How a beautiful book cover made me a “hater of Christ”

I wish Christian books came with warning labels.

I had a strange experience recently. I downloaded a book and hated it so much that I had to get out of bed and write a scathing review, starting with the title “How did this trash get on my Kindle.”

Since I rarely write reviews, and even then feel bad giving less than 3 stars, what did this book do to piss me off?

I’ve discovered that bad reviews are all about reader expectation.

The book was Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn.

—-start of review—-

I was fooled by the beautiful cover and looking forward to digging into the promise of an exciting story. Instead, I got Lee Strobel style religious zeal preached and internet meme Christian propaganda and conspiracy theory told through a thin layer of fiction.

It’s a little like the Celestine Prophecy – only the C.P. is more grounded in science and reality (which is really, really saying something).

The uncomfortable pit in my stomach grew through the first several sections, which pour out inexcusable mistake after mistake. I knew I was dealing with someone whose religious perceptions clouds their grasp on fact.

If you’re a Bible-Beater, then you’re going to love this book. It will confirms all of your hopes and fears, while referencing Bible texts and Bible history and appearing to reveal insights based on ancient history (although making logical leaps that would be suicide in a true research book).

If you’re a normal person looking for entertainment, look elsewhere.

Things that upset me

1) Claiming that Israelites killed their children on the altars of Baal and Molech

(ie that all those heath pagan religions were EVIL, while Israel was pure). We have no knowledge of this. The idea comes from Leviticus 18:21: “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Moloch”, but actually refers to the practice of rendering infants immortal by passing them through the fire (not killing them) as recorded in early Greek myth, such as the myth of Thetis and the myth of Demeter as the nurse of Demophon.

2) America is a CHRISTIAN nation that WENT ASTRAY in the 20th Century
“In the middle of the twentieth century America began officially removing God from its national life. It abolished prayer and Scripture in its public schools.”

Obviously the author doesn’t realize that much of the Godliness in America was added in the 1950’s as a response to the Communist Scare. “In God we Trust” was added to all paper money in 1966. The phrase “under God” was added to the otherwise secular Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950’s, as was the “So help me God” suffix attached to the oaths of office for federal justices and judges.

America was first settled by uneducated religious crazies; but its politics were established by soundly anti-Christian philosophers

3) Religious people are persecuted in America
“In America, God was progressively driven out of the nation’s public life. The very mention of the name God or Jesus in any relevant context became more and more taboo and unwelcome.” Really? And how many U.S. presidents have been Christian? All of them?

4) 9-11 is the result of America being judged for allowing abortion

“Ten years after removing prayer and Scripture from its public schools, the nation legalized the killing of its unborn. The blood of the innocent now stained its collective hands. The blood of the innocent now stained its collective hands. Israel had sacrificed thousands on the altars of Baal and Molech. But by the dawn of the twenty-first century, America had sacrificed millions. For its thousands, judgment came upon Israel. What then of America?”

First of all, see #1. Pagans didn’t do the whole child-sacrifice thing like Christians like to believe they did (and even if they had, maybe it would still be better than the religious sexual abuse epidemic). Secondly… I’m not even going to get involved. But if you think 9-11 is God’s punishment for Abortion, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

5) Everything that happens is God’s Will. Sometimes he allows evil things to happen to good people

“It happened, Nouriel. Therefore it had to have been allowed to happen. That’s not the question. Rather, the only question is whether it was allowed to happen for no reason or whether there was, within it, a redemptive purpose.”

What? So sometimes things are allowed to happen for no reason, and sometimes for a purpose? What about Free Will? What about my apostasy and looming Damnation? Did God allow that to happen for no reason? (I can’t imagine a redemptive purpose to my damnation…)

Anyway – it’s a clean, well formatted book, there’s nothing particularly wrong with the writing. I understand why it’s so popular. I just wish there had been a sign on it saying “A Christian Fairy Tale”.

—-end of review—-

Amazon response

Like I said, I don’t usually leave bad reviews. But as far as bad reviews go, I thought mine was fair and would probably help readers decide whether or not the book was for them, and not be distracted by the beautiful cover promising a religious thriller, like I was.

Today I checked in at amazon and found this comment on my review:

I guess you forgot the old saying of not judging a book by its cover. However, based on your review, I believe you knew what you were buying and just wanted another opportunity to attach Christianity. I am a Christian myself and think the evangelical view of the Bible is incorrect so I also don’t follow what this book has to say. Sorry I digressed. You should be honest and not try to sound like you are anything more than you are, a hater of Christ, not someone who “mistakenly” added this book based on its cover.

So, apparently, I’m just a troll. I go around looking for Christian books to buy and then read so that I can write nasty comments about them. As if I have nothing better to do than engage with Christians who believe insane things, misrepresent history, and spread ill-conceived ideological and eschatological bullshit (scatological?) to their millions of moronic followers.

Do I think it’s dangerous that a book with silly fundamentalist beliefs like this is a bestseller on Amazon with over 600 (mostly positive) reviews? Sure. Do I think it sucks that Christian publishers have a ravenous and passionate market that will gobble up anything they produce? Definitely.

But I usually try pretty hard to avoid reading books I know I won’t like.

Is it fair to review a book that wasn’t written with you in mind? (For example, when Christians post negative 1 star reviews on Atheist books).

Should I take my review down and get out of a conflict that doesn’t involve me?

  • Steve Walley

    You bought a book, you read it, you reviewed it by making valid points as opposed to just mouthing off. Nothing wrong with that, so leave your post there! The zealots may advocate another inquisition but then that just shows them for who they are.

    • Derek Murphy

      Thanks Steve! I’m a hesitant blogger, because I get more angry hate mail than anything else.

  • K T

    Oh dear — my in-laws just sent this book to us. When they first texted to warn it was on the way (and that it was “NOT political, but just an amazing best-seller…REALLY interesting — almost spooky” – hmm…), I Googled it and said to my husband, “I think I would prefer if this book were political”. Not to mention, when a shining review from Glenn Beck shows up near the top of my search results, I usually feel pretty safe in assuming that it’s going to be waaay over my head. Anyway, my watchmen on the wall in-laws blew their trumpet through Amazon and lo, it arrived today…I did decide to read the last two pages, then Googled “the harbinger is Christian bullshit”, and here’s your review. I’m delighted 🙂 My research is done.

    • Derek Murphy

      Ha – that’s pretty funny. My post was a lot harsher/more emotional than I like to be… but it hit a nerve I guess. Unfortunately, I keep hearing people refer to it as a ‘great book of non-fiction!’

    • G.M.

      I googled “the harbinger is a crock of shit” and found this blog….too funny! I thought I was the only one that did that sort of thing.

  • ctkatz

    my boss knows im an atheist. my boss is also an end times believer. they had picked up this book and suggested it to me after they finished reading it saying that it wasn’t overtly religious but tied things found in a bible with today’s financial crisis and the terrorist attacks on september 11. they even gave me their copy of those book. I had put this off for months because I am a(n audio) book junkie and I was going through a backlog of david webber’s honor harrington series, as in the first book and going there all 13 of the main series, not including the 10 separate books in the series but not tied to the main story. plus I work at a job 40 hour a week that doesn’t let me read (or listen to) books on the job, and I get wasted from the job itself. all of this means that for 8 months this book has been sitting in a drawer unread. last week I caught up through the hh main series backlog. I think I should have started the side series instead.

    this book was an easy read but very difficult to read. when it comes to fiction books, you have to set aside reality. I can do this with the most realistic fiction books. I wasn’t through 20 pages when I had several “wait, what?” moments. while i was read I this I got the impression that this is something glenn beck would write if he wanted to tie the bible to september 11 with the financial disaster thrown in as dessert. that beck liked the book is unsurprising. I got a copy of the audio version to put my mind at 100% at understanding the story. sad to say it didn’t help. the book was a poorly written monologue sermon pushing christian conversion thinly veiled as an ancient conspiracy. I’m not going to leave my own review but I think that as long as you actually read the book you have every right to say how bad a book is, and is people don’t like it, that’s on them.

    • Derek Murphy

      Thanks for your comment and your opinion of the book. I don’t usually review bad books, and I try to avoid books that I know I won’t like… but for some reason the marketing being used ‘hooked’ me the right way and made me excited to read it… so I had a hard, hard fall when I figured out it was an extremist fanatic worldview madly mixed with politics and current events under a very thin layer of mostly implausible fiction…

  • Peter

    I too am highly skeptical of the content of the book but your arguments are very poor. For example the so called “Christian” American presidents. Do you honestly believe they were all true Christians?

  • Jack

    Yes, he is right, you wrote with your agenda but pretended to be innocent. God bless you.