From time to time Dom gets sent books for review. Right now we’ve got a whole shelf of them in the living room. We’re both book nuts and Dom went so far as to quip that we weren’t so much getting married as merging libraries. I read much faster than Dom, and seem to have more free time on my hands now that I’ve cut back on my teaching load, so I’ve dipped into more of the books. He keeps bugging me that I should then be writing reviews of the books I read so as to honor our side of the unspoken agreement with the good people who send us these books for free. I know he’s right; but I have a hard time sorting my thoughts out on paper in a coherent enough form that I’d be willing to let people read them. (I can’t tell you how many posts on my own blog are closed and hidden because I don’t think they express clearly what I really think.) Also, like most writers I have a phenomenal problem with deadlines. (Makes it really hard to come down tough on my students who turn in late work.)
The Right to Be Wrong
But I’m feeling quite guilted now so here goes my first attempt at a very informal review of the latest book I’ve sneaked from Dom’s “free books shelf,” “The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America” by Kevin Seamus Hasson, founder and chairman of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, “a non-partisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions.”
I read this book in a couple of days (interrupted by a re-reading of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe after we saw the movie.) It is quite short, just 147 pages, excluding the footnotes and index and it’s a very easy read. Simple language, no technical jargon or academic idiom, no legalese or attempts to sound smart. Very engaging, the book moves from story to story, always illustrating each argumentative point with examples from history and recent events, including Becket Fund cases.
A Brief Summary
Hasson argues that the running feud over religious diversity in the public arena is driven by extremists on two sides. He labels them the Puritans and the Park Rangers after two illustrative stories he tells in the first chapter. The Pilgrims demand that only the true religion, their own, be allowed in the public square. The Park Rangers demand that no religion be allowed. For Hasson both sides are equally wrong, denying an essential human right that derives not from God, but from human nature. To quote from the book jacket: