Joe Sobran was the pithiest of writers. If you doubt me, just consider the title for one of his small works—“Anything Called a Program is Unconstitutional.” Over the years, I have profited greatly from his writing. A few years after his untimely death in 2010, I was pleased to see that some friends of his work had undertaken to collect a number of his articles into one book, which is to say this one, Subtracting Christianity.
There are two things that the unwary reader of this blog might have to navigate if you get the book. One is Sobran’s ardent Catholicism, and some of my Protestant friends might therefore wonder why I am recommending him. The reason is simple. I wish a lot more Protestants would learn to think and write as clearly as Sobran did. Now with that said, Sobran was no bigot, as one of the quotes below will indicate. But seriously, while there are things that I earnestly desire we would not catch from Catholic writers and thinkers, there are a number of other things that I wish we would.
The other unfortunate thing was that over the course of his life, Sobran moved in the direction of philosophical anarchy (not bomb-throwing anarchy), and this does skew some of this thought. So be careful of that. But that is one of the few advantages that come from living under an overweening state—they are grabbing at so many things, it makes it possible for an anarchist to be right 90 percent of the time. I mean, that’s an A minus, right?
“Of course atheists are clever! People who spend a lot of time justifying themselves generally are” (p. 13).
“Being ‘nice’ is far from the same thing as being a Christian; after all, Jesus was not tortured to death for urging good manners on his disciples” (p. 15).
“Why do we talk about ‘responsibility’ in government, when government itself has become a device for shirking and concealing responsibility?” (p. 21)
“Liberals don’t regard a belief in miracles as superstitious, as long as it doesn’t involve God” (p. 33).
“I am a Catholic in a Protestant country. Even if Protestants are no longer a numerical majority, they have made this country what it is, and its culture remains thoroughly Protestant. What does it feel like to be a Catholic in Protestant America? It feels wonderful. On the whole, Protestants must be among the world’s most decent people. I feel grateful to live among them, and it’s time someone said this. They are too nice to defend themselves even when they’re smeared, as they often are” (p. 43).
I had the privilege of meeting Joe Sobran one time, on an occasion when he was speaking at Washington State University in Pullman. I recall one quip from that occasion that represents the man well. “Aristotle taught us that the ad hominem is a logical fallacy. I wonder what he had to hide.”
This book is really worthwhile—I suggest you obtain and read it. All the links here are to the Kindle edition, which is free. If you want hard copy, Amazon has links to various sellers.