unintentional). Such a reader would learn little that was new or valuable. Instead I would strongly propose Why I Became an Atheist by John W. Loftus (an ex-minister). My adjectives about this book are at polar opposites of those about Bugliosi’s book. As we should now expect, though, Bugliosi does not cite this book either.

My full review is at

David W. Mantik