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Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Review of Bill's Book!

Here's my review of Bill's anti-gay book:

http://www.borders.com.au/book/strained-relations/25960956/


If you don't want to click on the link, here it is in full:

The author expected that when this book was released it would cause a sensation. The truth is, it has been completely ignored by all media. The reason is not that it’s too hot to handle, too controversial and too explosive; but simply that it’s a desperately poor book in every respect. It is poorly written, poorly researched and especially poorly argued.

The aims of the author (Bill Muehlenberg, who runs a fundamentalist Christian web blog) are encapsulated in the somewhat sinister sub-heading, “The Challenge Of Homosexuality”. The author sees homosexuality, and consequently gay people, as something that needs to be fought against rather than respected as human beings, and thus from the outset the book comes across as an off-puttingly angry, intolerant and disrespectful piece. His central thesis is that gay people ought not to exist as they should be forced to live a lie; and that all rights should be denied to gay people.

The problem Muehlenberg faces is trying to justify his fundamentalist and strident position (when all the evidence, that homosexuality is harmless and innate, and that gay people can make great parents) is providing any coherent argument whatsoever, and he repeatedly circles around the same old canards and shock tactics, especially the reprehensible suggestion he makes that homosexuality is the moral equivalent of paedophilia.

The fifth chapter wades especially into the territory of fantasy. It’s called “Once Homosexual, Always Homosexual?” and argues in favour of “ex-gay” “therapy”, the religiously-inspired “cure” for homosexuality that every responsible psychiatric association has condemned as cruel, needless, dangerous and ineffective. Muehlenberg ignores the inconvenient evidence that such “therapy” has never been known to work, and ignores the evidence that many thousands of victims of this “therapy” have been driven to serious mental health problems or even suicide through their guilt of failure. The book is more about what it doesn’t say than what it actually says in its 266 pages – and the overriding effect is that it reads as if the author is pushing propaganda for a radical activist cause in an attempt at social engineering rather than engaging honestly with his subject.

Muehlenberg strays further from the truth in chapters about same-sex marriage and adoption rights, arguing that such moves would bring about social anarchy and collapse. He ignores the fact that many Western countries have already adopted such liberal policies and the reverse of his predictions are true – it’s led to social harmony, which is why more and more countries are passing laws to allow equal rights to gay people. The “evidence” he puts forward to suggest homosexual couples oughtn’t to be allowed to adopt are especially flaky – but since every peer-reviewed scientific study (none of which is cited) has revealed that children have not been disadvantaged by being adopted by homosexual couples, a practice now common and socially accepted in much of the West, that is hardly surprising. That the author’s dire warnings of the consequences have wholly failed to manifest consigns the book to an outdated and factually inaccurate footnote in what was once a social issue.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who goggles at the inaccuracies and myths peddled in this book that Muehlenberg’s training is in theology, and not in science; let alone the social sciences. His understanding of what constitutes evidence for a position is consequently very weak, and the author is crying out for something other than the occasional cherry-picked quote from a gay person to make his argument. The fact that he quotes from “leading homosexual activists” is part of the inherent fallaciousness of the whole book. Muehlenberg is keen to treat homosexuality like a religion, with various spokespeople in charge and underlings who do as they’re told. If he started by treating gay people as individuals with different wants, needs, desires and views to every other person, gay or straight, he might be able to better engage with the facts. The overriding impression is that the author does not personally know a single gay person, and yet he writes as if he thinks of himself as an authority on the subject. It’s a bit like reading a book condemning the Russian people where you get the nagging suspicion that its author hasn’t ever even met a single Russian, and it’s another way in which Strained Relations is divorced from reality.

The sloppy writing style sees many sentences structured the same way, which makes reading the author tedious in the extreme after only a few pages. Literally hundreds of sentences start with the word “indeed”, and the book could have done with a decent proofreader before it was published.

Strained Relations will have very limited appeal, simply because the non-issue at the heart of it has moved on much further than the author realises, and his arguments are so out of date to have been refuted several decades ago. To anyone seeking a nuanced and well-researched book about the social implications of homosexuality, this tome will read like a propaganda piece pushing a particularly hard-line theocratic view. It’s likely to only reach an audience who already agree with the author’s dubious views and are similarly unwilling to engage in reality or polite, reasoned debate and respectful disagreement.

3 comments:

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  2. I've reviewed the book, also (shameless plug).

    http://www.amazon.com/review/RNR9FBGNH5817/ref=cm_aya_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1495969436#wasThisHelpful

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    Replies
    1. A superb review, Winston. I'll quote from it if you don't mind?

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