S.T. Joshi - Fright and Freethought

May 28, 2010

Host: Robert M. Price

S. T. Joshi is a leading authority on H. P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, and other writers, mostly in the realms of supernatural and fantasy fiction. He has edited corrected editions of the works of Lovecraft, several annotated editions of Bierce and Mencken, and has written such critical studies as The Weird Tale and The Modern Weird Tale. His award-winning biography, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, has already become a collector's item.

But critical, biographical, and editorial work on weird fiction is only one aspect of Joshi's multifaceted output. A prominent atheist, Joshi has published the anthology Atheism: A Reader and the anti-religious polemic, God's Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong. He has also compiled an important anthology on race relations, Documents of American Prejudice.

In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Robert M. Price talks with Joshi about Lovecraft and how his writings were an impetus toward Joshi's atheism. Along with discussing Lovecraft's views on religion, Joshi shares his own views on the subject. He reveals his thoughts on religious writers as well as the "new atheism." He explains what horror and fantasy literature have to offer the non-religious, and how it can in some ways take the place of religious writings.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Comments from the CFI Forums

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It’s not only his racism, but his views of the working class that deserves to feed into an analysis of his work. I know it’s kind-of outside the remit of the show, but his letters show his hatred of the working class to be on a level with his description of the worst horrors of the universe.

He was a great writer (although perhaps not as great as some of his recent apologists have made him out to be) despite his exceedingly large personal flaws, for sure. Thanks for the interview.

Posted on May 30, 2010 at 1:30am by FamousMortimer Comment #1

Who was the writer mentioned near the end of the interview?  What I heard sounded like “dun-say-nee” but I’m not familiar with the name and couldn’t get close enough find information about him. 

Thank you,
Mary.

Posted on May 31, 2010 at 8:39am by NaturalMary63 Comment #2

The person they’re on about is probably Lord Dunsany.

http://www.dunsany.net/18th.htm

Posted on May 31, 2010 at 8:42am by FamousMortimer Comment #3

Oh, ok.  Cool Thank you!

Posted on May 31, 2010 at 8:54am by NaturalMary63 Comment #4

It’s not only his racism, but his views of the working class that deserves to feed into an analysis of his work. I know it’s kind-of outside the remit of the show, but his letters show his hatred of the working class to be on a level with his description of the worst horrors of the universe.

He was a great writer (although perhaps not as great as some of his recent apologists have made him out to be) despite his exceedingly large personal flaws, for sure. Thanks for the interview.

I’m a pretty big Lovecraft fan.  I like the weirdness and creativity in his work.  But yeah, he was a horrific racist and hated pretty much everyone that wasn’t a wealthy New England WASP.  It’s actually kind of ironic when you consider that he was pretty damn poor for much of his adult life.  And in his later days, he did seem to lessen some of this racism.  But he was still a dick.  Did you know he picked fights with fellow writers for no real reason?  As I said, he was a dick.

Posted on May 31, 2010 at 11:12am by Dead Monky Comment #5

Left wing atheists seem to all be undergoing pathologically intense paroxysms of conceit and intolerance – extreme self and mutual admiration and ruthless hate for opponents.
  Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism at least, are constant teachers – or nags – for kindness, forgiveness, responsibility, self restraint, charity, integrity, honesty, and a host of other virtues. They also promote those virtues through implantation of inhibitions and peer approval mechanisms. I think the recent generational left hates religion because of, not despite, this.
  Joshi seems to have no awareness of the sophistication of Christianity and Judaism. I wonder if he has ever heard of writers like Rene Girard or Ivan Illich.
  If you want to crusade against beliefs that are false and claim to help people but actually hurt them, go after homeopathy, not Christianity.

Posted on Jun 05, 2010 at 5:27am by rg21 Comment #6

In general, I agree with the science articulated in these podcasts, but this interview truly goes over the top in its glib, self-confidence about the inferiority of religious thought.  Maybe one has to be from the South to recognize true fundamentalism, this time from the secular side.  I had to pinch myself to remember I was not listening to a right wing Christian radio broadcast. 

There is a large chunk of liberal, mainstream Christianity which affirms science, is focused on the core Christian teaching of concern for those out of power and views Christianity as one window, not an exclusive one, on how to live out ones life.  Moreover, there is a deep, profound voice within all the spiritual traditions that proclaim that tolerance and religious vitality go hand in hand.  However, in listening to this podcast and some of the other ones on Point of Inquiry, one would never hear that perspective. The overwhelming (albeit not exclusive) point of view is to lump religion in with fundamentalists, supernaturalism, intolerance and literalism.

I profoundly appreciate and agree with Point of Inquiry’s efforts to thwart fundamentalism of all its stripes.  However, the failure to address the liberal religious tradition has two effects: (1) It ignores an obvious ally among these reflective and committed religious moderates and (2) it debases the rigor and depth of an argument against religious belief in general.  If in fact Point of Inquiry wants to convince its audience to reject all religion, then it should allow its audience to be exposed to the whole religious world – moderates, the mystic tradition, Buddhist concepts, the spirituality of African-Americans, the list could go on —not just religious fundamentalists.

Posted on Aug 02, 2010 at 8:02pm by Thad Comment #7

In general, I agree with the science articulated in these podcasts, but this interview truly goes over the top in its glib, self-confidence about the inferiority of religious thought.  Maybe one has to be from the South to recognize true fundamentalism, this time from the secular side.  I had to pinch myself to remember I was not listening to a right wing Christian radio broadcast. 

There is a large chunk of liberal, mainstream Christianity which affirms science, is focused on the core Christian teaching of concern for those out of power and views Christianity as one window, not an exclusive one, on how to live out ones life.  Moreover, there is a deep, profound voice within all the spiritual traditions that proclaim that tolerance and religious vitality go hand in hand.  However, in listening to this podcast and some of the other ones on Point of Inquiry, one would never hear that perspective. The overwhelming (albeit not exclusive) point of view is to lump religion in with fundamentalists, supernaturalism, intolerance and literalism.

I profoundly appreciate and agree with Point of Inquiry’s efforts to thwart fundamentalism of all its stripes.  However, the failure to address the liberal religious tradition has two effects: (1) It ignores an obvious ally among these reflective and committed religious moderates and (2) it debases the rigor and depth of an argument against religious belief in general.  If in fact Point of Inquiry wants to convince its audience to reject all religion, then it should allow its audience to be exposed to the whole religious world – moderates, the mystic tradition, Buddhist concepts, the spirituality of African-Americans, the list could go on —not just religious fundamentalists.

A lot of the folks here are probably very familiar with Sam Harris’ book The End of Faith. In that book, Mr. Harris talks about how moderates in the religious community are actually worse than the extremists.  The moderates allow that their religion may have been barbaric “in the past”. Or say “we aren’t like that anymore”. Yet they use the same “holy” books as the extremists. Until rational people stand up to the irrationality and danger of even “moderate” religious apologists, there will always be extremists. Also I am not buying the “traditions that proclaim that tolerance and religious vitality go hand in hand”.  I have never seen that in any of my historical studies.

Posted on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:44pm by templarboy Comment #8

Although a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy, I have historically avoided Lovecraft as being of a more gloomy and pessimistic aspect than I’d actually enjoy.  For example I also do not enjoy horror and don’t much understand why some people do aside from some perverse thrill to be derived therefrom (not meaning to be judgemental). 

After listening to the podcast, I looked further into Lovecraft by way of the page on Wiki and sure enough, he was something of a very troubled man even from early childhood, possibly with an apparent genetic background which was also associated with some mental difficulties.  In this case his being the whole person that he was put him at the apex of creativity towards his particular and practically unique genre without which we would all be poorer, considering the influence (or can I call it “innerfluence”) Lovecraft and his minions have today in the worlds of entertainment as well as (yes, believe it or not) weird religions.

Posted on Feb 16, 2011 at 2:05pm by gray1 Comment #9