Godless: The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter (Crown Forum, $36.95, 308 pages)

Review by Kathy Shaidle

The Interim

Those who object to U.S. conservative columnist Anne Coulter’s torture-all-prisoners punditry are like pre-teen boys griping that Gone With the Wind has “too much kissing.” That is, Coulter-haters suffer from genre dysphasia. The bestselling author is neither a journalist nor a scholar, so she can’t very well be judged (and inevitably found wanting) by the criteria traditionally applied to either profession.

Ann Coulter is actually a “bomb-throwing polemicist” in the Tom Paine mould (I’m indebted to Catholic author Mark Shea for first making this observation). And no one ever scolded Paine – that fearless, not to mention highly effective, pamphleteer of the American Revolution – for being “mean spirited,” “unfair” or for “showing too much leg.”

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter’s new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, is her latest expose of left-wing lunacy. Her particular focus this time around is religious faith or, more accurately, liberals’ alleged lack thereof: “Liberalism is a comprehensive belief system denying the Christian belief in man’s immortal soul. Their religion holds that there is nothing sacred about human consciousness. It’s just an accident no more significant than our possession of opposable thumbs. They deny what we know about ourselves: that we are moral beings in God’s image. Without this fundamental understanding of man’s place in the world, we risk being lured into misguided pursuits, including bestiality, slavery and PETA membership. Liberals swoon in pagan admiration of Mother Earth, mystified and overawed by her power. They deny the biblical idea of dominion and progress, the most ringing affirmation of which is the United States of America.”

For the next 300 pages, Coulter documents this ersatz, upside down “religion,” its idols (environmentalism, abortion, sex ed, pacifism), its junk science dogmas and its martyrs (mostly cop killers and dead communists). Liberalism, writes Coulter, is a suicidal death cult (much like radical Islam, which explains why few liberals seem keen to denounce the West’s jihadist enemies).

Godless will disappoint all but Coulter’s most rabid fans, who aren’t as numerous as they used to be. Earlier this year, Coulter called Muslims “ragheads” in a widely publicized and condemned speech to conservative activists. And her criticism in Godless of high-profile Democratic “9/11 widows” – “I’ve never seen women enjoying their husbands’ death so much” – turned off many longtime admirers.

Godless either refights old battles (Michael Dukakis? Willie Horton!) or sounds derivative (Coulter’s three – count ’em – chapters defending intelligent design is basically Jonathan Wells’s Icons of Evolution but with Harriet Miers (Harriet Miers!) jokes.

For a book ostensibly about Christianity, Godless is awfully shy of biblical citations. Coulter’s theology is sometimes shaky. And the provocative assertions for which Coulter is infamous frequently fall flat: “Environmentalists’ energy plan is the repudiation of America and Christian destiny, which is jet skis, steak on the electric grill, hot showers and night skiing.”

So I take it Ann really likes skiing – and that Random House has recently fired all their copyeditors. Coulter is capable of better (or is it worse?). Has her million-dollar ice queen persona become an unholy burden? Coulter has taken to wearing a bejeweled cross pendant draped across her prominent clavicle. The book’s most arresting moment comes when Coulter recommends looking death row inmates in the eye and telling them: “Confess, repent, Jesus loves you.”

So, Ann Coulter is a Christian. But is the unapologetic blonde “bombthrower” a “good” Christian? She was asked just that in a recent interview, and replied: “Maybe (God will) say I was too tough or maybe he’ll chastize me for not being tough enough on those who hate him. Ask the moneychangers in the temple how ‘nice’ Jesus was. Maybe he’ll say I needed more jokes or fewer adjectives. I’ll just apologize for not getting it right and thank him for dying for my sins … To believe with all your heart at every moment that God loved a wretch like you so much that he sent his only Son to die for your sins. Most of the time, I’m an extraordinarily good Christian.”

Wow, again.

I much preferred Coulter’s previous books Treason and How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). Ironically, the very faults of Godless – Coulter’s rehashing of decades-old controversies, her unfunny jokes and uninspired personal attacks (former surgeon-general Dr. C. Everett Coop is called  “the gay Amish member of the Village People”) – might just indicate a personal turning point, a contentious columnist weary of worldly partisan bickering.

Will her next book leave red/blue state politics aside completely and focus on her fiery, if sometimes wrongheaded, faith? Like millions of readers who can’t help but love the sometimes unlovable author, I’ll be waiting for next season’s “new Ann Coulter book” to find out.

Kathy Shaidle, an occasional contributor, blogs at www.relapsedcatholic.com.