Saturday, March 31, 2007

Are atheist books "content-oriented" while Christian books "driven by personalities?"

Friendly Atheist compares some of the current best-selling Christian books with some of the current best-selling atheist books and notices a difference. The Christian books have a smiling picture of the author (with their hand folded) but the cover of the atheist books contain just words, no imagery. This leads him to conclude the following:

Why are the covers of atheist books so different from the Christian counterparts?

One explanation might be that the Christian books are driven by personalities. The authors/pastors themselves are the selling points of their books, moreso than their content which is essentially interchangeable.

Atheist books, on the other hand, are less personality-driven and more content-oriented. Because of that, we seem to focus the covers more on the words and less on the imagery.

I would agree that some of the Christian market is personality-driven but that percentage is small when you compare it to the larger market. And when you do, you find the following bestsellers (from Amazon):

None have a picture of the author on the cover, smiling or otherwise. Yes, they do use imagery but you would have to agree that each is selling more on content than image.

But that's not even the extent of the market, lets take a look at some of the bestsellers throughout church history:

I'm just skimming the surface here. And I haven't even included the best-selling book of all time:

I don't think you can get plainer than that! (What? No smiling Jesus?)

Maybe we use imagery in our books because we understand that we don't have to disconnect the visual from the intellectual, that the visual can convey something to the reader that author would like to invoke. I contend that the atheist authors are conveying what we would have if we accepted their message: life in a sterile, colorless world. Bound by nature and never to transcend into the supernatural.

Why no smiling atheists on the cover of books? I would think that it would be hard to smile when you say, "This is all there is. You live, you die, you don't get anything else." Nilism doesn't tend to make people very chipper. (Though Friendly Atheist looks pretty chipper). See how disconcerting it would be to put a smiling atheist on the cover of a book entitled "God is Dead And How to Keep Him That Way."

We smile because we have good news, "This isn't it! The madness, despair, injustice of this life is not the extent of our existence. There will be a time when our tears will be dried and justice will prevail. When we will live in peace and joy." That tends to make people happy.


  1. Pamela said...
    go Michele!!!!!!!!!
    Kristy said...
    This is my first visit to your blog and I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

    I agree with you: Christian books aren't afraid to put a smiling person (author or otherwise) on the cover because we know that it is good news. I think, too, that the atheists as a group are very eager to be taken seriously and to get their point of view in front of a mainstream crowd Book covers like those discussed say "Take us seriously" and "See? We are no nonsense". From my experience, atheists view Christians as frivolous and foolish and not to be taken seriously, particularly from an intellectual standpoint.
    Moonshadow said...
    The post on RCB suggests to me that you desire a discussion ...

    I am put off by the plain black. A Bible's "brand" in bold lettering is also unsavory, i.e., the early ESVs.

    A pocket-sized copy with a picture of the Sea of Galilee is sentimental, as is a picture of a silver chalice and paten. Give me plain burgundy.

    I have favorite Christian authors. I have favorite non-Christian authors. I have purchased a book based strictly on the author's reputation.

    The fact is that, at the centre of Christianity is a Person. The Christian faith, therefore, is highly personal. Saving faith puts us in right relation with God and with others. That's part of its appeal: interdependence, community.

    Christianity's distinct message of salvation, the "content," can be perceived and believed in a vacuum, in isolation, by the light of God's spirit alone. These "Damascus Road" experiences are reserved for only the extremely proud, those dense individuals who can't seem to learn the faith humbly from believers in their midst. For, primarily, the faith is passed on from generation to generation, from people you know, people you trust.

    I could say more, but, if you want a discussion, hopefully there's fodder for one in what I've said.
    michele said...
    Welcome, Kristy to me blog. I agree with you that they look at us as smiling idiots. But I would challenge them to read half the stuff we read in seminary to see that we aren't a bunch of air-heads.

    I always think of them as sneering :-) so even if they wanted to smile, it probably would like arrogant and condescending.
    michele said...
    Moonshadow, actually I wasn't look for conversation, just traffic :-) I never expect conversation about Christian stuff. Usually we just argue about politics.

    I noticed that you didn't touch on the atheism aspect, why?
    Moonshadow said...
    I noticed that you didn't touch on the atheism aspect, why?

    That I didn't address everything dawned on me after I posted. Let me give these reasons:

    (1) I desired to keep the post short.

    (2) I don't believe in atheism. To that end, I don't feel qualified to comment, having never considered the position for myself and not being well-read on it.

    (3) I was taught that if I can't say anything nice ...

    No, seriously, rather than put anyone on the defensive, I think it's more winsome to describe the advantages of theistic belief, though not necessarily in direct reaction to atheism.

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