A spirited call for the restoration of dignity surrendered to irrational superstition.
In this brief book, first-time author Nils seeks to revive an apparently battered sense of human dignity and its core features: autonomy, freedom, and rationality. However, he also emphasizes the emotional component of human nature as well as its vulnerability to pernicious influence, because human beings are, he says, “indiscriminately susceptible creatures.” Blinkered fanaticism and irrational illusion are the primary obstacles to the realization of this understanding of dignity, namely the ignorance Nils attributes to religion in general, the Catholic Church in particular. He also reserves considerable scorn for governmental incompetence, discussing religion and government as the twinned obstacles to human decency. The book’s primary complaint against government is that it robs its citizens of their independence, though precisely how is never made adequately clear. Religion itself is simply dismissed as fantastical mythology. “How do you tell a child who deeply believes in Christmas that Santa Claus does not come from the North Pole but all from the sheer imagination of his parents? Likewise, how do you tell a Christian that much of what he or she has learned is not necessarily that relevant and is sadly futile information?” Nils covers an array of topics including multiculturalism and identity, big business, homosexuality, and the nature of human consciousness, though it’s hard to locate an abiding theme along this meandering tour of ideas other than the aforementioned hostility to religious belief. Over the course of the book, references to famous philosophical figures abound, but none are subjected to rigorous analysis. Also, the prose is turgid and clunky, making a relatively short volume a surprisingly long read: “People willingly maintain the integrity of their ethnic belongingness, but just as they can stick through thick they do not hesitate to migrate elsewhere for opportunities if the local environment wears thin.” The author considers his study “existentialistic,” but it is never clear what precisely he means. Nils should certainly be credited for his grand intellectual ambitions as well as the obvious passion he has for the subject. However, his persuasiveness is undermined by reflexive dogmatism and the book’s disorganization.
Despite an admirable attention to philosophically important themes, this treatise is disappointingly uncritical for a defense of reason.