By James Zimmerman

james_head.jpgGod Hates You, Hate Him Back, by CJ Werleman, 298 pages, Dangerous Little Books, ©2009

Werleman definitely gets an 'A' for idea: his goal is to make "the ultimate case for the claim that the God of the Bible is the most wicked character in the pages of history" (back cover) by discussing the highlights of each book of the bible. Unfortunately, his follow-through isn't as good.
 
It's difficult to see who his audience is (page four says it's "the layman"). Believers, even those with serious doubts, are likely to be put off by his intentionally crass humor and sarcasm, if they even bothered to read past the deliberately inflammatory title (which, incidentally, has little bearing on the subject matter - the author does not believe in the god of the bible and gives his readers no guidance on how to "hate Him back"). Non-believers, on the other hand, are probably already familiar with the major themes, stories, and contradictions of the bible. They're likely to be put off by the attempts at humor as well, such as on page three, where Werleman suggests "the next time you see a guy step out of a car with a Bush-Cheney 04 sticker please be sure to kick him in the shins." And when the book introduces Adam and Eve, the author spends the first two paragraphs making obvious jokes about the Garden of Eden (did Adam have a bellybutton?), waxing on about his sexual fantasies of "frolicking naked in a garden of paradise with a super hot chick," and trying to get a laugh about the issue of sunburn on his genitals (page 17). It's hard to see how a doubter, looking for a rational, non-apologetic view of the scriptures would continue reading after that.
    
The book devotes 23 pages to Genesis. It could have - and should have - spent at least double that space, though, and other books similarly suffer from being skimmed over too quickly. In trying to write about all 66 books, Werleman leaves out too many highlights and includes too many books that require no demystification. The chapter on Psalms and Lamentations, for example, simply provide excerpts. Other chapters, such as the one on Obadiah, will leave the reader wondering why space was wasted on these useless books, when there's so much more that could be said about the Gospels and the Pentateuch.
    
God Hates You is replete with errors, too, making it indeed a dangerous little book for people to use when arguing against the bible. For example, page 192 pokes fun at the gospel's account of the infant John the Baptist being miraculously endowed with speech. Later, the author claims that Roman soldiers "stormed the house" during the last supper (page 220). Anyone who uses these two 'facts' in a discussion with a Christian is sure to get laughed at. The author also criticizes aspects of the bible that don't seem to warrant it, such as his indictment of 1 Samuel: In discussing Hannah's tearful prayers to God that he make her fertile, Werleman lambastes this as another case of sexism - "notice how it is the woman's fault," he points out. True, the bible is sexist, but only one paragraph earlier, Werleman told his readers that Hannah's husband had fathered several children by his other wife. So...maybe the problem really was the woman in this instance. Later, the book rips on God for being omniscient, then, in the very next paragraph, for apparently not being omniscient (pages 133, 134).  Other errors rendering the book useless as a resource include:
   -Page 22: Noah descended from Cain (no, he didn't).
   -Page 61: Miriam is Aaron's wife (no, she wasn't).
   -Page 133: Job originally had six daughters (no, he didn't).
   -Page 164: Belshazzar was Nebuchadnezzar's son (no, he wasn't).
   -Page 232: Paul led the disciples in prayer in Acts 4 (and…no).
    
There are plenty of other, better books critiquing the Old and New Testaments. The author seems to feel the same way as he liberally quotes from them in large chunks. I suggest you read one of those instead.


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