Why would a major corporation invest big money in a gratuitous insult of millions of potential customers who, according to the company’s own figures, represent a clear majority of the American public?
That’s the obvious question raised by a splashy full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times that appeared on September 24th under the attention-grabbing headline:
Along with a vaguely familiar but unmistakably menacing image of a looming, slightly askew church steeple, the layout asked: “Ready to challenge religious dogma? Read LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION by Sam Harris…The courageous new book that arms all rational Americans with powerful arguments against their opponents on the Christian right.”
At the bottom of the page, the ad features a series of statistics clearly meant to alert the reader to a growing peril and to force all “rational Americans” to protect themselves by buying the new book. “DID YOU KNOW,” the text explains, “44% of Americans think Christ will return in the next 50 years….73% of Americans believe in the existence of Hell * More than 50% of Americans have a “negative” or “highly negative” view of people who don’t believe in God * 70% think it important for presidential candidates to be ‘strongly religious.’”
This hugely expensive book promotion (such a prominently placed full page in the New York Times often costs more than $100,000) goes out of its way to assault and insult people of faith, drawing a clear dividing line between the “rational Americans” it hopes to reach and the benighted masses who believe in God, the importance of religious belief, or even the existence of hell. You might expect this sort of partisan, opinionated declaration of non-faith from some activist group like “Move On.org” or “People for the American Way” or even the American Civil Liberties Union. But the ad came from Alfred A. Knopf, one of the world’s most distinguished publishing imprints and a prominent segment of the mighty Random House empire, which also releases the work of prominent conservatives including (through its Crown Forum division) Ann Coulter, Fred Barnes and me.