Friday, August 14, 2009

The Atheist

This week's Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs is a look at Phil Hester's The Atheist.

I had dinner recently with someone and I mentioned that I was reading The Atheist. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “There was some controversy about that title, wasn’t there?” I don’t remember the controversy itself, but I do remember an interview or something in which Phil Hester felt the need to explain the name of his book. He does it again in the introduction to the collected volume. What’s surprising, I think, is that it’s not conservative religious people who were complaining this time.

Hester writes, “I thought The Atheist was a snappy, if somewhat jarring, hook of a title. It seemed to perfectly describe Mr. Sharpe’s uncompromising brand of skeptical thinking and just plain old sounded cool. Of course, I should have considered that this title might cause readers to infer the book would have some stance, pro or con, on the atheist world view, and that some atheists would take offense at their views being fodder for a horror comic book.” He also says that he’s dropping the title on any potential future volumes.

I bring this up because I remember being jarred by the title when the first issue came out. I remember wondering whether the book would take a stance on atheism and whether it would be pro or con. This was one of the first books I read where Hester was writing but not illustrating it, so I didn’t know what to expect. But I also remember reading it and being relieved that atheism really wasn’t what the book was about at all.

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