This book needs a drowning-puppies index.

Perhaps that overstates it. The book likely does not require an index rating the likelihood that a person of a given spirituality will at some point drown a puppy.

It does need some research that substantiates David Webster’s argument that people with alternative beliefs endanger the stability of society.

A researched scale that rates constructive behavior against bad/socially destructive behavior could help that.

Then again, Webster might refuse such a chart since he posits that morality can only exist in an absolutist paradigm. Indexing good acts versus evil acts allows for a scale of “how bad” and “how good,” and this brings about Webster’s much-objected-to moral relativism.

While Webster raises several valid points about the way in which people of alternative spirituality can annoy committed rational thinkers, his examples fail to illustrate that they endanger society. Some of his list of sins read true, others strange, and others suggest Webster’s own confirmation bias.

Rather than supporting their geographic communities, alternative spiritualists support members that share their spiritual beliefs. Rather than attending church and receiving rigid pronouncements, they are taking up yoga. Too many contend that science needs to “catch up” with religion. Webster goes so far as to suggest an experiment where a yoga class advertises a person with a more English name or a more Indian one. He hypothesizes that the sheet with the Indian name should get more inquiries, because of the New Age fixation on authenticity.

Since he gives no indication of testing even this simple theory, it throws his confidence in his own argument into question. Webster essentially accuses thousands of choosing New Age toys and laziness over true societal contribution.

His arguments might be true but his failure to test any of these assertions causes his book to read like the long, entitled screed best captured by the XCD comic that concludes: “People on the Internet are WRONG!”

~review by Diana Rajchel

Author: David Webster
Zero Books, 2012
pp. 90, 2012

 

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