Sometimes, you come across things that make you stop and think ‘say what?’. Today is such a day. I came across this tweet and decided to check it out, thinking it must be a hoax. Turns out it is not but is it entirely up to snuff?


Cover of The Leprechaun Delusion

Granted, I have not read the book and I’m not sure I am going to, as intriguing as the premise sounds. I have to admit to curiosity as to what arguments Dr. Kelly produces that would make this premise even remotely tenable. The press release (submitted by Dr. Kelly himself) doesn’t give away many specifics but does contain a few telling phrases. It mentions among others that the book is written in response to the “New Atheism movement” which Dr. Kelly exposes as a “harmful religious and sociological cult”. It further calls the New Atheism movement an “informally founded anti-theistic group”, popularized by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens. These are of course the “usual suspects”.
Dr. Kelly supposedly uses “peer-reviewed scientific papers” to prove that “New Atheism is a dangerous sociological cult movement that mirrors soviet atheism in its early development, and is itself, a religion”.  I’d certainly be curious to see these peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Dr. Kelly is a published author, having also written “Religion, the ultimate STD”, available from Amazon. And here is where things suddenly start falling into place. Checking out this book, I found 17 reviews, most 5 star reviews. There was only 1 really critical review. All but one of the 5 star reviewers had only ever reviewed one book. Can you guess which one it is? Yes, it is “Religion, the ultimate STD”. The one person who left a critical review had reviewed 46 items and apparently engaged the author in discussion about the negative review of the book, but it appears Dr. Kelly wasn’t open to that. I am not suggesting that there is something fishy going on with the 5 star reviewers but it certainly raised my eyebrows.

On GoodReads, it is a similar story. Three glowing reviews, all by people who have only ever reviewed this one book. I think I’m starting to see a pattern.

Looking up Dr. Leviak Kelly on Wikipedia, I was greeted by the following error:

Wikipedia page on Dr. Kelly.
Wikipedia page on Dr. Kelly.

It appears the page on Wikipedia was removed and the discussion about why this is, is also somewhat telling. The conclusion is quoted below.

No evidence found that the author meets any notability guidelines (e.g. WP:GNG, WP:BIO, or WP:AUTHOR) and the article is purely one-sided and POV pushing. His book Religion: The Ultimate STD? is apparently self-published by CreateSpace, and there don’t seem to be enough reliable, independent sources to write a neutral article without merely summarizing what Kelly says in his non-notable book, contra to WP:PROMO. –Animalparty– (talk) 17:55, 31 May 2015 (UTC)

I couldn’t find more reliably mentions of the Dr. Leviak Kelly so I am not sure what to make of this. However, being a sceptic true and true, I think I am going to base my judgement on the above findings and save my money for a book a bit more worthy of it.

As to the premise of the book, it sounds thoroughly ridiculous to me to suggest that atheism is a religion. After all, religion is about belief and purpose in life, neither of which have any bearing on atheism whatsoever. It sounds as if this book is another attempt to misrepresent the admittedly shocking conclusion (for some) at which atheism arrives: that we are alone on this planet, the result of a bizarre yet beautiful string of coincidences and there is no deity looking out for us, watching our back.

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  1. Hi, I’m Idav Kelly, one of the authors of The Leprechaun Delusion, and I’d like to take a moment to respond to your post.

    First of all, I’d like to actually thank you for posting this. It may seem paradoxical at first, but any post about my book helps it gain some sort of exposure, even critical posts.

    Secondly, I’d like to address a bit of a common misunderstanding; the book criticises “New Atheism” which is a specific movement – the type of vitriolic people who go around using ridicule and insults as an attempt to cure religion – the papers that we cite show that ridicule and insult are unlikely to cause any positive change, and more often than not, lead to violence. If you want to read the papers on this and other subjects in the book, you can buy the book and read the bibliography; just keep in mind that most of the journals aren’t open-access and I don’t have the authorization from their publishers to distribute the full texts of the papers to anyone I want. Atheism itself (as in, the non-presence of belief in god or gods) is not being criticised or called a religion – Leviak & I are actually both atheists ourselves. I completely agree that our existence is the result of beautiful and bizarre incidents which didn’t *have* to happen, and I’m sure Leviak does – considering that’s what his first book is partially about.

    Thirdly, not being notable enough for wikipedia does not make one wrong. Neither does reviews by people you don’t know (whether or not they are positive, negative, made by people who have only reviewed one thing, or by people who have reviewed millions), for that matter, neither does having no reviews. You are clearly and intelligent and well educated human-being (unless you happen to be a majestic eagle or proud lion, but that’s unlikely :P), so I’m guessing that you know that assuming that someone is wrong because they appear suspicious to you is called an “ad hominem”, and assuming they are right or wrong based on what other people think is an appeal to consensus; both are logically fallacious.

    As for where these reviews came from, I really don’t know. It seems like my marketing efforts have paid off, but I wish I knew which specific efforts were working so I could devote more energy in those areas.

    Lastly, I’d like to thank you for the post again, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for our next book, Monsters Among Us, a book about the origin of monster myths and their theological consequences, published by Bonobo Publications.

    1. Hello Idav,

      First of all, let me thank you for your comment on my post about your book. Comments, both positive and negative are always welcome.

      I don’t think I misunderstood or misrepresented your book when I wrote this article. I even quoted directly from the press release where it says “New Atheism”. What I found and still find odd is the premise that “New Atheism” is a religion according to your book. I don’t see how this term could be used to describe any kind of atheism, unless you mangle or stretch the definition of the term “religion” by a significant degree. Unfortunately, you don’t address this objection of mine in your comment. Criticising “New Atheism” is something quite different from saying it is a religion or cult in its own right. I would support the words from your comment, where you say that ridicule and insult are unlikely to cure religion. That’s just not what you said in the press release.
      The fact that I’d have to buy your book to look at the bibliography and even if I did, I still would not be able to access most of the sources, does very little to bolster the credibility and the conclusion of your book.

      Certainly, not being notable enough to be listed on Wikipedia does not make someone wrong. I’m not on Wikipedia and I have been known to be right on several occasions. Your second point though, I can not agree with. Reviews on Amazon or other places are important indicators to the quality of a product. Who the reviewer is, also matters. Someone who has been a member for years and has left a reasonable number of careful reviews would be considered more reliable than people who have not.
      Questioning the validity of your work by the number and type of reviews it has received, is not an ad hominem though I am happy that you recognize why these reviews may seem suspicious to someone. If I was making an appeal to consensus based on the Amazon reviews, I would be supportive. Since I am not, I fail to see how you conclude that I am making an appeal to consensus.

      I’ve left the plug for your upcoming book in place but please refrain from making such additions to any future comments unless relevant to your argument. This is not an advertising space.

      1. Okay, sorry, no more shameless book plugs.

        I can’t really summarize my whole book’s argument in a comment form, and really prefer people buying my book to read my arguments because it’s how I make my living, but here goes:

        1. The term “cult”, sociologically, refers to a religion that is outside of the mainstream religious mileu, or a movement which is outside of the mainstream social order. At 15% of all of the 2% of the world that is atheists, New Atheism falls under this.

        2. cults can therefore be religious or non-religious, harmful or helpful, etc., since these terms are not exclusive to being non-mainstream (consider the example of the cult of personality that formed around Martin Luther King Jr. vs. the cult known as the KKK)

        3. Cults often shun outsiders or members of what they consider their group who fail to conform, usually using insults and ridicule; this is the exact strategy that New Atheism uses to attempt to cure religion.

        4. Cults often hearken back to previously established traditions or beliefs, and something you may have heard from both New Atheists and their critics is “New Atheism is old atheism” or “New Atheism isn’t new”

        5. Cults have loosely defined doctrines required for belief. New Atheism has the meme hypothesis, “faith is belief without evidence” etc.

        6. Cults formed around a person or persons result in endearing titles. “The Four Horsemen” and the “Unholy Trinity” are exactly this

        7. The New Atheist horsemen, as they are called, have all stated that Soviet Atheism was a religion. New Atheism itself has many things in common with Soviet Atheism, such as the attempts at ridicule, the work toward “making more people atheist”, etc.

        This is hardly an exhaustive list of reasons, because, as I said, it’s difficult to summarize my entire book in a comment form.

        As for the full texts of the citations in my book, I said that I couldn’t give them to you, not that LibGen or JSTOR couldn’t. Wink wink. If you really want to read them, I can send the bibliography via e-mail.

        Also, the press release is trying to get people’s attention without spoiling too much of the book. I’m sorry that it doesn’t tell much, or seems biased, but that’s what seems to catch people’s attention (it caught yours, for example). Please understand that I mean no offense to you by commenting here, as well.

        Lastly, I unfortunately am very busy lately so I won’t be able to keep up with this conversation, I’m sorry.

        1. Thank you for your answer, respecting my wish to keep this site advertising free and for explaining your path of reasoning.

          Of course I don’t expect you to copy and paste your entire book here. It’s just that my main point of criticism writing the article was your conclusion that “New Atheism is a harmful religious and sociological cult” and I was disappointed you didn’t address this in your first comment. I’m glad you decided to address it this time around.

          Before I begin to address your post, let me once again add the rather big caveat that I haven’t read the book and that the commenting system of my blog may not be the best medium in which to outline the reasoning that lead to your conclusion.

          With that out of the way, I have to admit that I am not at all convinced of your conclusion after reviewing the reasons outlined in your comment. Most of the reasons you mention, have to do with establishing “New Atheism” as a cult. Since the actual definition of the term ‘cult’ is problematic, I’m not going to argue whether it is or not, since for me that’s somewhat besides the point. While “New Atheism” may have some of the characteristics of a cult, there are also many characteristics that it does not share but which are generally associated with cults:
          “New Atheism” is itself fairly loosely defined as well, making your characterisation shaky at best.

          As to reason number 7, I’d have to answer that one with “citation needed”. I’m not aware of such a claim ever having been made by any of the Four Horsemen. Even if they had made such a claim, I don’t think it is true. I assume that in your book, you define what “Soviet atheism” actually means, since it is not a common term. I am assuming you are referring to Stalin’s anti-religious campaigns, during which many religious figures suffered terms in prison or were shot and religious institutions closed. This has nothing to do with “New Atheism”. No “New Atheist” that I am aware of has ever suggested that people of faith should be treated in such a way.

          I also think that you have misrepresented “New Atheism” by saying that it uses “insult and ridicule to cure religion”. “New Atheism” doesn’t simply insult and ridicule. “New Atheism” seeks to expose the harmful nature of many religious practices and opposes teaching of religion as (scientific) truth while advocating the benefits of scientific education, both for the individual and society as a whole. It values evidence over faith. That this seems insulting to some, is hardly the fault of “New Atheism”. If perceived insult leads to violence, that says more about the person inflicting the violence than it does about “New Atheism”, does it not?

          At this point, I feel you have not made a convincing case for your conclusion: “New Atheism is a harmful sociological and religious cult”. You have failed to establish where it is harmful or religious in nature, at least based on what you told me here. It may be that your book actually says a lot more about this and you don’t want to go into that here. That’s fine and I respect that if that is the case but if it is so, you can not expect me to support your conclusion.

          Of course, I understand a press release should be eye-catching and grab the readers’ attention, maybe even sound a little controversial. What a press release should not do though, is misrepresent what’s actually being said or done and it seems to be the case here that is does. Calling “New Atheism” a ‘religious cult’ is sure to grab the attention of some individuals as it did mine but if the actual book fails to make good on this, people can only come away disappointed.
          I’m not in the least offended by your comments, don’t worry. You’ve been perfectly civil throughout. I hope you don’t take offence at mine.

          You are under no obligation to continue the discussion here and I certainly understand about other obligations. I also run this blog in my spare time.

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