Book Review: The Atheist Camel Rants Again
By James Zimmerman
The Atheist Camel Rants Again
By Bart Centre
312 pages, © 2011
In his new book The Atheist Camel Rants Again, Bart Centre reprises his role as Dromedary Hump, pontificating in a humorous, pseudo-grumpy, and often blunt manner on a spectrum of theological matters that capture his attention. Comprised of several two- and three-page chapters adopted from his blog, atheistcamel.blogspot.com, the book is very similar in style and content to Centre’s 2009 work, The Atheist Camel Chronicles.
The book’s press release states that Centre’s book offers “readers ironic, humorous ammunition against religion.” And, well, it’s tough to argue with that synopsis. Centre offers plenty of witty words, such as in chapter 87, “The Invocation,” where he offers a pre-dinner invocation for use by free-thinkers which includes “no mandated kowtowing to any man or myth” (262). Then there’s his response to the comment “God is Good;” Centre asks, “Good for what, precisely?” (204). In that same chapter, he suggests ‘a duel of verses’ in which for every scripture a theist offers in support of the biblical god’s love and goodness, Centre will match it with one and a half verses that demonstrate the deity’s evil and hateful manner (205). In like manner, he offers an entire chapter as a rebuttal to the tired apology that “religion is a beautiful thing” (53-56).
Just looking at the chapter titles is enough to entice free-thinkers to dig in and read. Consider: “Geocentrists Are the True Christians” (chapter 22), “Anne Frank Had It Coming” (chapter 29), “’Hey, Little Suzie Is Having a Tourette’s Episode! Who’s up for an Exorcism?’” (chapter 37), and “Hunp’s Dog Explains Her Trip to the Other Side” (chapter 71), in which Centre’s aged canine comes so close to death that it is able to explain what happens in the moments immediately prior to dog death. A prime example of Centre’s unabashed style is on page 166:
It took three hundred and fifty years for the Catholic Church to apologize for the persecution of Galileo, seven hundred and fifty years to apologize for the Inquisition. I’m going to guess that the thousands and thousands of victims of wholesale sexual abuse and cover-up by the Catholic clergy should get their apology in, oh…2500 CE. This assumes the Church doesn’t copulate itself into oblivion between now and then.
Written over 22 months (March 2009 to January 2011), Centre goes back to the same topics a few times, such as the Catholic stance on condoms and the creep of fundamentalism into the US government. Some might argue that this is a bit repetitive but, unfortunately, these are issues that are not going anywhere anytime soon, and Centre approaches them from a different angle (and is reacting to different events) in each essay.
Sometimes, though, we are made very much aware that we’re not reading new material. Page 296, for example, begins by saying, “Over the past week bird and fish kills have been reported.” Likewise, chapter 98 commences by discussing the mass killings and attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords “last week” (299). And the terrorist attacks in New York and the Pentagon are spoken of as being “nine years ago today” (245). The dates cited at the start of each chapter cue us in to when Centre originally wrote the words. The chapter referencing the terrorist attacks was, of course, written on September 11, 2010. This, however, has the effect of pulling the reader out of the text; as if the words, despite being in a brand new book, are not current.
Overall, though, this is a minor quibble. Anyone who reads the book is sure to know Centre culled his essays from his website; after all, the back cover informs us that the book has “drawn from the best of [Centre’s] writings.” The book, directed to “freethinkers and atheist activists,” is perhaps best read as a substitute for the erstwhile Bathroom Reader series: pick it up when you need to sit down for a minute. The short, self-contained chapters are just the right length…