I'd wish my usage of the term "theatricalization" to be taken, not in a negative way, at all, but, rather, in a "neutral" one. Actually, I began considering the word "novelization", but, as the reading is delivered on the stage, and as it works so well in that setting, I consider it to be a better way of describing it.
That notwithstanding, the concept is also useful for expressing my impression that Sweeney did a lot of "adapting" to her, let's say, "spiritual" experiences, in order to drive her message home more effectively. Regarding this, the well-timed aparition of both couples of mormons looks rather suspicious.
But I hardly think this is something to make much of, as it's a well known fact that most writing is "subjective" (i.e., a fiction), in some measure, and rhetoric ought to be expected. In any case, I'd have preferred that Sweeney had avoided over-dramatizing her lecture: it gets too pathetic on occasions, and too teary from time to time -in a noticeable forced way-.
Also, perhaps, I'd have liked the author to comment more about the "imprint" phenomenon, that is, the lasting effects of religion being instilled in young minds. Sweeney refers to it in passing: "once a Catholic, alwasys a Catholic".
Apart from that, I think this is a work worth listening to: it explores the experiential aspect of the free-thinker mind, which is a matter rarely considered on more "technical" atheist books.
It's been pointed out on previous comments that there's nothing new in this book. Had it been, indeed, Harding's intention to produce ground-breaking contributions to the religion controversy, it'd be all the reason in the world to call this book unsuccessful. But, at lest to my mind, that's not the case. Rather, I think, the author’s purpose was to present, in a condensed form, the “atheist case”: most effective arguments, history, outstanding figures, etc. And in this, as I said in the title to my comment, I believe Harding achieved his goals, and his book is as good (systematic, compelling, etc.) an introduction to the matter as can be found.
Good points: I found particularly informative the last section (list of principal figures, glossary, further reading).
Weak points: Harding’s historical views appear too unsystematic to me (Renaissance, for instance, was a far more complex cultural period than the author makes of it). Also, I think it’s necessary to acknowledge the numerous contributions made by religious people to universal culture, in numberless fields (philosophy and art, for instance, to name but the most noticeable). In this regard, his appreciation that religion has given humanity not much more than “a couple of crumbling buildings” in very unjust.
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