“Only the middle class could act this way toward the middle class, and deem this pandering somehow a forthright and noble condition for an ongoing discussion of justice,” writes the Canadian novelist David Adams Richards in an article on the literary establishment . (My thanks to Tony Esolen for putting me on to him.) His speaking of Canadian writers — though  not, he is careful to say, of the great ones — but of course what he says is true of the American establishment fiction as well.

In so many novels, the characters stand up against a predetermined set of values that the reader is familiar with but have been taught by these books to fear, ridicule and mistrust — even if, in private, many of the readers might in some ways trust and depend on the values castigated. So a falsehood is set in motion by the very presumption of casting out falsehood, and the reader is the vulnerable target.

That certain writers I know and admire are prone to this duplicity is more upsetting than those fundamentalists I do not know and do not admire telling me works of genius are false. For it so happens that people I admire who have found a comfortable niche in the writing community have said this as well, about certain works that I admire very much.

This anti-religious sniping has become more prevalent over my lifetime because of a dual condition of pandering: one by the artists themselves to the audience; and the other by the audience’s acceptance of this pandering as their due without seriously questioning it, so as not to displease others in the audience who, they believe, must share a common ideology.


He goes on to explain the effect of this on the writers’ work and the question of God in general. Here’s a very good article from Commonweal on Richards.

Articles by David Mills

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