I had a brilliant day on Saturday. I was away for the weekend in stunning Killiney, a suburb of Dublin, the sun was shining bright in a cloudless sky and I had just attended an Inkwell Writers Women’s Fiction Workshop with bestselling authors Sinead Moriarty and Monica McInerney (more on that later in the week).
I was also celebrating something very special, which I’ll blog about in a little while, after coffee.
Then I checked my phone and found what I consider to be my very first piece of hate mail.
If you haven’t read Mousetrapped, some background: the emailer is referring to ‘In God We Trust’, a chapter in Mousetrapped (one of sixteen) in which I describe my visit to The Holy Land Experience, Orlando’s religious theme park. To put my reaction in context, I confess that I’m an Atheist and describe how that came to be, beginning with my earliest memory of questioning what I’d been told, which is wondering where in the Bible were the dinosaurs. (I am not, for the record, an Atheist just because I couldn’t find a chapter in the Bible called Jurassic Park.) It is written in the same light-hearted, humorous style as the rest of the book and is the furthest thing, in my opinion, from a diatribe.
This is the e-mail I received, in its entirety. The only thing I’ve left out is the sender’s name.
First, thank you for writing and publishing Mousetrapped. I hope someday to follow in your writing and publishing footsteps. I found your site and book while researching self publishing.I was posting a review/warning on Amazon when I considered that time has gone by since you published and it might be more polite of me to send you the review/warning to look over first since a revision of your e-book may already be in the works. Here is what I wrote:
“This is, in many ways, a wonderful book. Would-be purchasers though deserve a warning. A Muslim will stop reading near the end when Ms. Howard comes out of the blue with a 14 page defense of atheism. Unbelief being the worst of the seventeen great sins (punishable by death in some Islamic countries). Observant Jews should know this chapter includes a trashing of your scripture – not enough dinosaurs (I’m not kidding). The author, at age 12, apparently mistook her Bible for a biology or paleontology text and found it wanting.
Christians and Christianity are of course the focus of her vitriol, Christianity being the only religion that tolerates such rants. The Bible defends atheists (God’s admonition to let them live, Matt.13:30), sees unbelievers as future converts, and contains a book written from an atheist perspective (Ecclesiastes).
Ms. Howard fell for the old “science vs. religion” hoax, the emotional battle between those who do not read the Bible because they do not believe its message and those who do believe its message and thus informed, don’t feel compelled to read it. As a teaser aside (to inspire reading), for Ms. Howard and those still caught in that weak trap: cars, medicine, our knowledge of dinosaurs and those flags on the moon, all exist because of the Western Scientific Method which derived from the unique premises of; linear time, a stable and universal (observable and testable) creation, and that creation ex nihilo. You’ll find the tipping point for humanity’s relationship with nature (the beginning of science), in the first five words of Genesis 1:1.
I was so happily getting more than my money’s worth reading Mousetrapped until accosted by the diatribe. I read on, but those 14 pages made the book feel expensive. A delightful young woman’s naivete (of America, the Space Coast, living on her own, etc.), is powerfully endearing and when mixed with courageous growth and appreciation for life, – well, it made me cry at times and want to hug her. Naivete of faith and scripture, mixed with defensiveness, anger and even contempt, does not belong in this book. A revised edition should omit these pages.”
I’m 99 percent sure I logged out of amazon before it posted. I was in the “review your posting” window and had not checked anything that looked like a “send” button.
As an author (a very good one because I honestly loved your book), you want to include your theological identity in the book. You want to proselytize your (un)belief. This is understandable.
As a publisher, you must not kill sales, offend readers, or in the case of purchasers in places governed by fatwas, endanger them without warning.
I would not have taken the time and effort to write all this (or attempt a post on amazon), for a lesser writer or for a book that wasn’t spiritually redeemable (like it’s author).
Now, I am far less interested in sales than I am in being honest. There is little point in writing anything that even dips a toe in the ‘Memoir’ waters without it. And it’s not like that chapter is an Atheist manifesto; I was establishing context. And even people of faith who’ve read it have said to me that they too think a religious theme park is a little on the crazy side.
For the following reasons, I still feel it was the right decision to put that chapter in the book:
- Religious freedom works both ways
- The book is about me and my experiences
- It’s my book
- It’s my book
- Oh yeah – IT’S MY BLOODY BOOK.
And, just an FYI, the book’s description on Amazon is the same as on the back of the book and points out that one of Mousetrapped‘s topics is ‘religious theme parks’. Presumably the emailer was okay with religion featuring in the book, so long as it was positive. Moreover, I have read the Bible. I was educated at Catholic-run schools from the age of five until the age of eighteen, was baptized, confirmed and communed and have travelled twice to Lourdes, France, as a helper of the sick – after I realized I was an Atheist, I might add.
My email address is on my site so people with genuine questions about self-publishing, etc. can get in contact, and I’m not going to take it down. However should I get any more emails like the one above, I will stop reading as soon as I realize what they are and they will be deleted. All comments on this blog are moderated; see Comment Policy in bottom left hand corner for details.
Also: I don’t need saving, thanks.
If you are the emailer, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you haven’t been waiting for a response, because one isn’t coming. Feel free to press the ‘Submit Review’ button; Amazon screen reviews for the sort of hatred, subtle threats and attacks on the author – as opposed to views on the book – that your ‘review’ contains and even if it got through, I would have it removed for the same reasons. Finally, thanks for your $14.95. I’ll be sure to spend it on something Atheist related.
In other, happier news, something fabulous happened this week; details coming up shortly.
If you want to read my Atheist manifesto, you’ll have to wait because I haven’t written one. However if you want to read Mousetrapped, you can do so here.