Saturday, 17 January 2015

Why Christians Are So Easy to Fleece

Alex Malarkey (The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven)
"I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. I said it to get attention"
The Freethinker - The voice of atheism since 1881 » Boy’s visit to heaven is now pulped fiction

This week we have yet another example of just how easy it is to fleece credulous and gullible Christians as a Christian book, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, by Kevin & Alex Malarkey, a 2010 New York Times Bestseller, is being withdrawn and pulped because the boy in question has admitted it was a lie.

The reasons for this vulnerability to frauds is probably all too obvious to people who have decided to be led by the evidence, wherever it may lead, and who base their conclusions on evidence, reserve judgement when the evidence is lacking and change their minds when the evidence changes. Christians have a sacred and fixed conclusion which has to be defended and protected at all costs, even at the cost of intellectual honesty and personal integrity. Their mind has to be firmly closed to contradictory evidence when even considering that the conclusion might be wrong risks the wrath and damnation of their imaginary 'friend' in the sky.

Because their conclusion has to be defended and because they have no evidence on which it is based, and despite their frequent disparaging of evidence in favour of 'faith', they are a ready, willing and eager market for people trying to sell them confirmation and lies dressed up as evidence. This makes them almost uniquely vulnerable to frauds and liars and is why so many preachers and Christian apologists are almost indistinguishable from con artists and fraudsters. They are indistinguishable because, for the most part, that's exactly what they are - parasites exploiting vulnerable and defenceless hosts.

To his credit, Alex Malarkey, who was left paraplegic by the accident which formed the backdrop to his story, is a devout Christian and, according to his mother, has been troubled by his lies and by the way the book is being used to cheat other Christians. His income from the book has been minimal and nowhere near enough to cater for his medical and social needs but he has decided to forgo even that income in favour of telling the truth.

Last week he published a letter to Christian bookstores in which he said:

I did not die. I did not go to Heaven...

Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short... I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.

When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough.

Reading the news, one might get the impression that his repudiation of the book was a sudden, almost impulsive, act which the publishers, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, acted upon immediately.

The truth is somewhat different however.

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. originally clearly implied this was all news to them with:

We are saddened to learn that Alex Malarkey, co-author of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, is now saying that he made up the story of dying and going to heaven. Given this information, we are taking the book out of print.

However, they later clarified this with:

For the past couple of years we have known that Beth Malarkey, Kevin’s wife and Alex’s mother, was unhappy with the book and believed it contained inaccuracies. On more than one occasion we asked for a meeting with Kevin, Beth, Alex and their agent to discuss and correct any inaccuracies, but Beth would not agree to such a meeting.

In fact, Alex and Beth had been trying to get this into the public domain for some considerable time. Last April Beth published the following on her blog:

It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned.

When Philip Johnson, a Christian broadcaster and prolific author, wrote a critique of the book on scriptural grounds Beth Malarkey contacted him to ask for his help, telling him:

My son and I have been trying to get the word out that this book is an exaggeration and an embellishment and is not true.

Johnson took the matter up with Tyndale House but failed to make any progress. In his words:

The idea that Alex suddenly recanted is just not true. He’s been trying to make his voice heard as well as a teenage paraplegic boy can. There was proof everywhere that he did not stand behind the content of this book. But it was a bestselling book. Nobody in the industry wanted to kill it.

[...]

Even a pastor from whom Alex sought counsel said he thought the book was ‘blessing people. He advised Alex to be quiet and let it ride.

[...]

One of the top online reviews of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven says: 'I can tend to be a little skeptical of otherworldly experiences, but when I hear it from the words of a child, I am much more open to the idea. A child is not going to be capable of making up these kinds of images and keeping his story straight for month after month after month'.

That, sadly, is what lots of readers think. What they don't realize is that there is a massive industry behind books like these, heavily populated with decision makers who care more for filthy lucre than for truth.

Employed in that industry are some mercenaries who have no scruples whatsoever about making up tales like these, polishing and embellishing them, and buttressing them with details designed to enhance the illusion of believability. It’s the very worst kind of pragmatism gone to seed. What’s ‘good’ is defined by what sells. Scripture calls it ‘the teaching of Balaam’ (Revelation 2:14). [My emphasis]

Finally, in frustration, Alex appears to have opted for the nuclear option and openly stated that his book was a lie, publishing it a widely as possible in the Christian book industry and in a way which Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. could no longer ignore.

With the social media seemingly swarming with dishonest Christian frauds and creationists to the exclusion of all others, it's refreshing to find some honest Christians out there in the form of Alex, his mother Beth, and Philip Johnson, but how well the cheats and charlatans know their market and how to squeeze as much money out of them as possible. There is no morality in business, as they say. There is certainly no morality in the Christian publishing industry.

One wonders how many other fraudulent books are out there written by people who know that people who'll believe the ludicrous tales in the Bible whilst ignoring its contradictions and historical inaccuracies are likely to believe anything.

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2 comments :

  1. Honestly,I am surprised that they did not carry on publishing it anyway. Saying he has lost his way or something similar. I mean they still publish a toe of preachers stuff where said preacher was snorting cocaine of his rent boy or girl.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In this case, the boy's surname is an aptonym. From Webster's online dictionary: "Malarkey--insincere or foolish talk : bunkum."

    ReplyDelete

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