Divinity Of Doubt: The God Question, By Vincent Bugliosi (Vanguard Press, New York, NY 2011, 338 Pages)
Book Review by Dennis Moore
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)."
May 24, 2011 (San Diego)--New York Times number one bestselling author of Helter Skelter and one of America's foremost prosecutors, Vincent Bugliosi, has written a provocative book that indicts organized religion, theism, and atheism alike. In Divinity of Doubt he brings his case for agnosticism.
Using some of the same type of reasoning and courtroom logic that he utilized in his career at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, where he successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials including 21 murder convictions without a single loss, Bugliosi tackles The God Question.
Destined to be controversial, Bugliosi's Divinity of Doubt is bound to strike a nerve with believers and non-believers alike. Perhaps that is the intent of his book, to get us thinking. He goes outside his comfort realm, the study and practice of law, to delve into one of the world's most profound mysteries. Those who are believers need go no further than Hebrews 11:1, which is the rock and foundation of our faith, and that of Christianity.
In his book, Bugliosi asks a rhetorical question; "Does God exist?" He answers it, by stating: "I don't know, and neither do you." Obviously, Bugliosi is still relying on his courtroom experience, although the God question is not based on legal arguments. However he relies heavily on logic throughout his book.
Throughout his book, the author speaks of the absence of free will, and of logic, as it pertains to the Bible. In a telephone interview with Bugliosi, he and I explored the notion of logic, particularly as stated on page 189 of his book: "So when your mother or father, sister or brother dies, wouldn't simple logic dictate that you curse God, calling him evil for taking them away from you?" We disagreed on that point!
He further used the analogy of God allowing the 6 million Jews to die, as something evil on God, in our telephone interview. He admitted to me that he was an agnostic, after being raised a Catholic. Although he says that he is agnostic, Bugliosi uses the word absurdity throughout his book to denigrate Christian notions and belief. This sounds more like atheism than agnosticism to me.
Bugliosi continues his notion of logic in a convoluted way, in regard to The God Question, when he states: "We have proof throughout history that if God is sitting up there deciding who gets mercy, he rejects the plea most of the time. Don't you think the Jews at Auschwitz prayed to God to be spared? Don't you think people pray to be spared when they have terminal cancer? Maybe we have been praying to the wrong entity all along. People who believe in prayers could hardly do worse praying to the devil." How absurd, that doesn't sound like an agnostic. If one harbored the belief that God and Satan even might be real, one would not make such an rash remark.
Bugliosi further states in his book: "I've heard that at Nicole Simpson's funeral, one of the speakers told Nicole's grieving survivors and friends that we can't 'question God's will.' So it was God's will that Simpson slaughtered Nicole? Really? Again, that doesn't sound like an agnostic.
No subject has been argued about more vehemently than God and religion. Into this terrain - one on which no new and significant arguments have been made for many years - steps Bugliosi, whom many view as America's foremost prosecutor. Making his potent case for agnosticism, Bugliosi's gift for marshaling evidence and his well-known ability to draw utterly persuasive inferences lights up the religious landscape like no other book in this genre within memory.
One can say that his Divinity of Doubt: The God Question is arguably the most powerful indictment ever of God, theism, and atheism within the pages of one book, which is a bit disturbing. But this isn't a courtroom, and perhaps Bugliosi is out of his realm of comfort and expertise. To equate courtroom tactics and reasoning with the unraveling of the mysteries of The God Question is like comparing apples to oranges. Why he would even try, is beyond me.
But perhaps Bugilosi has become jaded from years as a prosecutor; after all the victims of those he put behind bars may well have pled for mercy and been shown none. No doubt he has struggled to come to grips with the concept of a merciful God in the context of merciless murderers.
Bugliosi has his detractors, as we all do, but when we attempt to address an issue that has divided men and nations since the dawn of time, we tend to have more detractors than usual. He does use a lot of historical perspective and insight, in an attempt to buttress his argument(s), which makes the book a good read for that fact alone.
"When I hear theists and atheists pontificating on how they know God does or does not exist, I can only smile at the irrationality, and yes, vanity of the notion," writes Bugliosi, who - in court or in the pages of his books - has taken on the likes of Charles Manson, O.J. Simpson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and George W. Bush. "Since the depth of a belief should be in proportion to the evidence, no sensible person should be dogmatic about whether there is or is not a God," he declares.
This is a courtroom argument, clearly a scholarly and secular approach, having nothing to do with faith. Again, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews: 11:1-3).
Bugliosi's other books were confined to his area of expertise: Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder, and Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. The Chicago Sun-Times described his Helter Skelter as "one of the best crime stories ever written." Perhaps Bugliosi had new worlds to conquer, which is why he decided to tackle The God Question.
Back in 2009, Bugliosi told NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday about what made the Manson case such a sensation: "If I were to give you what I believe the most bizarre in the annals of American crime, I mean, the incredible motive for the murders: to ignite a war between Blacks and Whites, that Manson called helter skelter - would be the final destruction on the face of this Earth."
Bugliosi followed his work on the Manson case with books whose subject ranged from true crime to theology. In many of them, he analyzed other high-profile cases, such as the O.J. Simpson murder trial. He also analyzed the killing of President John F. Kennedy and accused former President George W. Bush of murder over the 2003 Iraq invasion.
The inside cover of Bugliosi's book states: "Now in the most controversial book of his career, he turns his incomparable prosecutorial eye on the greatest target of all: God. In making his case for agnosticism, Bugliosi has very arguably written the most powerful indictment ever of God, organized religion, theism, and atheism."
Theists will be left reeling by, the commanding nature of Bugliosi's extraordinary arguments against them. And, with his trademark incisive logic and devastating wit, he also exposes the intellectual poverty of atheism and skewers its leading popularizers - Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins."
It begs the question, why would anyone even want to "indict God?" Bugliosi goes so far as to question the virgin birth of Jesus, and hence state that he was not the son of God.
Ironically, and interesting to note, in my anticipated review of a book by Shari Sharifi Brown; The 7 Commandments for Happinness and Prosperity, the author's husband writes in the foreword for the book: "The very famous prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, came to my home for dinner. Little did I know that he, too, was a scholar of the Bible, and so Shari and Bugliosi began to debate what was (to me) more than the New Testament but rather how the New Testament was written (i.e., the words of Paul and Peter and others, such as the Roman arhitect and warrior, Constantine). Constantine, as she explained, finally felt 'if you can't fight them because they outnumber you too much, join them and take control.'"
The husband of Shari Sharifi Brown further stated in the foreword to the author's book, The 7 Commandments for Happiness and Prosperity; "Bugliosi argued and argued that this was not the case, so together they researched and, sure enough, Shari was right." In my anticipated and upcoming review of Shari's book, my interview of her is going to make for an interesting dialogue.
Controversial, it is, as well as provocative. Divinity of Doubt: The God Question, is bound to raise a few eyebrows, but if one is firm and steadfast in their faith and belief, this book will not be persuasive; those who believe in God, do not rely on or require any empirical proof, for there is none, only faith.
Bugliosi's book, like Sam Warren's The Naked Truth, attempts to poke holes in the existence of God, but those with an unshakeable faith and belief, are unmoved. Even noted comedian, Bill Maher, takes a stab at The God Question, in his documentary, Religulous (2008), Maher, with a Jewish-Catholic background, sets out to prove that having faith and seeking directions from God is basically ridiculous and may be due to a neurotic disorder.
It seems to be open season on the denigration of Christianity. The late and former Pastor of the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Bishop Arthur M. Brazier, had this to say about Bill Maher, which could very well apply to Bugliosi: "the Lord will reward him according to his words!" See Bishop Brazier's worship service here.
Non-believers and even scientists, however, are also taken to task in the book. On evolution, Bugliosi raises many troubling questions about the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution for explaining the development of the species. He goes on to say; "Although the evolutionists may be right, I can say that viscerally I find it difficult to conceptualize the notion of bacteria evolving into Mozart." At the same time, he asserts that "although many believe that God and Darwin can't get along, that would not appear to be the case, the notions of God and evolution not being mutually exclusive." Bugliosi seems to be all over the map on The God Question.
Bugliosi comes down hard on theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. Whatever your position is on The God Question, Divinity of Doubt is food for thought.
Editor’s note: Plans for Bugliosi to appear at the Diamond Literary Festival author’s cruise in San Diego June 3 have changed; instead his publicist will be participating.
Dennis Moore is a former member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, and has been a freelance contributor to the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper. He is also a Christian, and a member of West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles. Mr. Moore can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.