Today is the official start of the challenge!

People who are not participants are welcome to comment to give book recommendations, talk about what other people are reading, or talk about books that they’ve read recently that they disagree with.

Since it is The First One, I haven’t read any books specifically for the challenge yet, but here are my thoughts about the books I’ve read in November that I disagree with:

The Abolition of Man: In Which C S Lewis Discovers The Orthogonality Thesis.

I agree with C S Lewis that minds can be made valuing all sorts of things, and that it is important to create minds which value the sorts of things we value. Lewis’s vision, interestingly, was about genetic engineering and conditioning of a generation of humans, who would then proceed to genetically engineer and condition future generations to follow their values, rather than about Friendly AI. I am less concerned than Lewis is about the former, because I believe that human brains are not actually all that plastic; humans creating minds out of human raw material are likely to create something that is not absurdly evil.

I think Lewis undervalues humans who aren’t moral realists; he argues that without moral realism there is no reason to care more about benevolence to all humankind than about, say, chocolate. But there is a quite obvious reason why I would value benevolence to all humankind over chocolate, which is that I want to. Oddly, this contradicts something he talks about earlier in the book. He points out (quite rightly) that all the logical arguments in the world about the importance of sacrificing the few for the many won’t keep someone– even a moral realist– from fleeing the line of battle. What keeps them from fleeing is emotions: a cultivated sense of courage, loyalty to one’s friends, patriotism, and self-sacrifice. Having a different idea of metaethics does not cause someone to stop being ethical, because metaethics wasn’t the thing that was making you behave ethically in the first place.

Lewis is quite right that it is vicious to ‘debunk’ poetic language expressing the emotions associated with events. But I haven’t noticed very much of that; as I recall my school years, there was a good deal of effort put into cultivating particular virtues (e.g. benevolence, respect for diversity, patriotism), which I highly approve of. Maybe it was more of a problem in the inter-war period after World War II (thanks, Evan)?

Disagreement: I am not Christian or moral realist.

Amends: One of my new favorite books.

A novel about six people going through a reality TV rehab. The thing I love about it is that it’s funny; the entire book is wonderful crazy-person gallows humor which doesn’t shy away from the harm caused by crazy people to ourselves and others. There were shenanigans. More books about mental illness need to have shenanigans in them.

I particularly appreciated the character of Sharptooth, a NEET otherkin SJW. As a former NEET SJW, I very much appreciate this positive representation. Eve Tushnet doesn’t quite get all the shibboleths right. For instance, she has Sharptooth feel guilty about saying that someone who identified as a homoromantic demisexual is ‘really’ gay (realistic!) but has her mention the person’s nonbinary gender identity at the same time (antis do this, but SJWs usually recognize that gender and sexuality are different things). Nevertheless, Sharptooth was written with a great deal of compassion and also very relatable.

My other favorite character is J Malachi MacCool, a writer for First Things. I mean, he’s not actually a writer for First Things, but he is a writer for a magazine that is suspiciously similar to First Things. He is self-consciously traditional from the tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches on down, and described as “an Anglo-Catholic, by which he meant that he liked evensong and sherry”. He is adorably relatable.

Disagreement: I am not Christian.

Lead Me Not: A gay romance novel about a fundamentalist Christian who believes that homosexuality is a choice and decides to prove it by making a documentary about his choice to be gay. In a SHOCKING turn of events which ABSOLUTELY NO ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED, it turns out that he’s actually gay and then he lives happily ever after with his boyfriend who is a Christian from an affirming church and we all learn that God Loves Gay People.

Super-cute inspirational romance, full of angsty gay men and tropes and Jesus. If this is the sort of thing you like, you will probably like it.

I was mildly annoyed that I have a better understanding than the protagonist of the anti-gay Biblical arguments (he mentioned Leviticus but not Romans! he doesn’t talk about the difference between moral and ceremonial law!).

Disagreement: I think that a careful study of Scripture and Tradition would lead one to approximately Eve Tushnet’s opinion on gay people. I am still not Christian.

General Notes: I think my biggest problem in the challenge is going to be finding books I disagree with that aren’t about Jesus, particularly since my husband is a former atheist blogger and thus our collective Kindle is full of, like, Plantinga and Craig. Also because I am trying to pick books that look interesting and for better or for worse I am interested in Jesus.

So what are your thoughts on starting? Having a hard time thinking of books to read? Looking forward to anything in particular?