What constitutes "underground literature"? Is it literal and philosophical works with opinions and ideas that stray from the masses? Perhaps so. However, upon my reading of such works, I have become incredibly disgruntled. In the later eighteen hundreds, several giants of Atheism ruled. In particular, Robert Green Ingersoll: this individual fought against racism, censorship, fundamentalist Christians, and other despicable components of society at that time. Another great individual was Charles Bradlaugh who was the head of the infidel movement in Britain. In the early nineteen hundreds, Bradlaugh and Ingersoll were replaced by Joseph McCabe and Joseph Lewis. McCabe holds the unfaltering position in the hall of Atheism, writing over 250 books and delivering over 3,000 speeches. He wrote books on the history of the Catholic church. When others forgot the atrocities, the degradation of women and slavery promoted by Catholicism, he recorded, studied, and researched such aspects. Joseph Lewis wrote many books on Atheism, including "The Bible Unmasked." He was an admirer of Ingersoll and Paine. Since sexual information was completely unavailable at that time, safe sex was nearly impossible. Christian Fundamentalists at that time, especially Comstock and McCarthy, disallowed the publication or mail-transportation of sexual books. Yet, regardless, Joseph Lewis (as well as Margaret Sanger) published numerous titles, some of which were suppressed by the United States government (as well as books by McCabe). However, in this dark era where knowledge and information were forbidden, the light could be seen clearly, and the light was called "the infidels."
As time would come to pass - as McCabe died in 1955 and Lewis died in 1968 - new infidels would have to take the position of leading the movement. The most prominent Atheist to come about was Madalyn Murray O'Hair. The only likable feature of her history was that it was her supposed court case in 1963 which removed public prayer from schools. However, that isn't true; the ruling in "Engel v. Vitale" was brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of five families in New Hyde Park, N.Y.. James Hervey Johnson, author of "Religion is a Gigantic Fraud," and a respectable Atheist himself, was asked by O'Hair to give her money. When he refused, she wrote to him, "You are a dying, defunct, discredited old man who will grow moldy in an unmarked grave." After embezzling money from her Atheist organization, Madalyn Murray O'Hair was killed by one of her accomplices in 1996. Since then, there has been no real monumental figure - likable or not likable - that could be demonstrably called a modern giant of Atheism. What does this at all have to do with my article? Well, these giants of Atheism (save O'Hair) published many well-written books about Atheism and other Humanitarian concerns
James Hervey Johnson - Religion is a Gigantic Fraud - date unknown - "Intelligent men do not decide any subject until they have carefully examined both or all sides of it. Fools, cowards, and those too lazy to think, accept blindly, without examination, dogmas and doctrines imposed upon them in childhood by their parents, priests, and teachers, when their minds were immature and they could not reason."
Robert Green Ingersoll - The Ghosts - 1877 - "The idea of immortality, that like a sea has ebbed and flowed in the human heart, with its countless waves of hope and fear, beating against the shores and rocks of time and fate, was not born of any book, nor of any creed, nor of any religion. It was born of human affection, and it will continue to ebb and flow beneath the mists and clouds of doubt and darkness as long as love kisses the lips of death. It is the rainbow -- Hope shining upon the tears of grief."
Robert Green Ingersoll - The Liberty of All - 1877 - "All the altars and all the thrones united to arrest the forward march of the human race. The king said that mankind must not work for themselves. The priest said that mankind must not think for themselves. One forged chains for the hands, the other for the soul. Under this infamous regime the eagle of the human intellect was for ages a slimy serpent of hypocrisy.
".....what shall I say of children; of the little children in alleys and sub-cellars; the little children who turn pale when they hear their father's footsteps; little children who run away when they only hear their names called by the lips of a mother; little children -- the children of poverty, the children of crime, the children of brutality, wherever they are -- flotsam and jetsam upon the wild, mad sea of life -- my heart goes out to them, one and all."
Joseph McCabe - The Story of Religious Controversy - date unknown - "An inevitable part of the new spirit, the most dramatic and historic part for one who knows the long story of man, is that we summon before our revolutionary tribunal all the religions in the world. Our code is the Rights of Man -- new thing under the sun. Our justification is that we have found the world full of hoary illusions, like the divine right of kings and constitutions. Our standard is truth and service and we look placidly at the guillotine in the public square to which we commit everything of the 'ancient order' that proves not its value in this.
"Do not imagine that this is a pleasant picture of a group of pretentious youths and maidens remaking the world in an American city. There is a world-revolt against religion. The new rulers of Turkey are fighting orthodox Mohammedanism. The students of India, of China, of Japan, of Egypt, discuss their historic creeds and sacred books with as little reverence as an Open Forum in Chicago discusses -- when it condescends to discuss -- the Old Testament."
Joseph Lewis - The Philosophy of Atheism - February 20, 1960 - "I came to my conclusions after a full analysis and an impartial consideration of the various religious creeds and the different systems of philosophy. In my study of the different fields of thought, I found no philosophy that contained so many truths, and inspired one with so much courage, as Atheism. Atheism equips us to face life, with its multitude of trials and tribulations, better than any other code of living that I have yet been able to find. It is grounded in the very roots of life itself. Its foundation is based on Nature, without superfluities and false garments. No sham or shambles are attached to it."
Thomas Paine - The Age of Reason - 1793 - "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel."
Giordano Bruno - De Gli Eroici Furori ("The Heroic Frenzies") - 1585 - "Dedicated to the Most Illustrious Sir Philip Sidney[...]
"Most illustrious knight, it is indeed a base, ugly and contaminated wit that is constantly occupied and curiously obsessed with the beauty of a female body! What spectacle, oh good God, more vile and ignoble can be presented to a mind of clear sensibilities than a rational man afflicted, tormented, gloomy, melancholic, who becomes now hot, now cold and trembling, now pale, now flushed, now confused, or now resolute; one who spends most of his time and the choice fruits of his life letting fall drop by drop the elixir of his brain by putting into conceits and in writing, and sealing on public monuments those continual tortures, dire torments, those persuasive speeches, those laborious complaints and most bitter labours inevitable beneath the tyranny of an unworthy, witless, stupid and odoriferous foulness!"
These were great men who spoke great words. When I look at modern literary and philosophical works, I have one question.... what the fuck happened? Here are my three reviews of atheistic and generally underground books today...
"Atheist Debater's Handbook" by B. C. Johnson...
This book was perhaps the most dreadful, drawn out, and simply pathetic book I have ever read. The book appears to be written only so that they author can have some sort of prestige. I think Peter Singer describes him perfectly, "Publishing papers in the appropriate journals is an important element in the rise up the ladder of promotion and increased prestige. This happens in every field, in philosopher or history as much as in psychology or medicine, and it is entirely understandable and in itself hardly worth criticizing. The philosophers and historians who publish to improve their career prospects do little harm beyond wasting paper and boring their colleagues;" ["Animal Liberation," page 74.] Perhaps if Mr. Singer had read this book first, he would then find it more detestable about boring colleagues and wasting paper. Unfortunately, you will say to yourself while reading it, "A tree died for this?"
There are no new tricks to be had in this book. I had learned nothing at all. The author spends 22 pages quoting different articles on the Design Argument. There is the Analogical Design Argument, the Life Design Argument, the Everything-Works-Towards-An-End Argument, etc., etc.. Surely, these arguments could have been answered in a concise and refuting manner, but not in this book. The author starts entirely new paragraphs to create drawn-out and monotonous examples. Some examples carry on for 10 sentences, where the author continuously restates everything. By the time the author has made an example, you forget what the point of the example was. Along side the Design Arguments, there is a chapter about the argument from religious experience, which spans a pathetic 3 pages which could have more easily been summed up with: "Primitive man held that headaches were caused by demons. I believe all religious experiences can be worked from this point." The chapter of "God and Existence" is three paragraphs of droning on tirelessly. The chapter of "God and Christianity" is, in no surprise at all, pathetic. It examines a few verses of the Bible where the Gospels stated that Jesus died earlier than normal, and then concludes that it is because Jesus was faking his death (all within two chapters and 13 pages). The conclusion to the book apparently was written while the author was drunk and thoroughly drugged on LSD. It drones on and completely misses the primary points of the book (which, in themselves, are far too apart with far too many pages). The book was written incoherently and with thick tone of monotony. If you are seeking expensive toilet paper, then you have found your product. Those who are looking for an interesting read in regards to the debate of Atheism are better suited to reading the speeches of Ingersoll or the essays by McCabe. BC Johnson has contributed nothing new, unless monotony should be an accepted factor into the field of Atheism.
"The Monkey Wrench Gang" by Edward Abbey...
When a book is good, it is easy to believe it and it stimulates your emotions. And it takes time before it starts to stimulate your emotions (it needs to have a setting and whatnot). A good book will do this right at the beginning. An adequate book will do this at least with one eighth of the book read. What would you call a book that - even after reading the entire thing - has stimulated no emotions? You would call it a bad book, I'm sure. If someone asked me that question, I would reply, "Oh, you mean 'The Monkey Wrench Gang' by Edward Abbey?"
By all means, this is clearly a horrible book. But that is all it is. I don't hold a fervent hatred toward it or toward the author for producing monotonous, obscure drivel. Edward Abbey was not a bad person; he was just a bad writer. The reason this book was so horrible was that it was set with the most incredibly boring characters you could ever imagine. Sure, you might think they're an excellent cast. The back of the book labels them: "A burnt-out veteran, a mad doctor, a sexy revolutionary, and a polygamist outdoorsman..." Wow, finally a book about people like me (take that as you want). This book is the story of four monkeywrenchers - or eco-terrorist - as they go around blowing stuff up. A monkeywrencher is an individual who destroys machinery that posses trouble to nature. Even I am a monkeywrencher (when the coke machine stole my dollar, I poured sand and sticks down the quarter slot - yes, that machine posed a danger to nature). It is surely a noble thing to go out in the middle of the night and destroy dangerous machinery that would destroy nature; every boy needs a hobby.
The characters are hackney and the flow of the words in this book is atrocious. Take this one paragraph: "Suddenly the center of the bridge rose up, as if punched from beneath, and broke in two along a jagged zigzag line. Through this absurd fissure, crooked as lightning, a sheet of red flame streamed skyward, followed at once by the sound of a great cough, a thunderous shuddering high-explosive cough that shook the monolithic sandstone of the canyon walls. The bridge parted like a flower, its separate divisions no longer jointed by any physical bond. Fragments and sections began to fold, sog, sink and fall, relaxing into the abyss. Loose objects-gilded scissors, a monkey wrench, a couple of empty cadillacs-slid down the appalling gradient of the depressed roadway and launched themselves, turning slowly, into space." (page 5-6) Now, perhaps that appears... enticing. [Editor says: Majestic.... but I spit on majestic.] However, the entire book is written like that. It's a maze! Now, I assumed that a bridge exploded, but why couldn't he have just said that in the beginning and not make it so incredibly obscure? You know why? Because he's a bad writer.
The characters are the real horrible part: they're all angry and ignorant fools who enjoy being destructive (Van Daam intelligence and action level.... and of course entertainment level). Sure, their overall position in life (polygamist versus monogamist, veteran versus outdoorsman, revolutionary versus doctor) may vary significantly, but it's all the SAME EXACT person playing different roles. What kind of person: a person with incredibly bad and incredibly typical dialogue following with extensive aggression and aimless pursuits. Even I did research on Monkeywrenching prior to reading this book and some of it was simply... unexplained. I only wish this book didn't suck. That is all.
"The Story of B" by Daniel Quinn...
When I was ranting about the unintelligent and barbaric development of Western Civilization, and calling certain individuals of Dewey, Ingersoll, Paine, McCabe, and Salt as being stars in a dark sky, someone recommended that I read this book, "The Story of B." Perhaps the only thing I can afford to this book's appeal is that it has a cool name.... and even that doesn't last. The story starts out fine with no problems. In fact, I thought it had potential to develop into something interesting and new. Never had I been so disappointed. The story was about some preacher being suspected of being the Anti-Christ in Europe. "Ooo," I thought, "Maybe there'll be some dark rituals or interesting philosophy. Perhaps it will become suspenseful and informing." It became none of those. Sure, perhaps you have been conditioned to think that the Anti-Christ is a scary figure who will slaughter men, women, and children. After reading this book, when you see the Anti-Christ, you'll think he's so boring you won't even get up off your couch.
In one of the early scenes - one which defined the path the rest of the book would take - the main character listens to one of B's speeches; B is suspected of being the Anti-Christ. When you listen to this foul, boring, and plain devoid speech of this giant of boredom, it will make you appreciate the uselessness of the sermons given in church. See, in church, at least they talk about SOMETHING. This guy goes on for reams of text without introducing one new idea. Consider page 279 to 280, "The truth of this manifesto wasn't doubted by the builders of the ziggurats of Ur or the pyramids in Egypt. It wasn't doubted by the hundreds of thousands who labored to wall off China from the rest of the world. It wasn't doubted by the traders who carried gold and glass and ivory from Thebes to Nippur and Larsa... It wasn't doubted by Darius of Persia or Philip of Macedon or Alexander the Great..." 37 classes, 8 kings, 8 philosophers, 3 scientists, and 5 industrialists later, the author gets to the point. What point is had? None, except some rather erroneous information (whoa, and you thought his sentence structure was pointless). Again on page 244, "The Great Forgetting was wove into the fabric of our intellectual life from its very beginning. This early weaving was accomplished be thy nameless scribes of ancient Egypt, Sumer, Assyria, Babylon, India, and China, and then later by..." 9 religious figures, 17 philosophers, and 4 scientists later, he gets to the point. But just what is the point? The point of what he's saying remains, well, rather obscure and he contradicts himself numerous times. There even seems to be a cult of Quinn-readers... and they have my sympathy. I talked to some of these cultists, and one of them stated that the book was about the misconceptions of agricultural commerce. Perhaps the most angering thing was that as the people in the book listened to what B said, they all cheered and agreed, "Yay for B! He can make pointless speeches." It's one thing when a person takes a shit and everyone says, "That's shit." But it's another thing when Daniel Quinn takes a shit and he thinks everyone would say, "Hey! That smells good!" I could cite more examples of the rather pointlessness of this book, but I think it would be to no avail. If Quinn wrote this book clear and concise, without contradictions to science and to his own philosophy (an astoundingly large amount that takes no scientist to discredit), then perhaps it would be a better book. Of course, if Quinn wrote this book so that it wasn't unexplained and full of useless words, it wouldn't fill up four pieces of toilet paper.
Now, since you've read my reviews, you probably all think I'm just a scampy little troll who thinks that all literature is garbage, but that's not so. As I stated in the prologue to these reviews, I thought that what would qualify as "underground literature" was horrible today, yet so grand as tomorrow. So, you ask, what books are good? Try these sites....