CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Our Censors at Work?

Feb 7, 2008

Consider this situation: World-renowned Christian evangelist Billy Graham has dropped a bombshell on the religious and not-so-religious world. He has just announced that he is no longer a Christian, and is considering becoming an atheist. Moreover, he has just penned a new book outlining his reasons why he no longer finds theism to be tenable.

The publishing world, always on the lookout for a sure-fire hit, jumped at this story. One lucky publisher got the contract, and has printed one million copies of the book. It is being distributed world-wide, with a second million copies soon expected. While it was a bad day for theists, it was a great day for the publisher in question. They have made a mint on this book, and are looking forward to the next blockbuster volume by Graham.

Now none of that above scenario happens to be true. But there is a scenario which is almost identical to it, and it does happen to be true. Several years ago one of the world’s leading atheists announced that he had rejected his atheism and become a theist. Antony Flew even wrote a book about it, telling of his defection from unbelief, and outlining the reasons why the evidence seems to point clearly to theism.

His book is called There Is a God, and it was published in 2007 by HarperOne. Yet if you live in Australia, it is as if this shock resignation from the atheist camp never took place. You see, as far as I can ascertain, there are no copies of the book to be found in Australia? Why is that?

For example, as an avid book lover and collector, I am regularly in bookstores, almost on a daily basis. But even in the big chain bookstores, it is nowhere to be found. Is it at Dymocks? Nope. At Angus and Robertson? Nope? What about the big American chain which is now in Australia: Borders? Do they carry it? Nope again.

By the way, all of these bookstores carry all the atheist authors: Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et. al. Why not Flew? Why stock all of the anti-theists, but not an atheist who has changed his mind?

I have even checked out university bookstores. Surely it could be found there. But again, no dice. At one uni bookstore I visited, it had what it called a “Highly Recommended” section. And what was found there? As might be expected, Richard Dawkins’ militant tome on atheism, The God Delusion was proudly displayed in pride of place. The store also featured the New Age mumbo jumbo, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. But no Antony Flew.

Now I happen to have a copy of Flew’s book, which I have reviewed for this site. But I had to get my copy through amazon.com in the US. Why is it not available here? Why must one go overseas to get this hugely important and significant title?

These questions need some answers. To seek for such information, I eventually called Harper in Australia after a lead from a friend. Their responses were interesting, to say the least. They claimed, after some prodding and probing, that this book probably would not generate much interest. It is an “indent title,” which means it is not stocked in Australia, but must be specially ordered by a customer.

I asked why they did not carry a book which is so significant and would undoubtedly sell well, given the subject matter. I said books of a similar subject matter were well stocked in Australian stores and selling like hotcakes. So why not this one? All they could tell me was someone or some group decides what titles will come in, in bulk, and which ones will simply be a special order.

So someone or some group has decided this will not be made available to Australian readers. I was told on the phone that there did not seem to be much of a demand for the book, to which I replied: Yes, but if no one has heard of the book, it is unlikely that there will be much demand for it. A bit of advertising might help.

By preventing Australians from even seeing the book or hearing about it, they are effectively cutting demand, thus the need for supply. All in all, I was not too impressed with the reasons given.

Call me sceptical, but could it be that there are those with a worldview which is hostile to theism in general, or Christianity in particular, who are calling the shots here? Are they simply censoring out titles which they do not happen to agree with?

I guess it will be hard to determine the real answers to those questions either way. But given how the atheist titles have flooded into Australia, it seems surprising to say the least that such an important title as this, dealing with the exact same issues, should be effectively banned from our bookstores.

All I can say is it seems a bit like ideology, the battle of worldviews, and censorship to me. But I conclude on a positive note. I mentioned this title to one Australian Christian bookstore chain, Koorong. They have just brought in 40 copies from overseas. I expect they will very quickly sell out indeed, and I have recommended that they get a whole lot more in real soon.

They will end up being the sole supplier of this vital book, and reap the profits. In a battle of ideas, truth is important. Information needs to get out. If the secular bookstores and the university bookstores refuse to stock important titles like this which challenge the reigning secularism, then leave it to the smaller religious bookstores to take up the slack.

I encourage those interested in getting a copy of this most remarkable book to give Koorong a call today. (By the way, I am not employed by Koorong, in case someone is wondering. I just think that preventing certain titles from seeing the light of day is not the way to go, generally speaking. Allow the customers the right to decide what they want, instead of predetermining what they can get access to.) This book deserves a wide hearing, and is a most welcome antidote to the onslaught of Dawkins and Co.

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13 Responses to Our Censors at Work?

  • Thanks Bill, This sounds like an essential piece of heavy ordnance to put in our armory.
    David Skinner, UK

  • Hi Bill, I too am amazed at what is going on here with this book. I have been struggling with the very anaemic literature about the nature of LAW eg. TORAH and the way the word law is used in secular disciplines. Flew’s book has greatly encouraged me in this struggle. This book is dynamite. No wonder it is such a secret.
    Stan Fishley

  • Bill,

    Thanks again. Yes, secularism (“We have no God but Ceasar”) has spread its tentacles well and truly beyond the academic lefties and is now entrenched in commercial organsisations.

    Stephen White

  • Why am I not surprised by your account Bill. Thanks for sharing. I actually gave up on those book stores a long time ago, unless I’m buying sci-fantasy. Glad to see Koorong are stocking the books we’d expect them to though. I mean, if we can’t expect Koorong to stock it, then who else will?

    (An aside; I’m sure you noticed that it was lights-camera-action all over the whaling issue again today?)

    Duane Proud

  • Thanks Duane

    Yes the whales are getting a pretty good run lately. I somehow don’t expect to see similar coverage at the abortion mills any time soon.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    I know that Australia has a rather small book market potential when compared with UK, Europe, USA, but when the actual publisher of the book states what you indicated, it seems to point to something else that is going on here.

    I thought that Harper One was in the business of making money from the sale of books anywhere in the world, and without promotion their own books will obviously flop.

    Yet, Harper One’s subsidiary, Harper San Francisco, is very happy to release every copy of heretical historical Jesus material by John Dominic Crossan.

    Have you contacted Antony Flew to alert him to this anomaly?

    Spencer Gear, Hervey Bay, Qld.

  • Great article Bill. It’s sometimes hard to believe the lengths people will go to, to suppress the truth about God. If God is a construct of humans as the secular-humanists argue, why the need to hide books such as this? What are they afraid of? I suspect we all know the answer!

    George Kokonis

  • On occasion, I have kept my eye open for this book and as yet have not seen a copy. I even went to a Christian Book Shop yesterday and they did not have it. Maybe there is a business opportunity there for you Bill?

    I think it is stretching it to suggest there is some form of conspiracy unfolding.

    Ben Green

  • Bill,

    I did a quick check of Dymocks Online and there are 1008 books found on a search for “Christianity” and 39 books on a search for “Atheism”. That doesn’t suggest the kind of bias or censorship that you allege.

    Bookstores depend for their success on the sale of books, and no bookstore is going to refuse to stock a book that will bring in sales, and books with a religious slant have a substantial market.

    The real answer is that there is no demand for this book. Few people, whether believer or non-believer, have ever heard of Anthony Flew, let alone Roy Varghese who actually wrote the book. And, even if the book accurately represents Flew’s views, it has no earth-shattering new insight to offer. It’s just the same old “God of the gaps”, i.e. science can’t explain everything, therefore there must be something else out there.

    Flew’s God is a long way removed from the Christian concept of a personal God, and it beats me why some Christians are so encouraged by him.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Thanks Steve

    But let me call your bluff here. If you take into account two considerations the picture becomes quite the contrary. Of these supposed 1000 Christian titles, I would wager that those that are actually reflecting Biblical Christianity are in fact simply numbered in the dozens at best. Most would be anything from New Age mumbo jumbo to liberal religion which has nothing to do with the biblical worldview. And narrowing the opposing camp to one specific word – atheism – is of course most disingenuous. If you took all the titles at Dymocks (or any other mainstream bookstore), you would find the secular, humanist, non-Christian titles comprise probably at least 95 per cent of the stock. So please spare us this meaningless nonsense.

    As to Flew’s book, there is no demand for it in Australia for the simple reason that Australian book sellers, and the secular, liberal mainstream media and academia, have all done their best to not tell anyone of its existence. Demand can only proceed from information, and if our secular elites are doing their best to keep a theistic point of view from getting a fair hearing, then of course demand will be low to nonexistent.

    And I really am getting tired of calling your bluff on this supposed non-importance of Flew’s defection. You underplay it and mock it because that is a lot easier than actually dealing with his arguments. But it is hugely significant, just as a Graham defection the other way would be. Stop pretending anyone here is claiming he has become a biblical Christian. No one has ever said he did. What he did is renounce the atheistic and materialistic worldview of which he was a world leader in promoting. That is an ideological and intellectual about face of tremendous importance.

    And all you sore losers can do is deceitfully whine about whether he in fact even wrote the book. That shows how desperate you all are. You have not refuted one of his arguments, you simply attack his person. This is so typical of atheists and secularists who have no intellectual legs to stand on. No wonder they want to slam his defection so much. The higher the defection, the more mud your camp throws. It shows the absolute intellectual emptiness of atheism and naturalism.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, I’m on your side (member of biblical evangelical church, & QLD Right to Life) but in fairness to Steve Angelino, I had never heard of Flew outside of your website, yet (almost) every Christian / atheist / has heard of Billy Graham so his defection to the theistic camp is nowhere near as newsworthy as Graham’s defection to the atheitic camp.
    Graeme Cumming

  • Thanks Graeme

    But with all due respect, you miss the point. This issue is not so much how popular or famous the man may have been, but what his intellectual status and influence was. As a world class philosopher with dozens of books to his name, and the leading atheist for much of last century, he was and is a significant figure indeed.

    Certainly in academic circles, and not just in philosophy departments, Flew would be a quite familiar name. Indeed, I recall reading about him in my pre-Christian days. That is why I said that at least university bookstores should be carrying his book. There surely would be more familiarity with Flew and his thinking there. But again, his defection from atheism has been downplayed big time by our intelligentsia. The question remains: why is this?

    And the fact that you have not heard of him – and his defection – may in fact make my point. Why hasn’t this ideological bombshell been more widely reported down under? Why does it seem to be kept under wraps? As can be seen by the various atheist comments about this issue, all they can do is attack the person, instead of deal with his arguments. If that is the case, I can see why a mainly secular intelligentsia would just want to keep the whole story quiet.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Steve,

    You stated: “The real answer is that there is no demand for this book. Few people, whether believer or non-believer, have ever heard of Anthony Flew, let alone Roy Varghese who actually wrote the book.”

    I have not been an avid reader of Antony Flew over the years but when I took college or graduate school courses in Christian apologetics I was exposed to Flew’s atheism.

    There is not likely to be a demand for this book if its publisher, HarperOne, does not want to promote Flew and the book in Australia.

    I never knew of the works of Christian philosopher / apologist William Lane Craig until someone introduced him to me a few years ago. Reading him is heavy going, but I’ve learned so much about how to defend the faith by reading Craig.

    Antony Flew’s movement from avid atheism to theism is a monstrous leap. If you read the interview between Flew and Gary Habermas that is available online, Flew states that he is open to theistic revelation. Read the interview at: http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/flew-interview.pdf

    Spencer Gear, Hervey Bay, Q.

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