Religion Gone Bad, by Mel White, Penguin, 2006. Reviewed by Bob Metcalfe.

White is a Gay Christian who has worked for many US evangelical movements. At least, that is, until he came to terms with the fact that he was gay, whereupon he was shunned. He still often attends Jerry Falwell’s Church in order to silently protest at fundamentalism’s treatment of homosexuality. The man must have balls of iron. I myself tend to treat fundamentalists as if they were rattlesnakes.

He writes from an insider’s point of view about fundamentalism and its attitude towards gay people. He knows the fundamentalist mindset, because at one time he was close to it himself. He talks us through the major leaders of fundamentalist sects, and the methods by which they intend to “reclaim America for Christ”, but of course concentrates mostly on their attempts to fight the “Homosexual menace”.

This is not a particularly well organised book; it tends towards pedantry and repetition. The author also makes a few silly statements like, and I paraphrase-only an hysteric would compare fundamentalists to Nazis-but then goes ahead and does it anyway. But this is an important book, and not just for gay people. It should be read by everyone who has the remotest interest in fundamentalism and the way it works. There are comparisons to be made with fascism; fundamentalists do not respect democracy, freedom of speech, or for that matter the US Constitution.

The society they want to see for all its superficial Brady Bunch appearance does have many similarities with a fascist state. The methods they use do bear comparison with those used by Hitler-violence, playing on fear, and creating scapegoats for the condition of society. White himself has founded an organisation that fights religious bigotry against gay people, and doesn’t take them at all lightly as we tend to do here. In many ways an annoying read, but I think a very necessary one.

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