Reviewing A Lopsided Bar Room Book Discussion About a Belief System No One Holds, Complete With Annoying Corny Cheesy Humor, Part 3

I'm reviewing Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber's conversational style book, An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything.

I've previously mentioned the lopsidedness between Rauser and Schieber's academic credentials. This matters because breadth of knowledge matters, if nothing else. A self-taught person like Schieber cannot get the breadth that comes from taking the core classes required to earn bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. It's the breadth of knowledge Schieber lacks, even if he has a fair understanding of the material in this book, and he does have a fair understanding of it, not an expert understanding. I've also talked about the content and criticized the co-authors for discussing the classical concept of god because no one, or practically no one, holds to it in today's world.

As I write this review I wrestle with who might want to buy a copy. Not me. I haven't learned anything significant from reading it, but then experts cannot be the target audience either. Which expert would ever quote Schieber's words in this book, saying, "On this matter Schieber said: '...quote...'" Or, "For more on this topic I recommend what Schieber said in An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar. I know of no expert who would do so. Furthermore, the conversational style of the book is not conducive to an elaborate in-depth defense of an argument for one reason, it's just a conversation. Each co-author must allow the other co-author time to respond, so you never get to read an elaborate and lengthy defense of any given argument.

Moreover, I would rather read what Schieber said without having to read Rauser's take downs of what he said. This would've been more interesting to me, especially because it was annoying to wade through the muddy waters resulting from Rauser's dredged up obfuscations of Schieber's arguments (none original with him). Rauser's got nothing here. Yet Schieber seems so happy to be invited to co-write the book he never presses his arguments to the end and even bends over backwards in the face of Rauser's ignorance to be polite and respectful at all costs to Rauser, his superior (after all, the book looks better on his resume than on Rauser's). The real cost is the truth. Schieber either cannot adequately defend his arguments or he's too timid to do so. As a result, truth suffers.

What about typical bar room people, the Joe Six-Pack's of the English speaking world? Would they want to buy and read this book? Probably not. In too many cases the co-authors treat readers as if they're ignorant. The stories they tell in it are long and simplistic and take up too much space that would better be served getting to the point and arguing that point. This is standard Rauser. It's what he does, and he does it well if you find that type of writing useful. I don't. Many of his stories are analogies I find unhelpful because they don't clarify but rather obfuscate. What's interesting is that Schieber does the same thing, having learned from Rauser, a bad role model in my opinion, and so he's equally annoying. The stories dumb down the discussion, trying to reach down to the bar room person. But then dumb people still don't want to be treated as if they're dumb, right? Then the co-authors turn right around and forget about these readers by using language they probably cannot understand, plus more.

Examples of words a typical bar room reader wouldn't understand:

Here are just a few examples from Rauser: Apatheism "is a "postmanteau of atheism and apathy" (Rauser, p. 17). "basic metaphysical commitment." (Rauser, p. 20) "I'm not interested in defending pantheism, polytheism, henotheism, Manichaeanism dualism, process theism" (Rauser, p. 29) "putative healing." (Rauser, p. 47) I'll admit they don't do too bad at using language hard to understand, but there are too many times they do.

So I really don't know who the main target audience is for this book. Is it the educated person in the pew? Perhaps that's the intent, but then I think these potential readers would be just annoyed as I am with the corny cheesy humor found in it. Examples of corny cheesy humor:


Schieber: It's certainly true that hasty generalizations are never wise.
Rauser: Never ever? Wait a minute. Did you just make a hasty generalization? Heh. Heh.
Schieber: I was wondering if you were going to catch that one. Well done. (p. 24)


Schieber: To shake up the cultural assumption of God as male, I often will use female-gendered pronouns.
Rauser: Fine with me. Shake all you like! (p. 26)


Schieber: We are but mortals.
Rauser: True. Although people are often awestruck by my presence, I am indeed a mortal. (p. 29)


Rauser: Hmmm, without wanting to nitpick here, I find myself saying yes and no.
Okay I admit it: I do want to pick.
Schieber: Pick away, Randal. (p. 34)


Rauser: Sorry, but I need to inject.
Schieber: See what I mean? You've just inflicted a profound act of religious violence on my word flow, zealot!
Rauser: Yeah, I apologize for my fanatical barbarism....
Schieber: Well, you'll have to forgive me for raising a particular skeptical brow here. What you've just said seems like a claim more easily asserted than supported. What is your thought process here?
Rauser: Not going to accept my testimony, eh? Well, I'll see your skeptical eyebrow and raise you a double brow of quizzical incredulity. (p. 68)


Rauser: You took the words right out of my mouth! What do you mean?
Schieber: I suppose great minds think alike.
Rauser: Or it could just be that Caucasian North American males think alike.
Schieber: That too. (p. 76)


Rauser: Ack! You're right. Sorry. Sorry abut that. Pardon me while I self-flagellate as punishment.
Schieber: No problem. I can wait.
Rauser: Ouch! Ouch! (p. 81)


I consider this humor of theirs one of the most annoying features of the book, and it does matter, even if it says nothing specific about the content inside of it. The corny humor treats educated people as ignorant, and ignorant people as ignorant. It's like watching an otherwise good movie over-all, but where the dialog has too many moments that sound like a Bimbo in a B-Movie. Not even Bimbo's would appreciate it being exposed for all to see.