I’ve just finished Herbert London’s America’s Secular Challenge: The Rise of a New National Religion. It’s a standard theocon screed, so there’s nothing new to it. It manages to sound both pompous and petulant, but that’s not unusual with these sorts of books.
What bothered me, however, was the author. The book is a hack job, utterly predictable once you know London’s version of right-wing ideology on offer, which is obvious from the first page. Typically, his “argument” depends on gross misrepresentations of secularism, and curious devices like treating New Atheists and New Agers as practically identical. In other words, it’s full of the sorts of mistakes that characterizes unserious advocacy—the mistakes I often have to warn my less talented students about.
And yet, London is not just the president of an influential right-wing think-tank, but “professor emeritus and the former John M. Olin Professor of Humanities at New York University.” You’d think that the academic culture of embarrassment-avoidance would have had some effect on him.
On the other hand, there’s that “Olin Professor” bit. So he was funded with right-wing foundation money even as an academic, it appears. So unimaginative hacks like London are perhaps data points in a larger story of the corruption of academia by money. Theocon intellectuals are “intellectuals” in the same sense that right-wing think-tanks do “research.”