Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 24 January |
Saint of the Day: St. Francis de Sales
home iconNews
line break icon

Stage production of The Loser Letters takes aim at New Atheism

Aerogondo2 - Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 09/13/16

Mary Eberstadt's 2010 novel gets star treatment in Washington, DC setting

A recent survey presented a troubling picture for religious parents: young Catholics are abandoning faith at an early age, sometimes before the age of 10, largely due to a perceived incompatibility between science and religion.

But help may be on the way in the form of a stage adaptation of a novel that takes on the New Atheism.

The Loser Letters, a 2010 novel by author and researcher Mary Eberstadt, will be presented in dramatic form in Washington, D.C. at the end of the month.

It’s an unusual adaptation for an unusual book. The Loser Letters originally appeared as a series at National Review Online, in the form of letters to the major proponents of the New Atheism from a young Christian woman who had renounced faith altogether. The series was published in book form by Ignatius Press.

When the book was being promoted, theologian Michael Novak insisted that it would do well as a play, and his vision is finally taking shape.

“In the course of these letters, [the protagonist’s] own personal story comes out,” Eberstadt said in an interview Monday. “I wrote this in the heyday of the New Atheism, when all of those atheism books were riding high on the bestseller list. It seemed to me that something was missing from the debate, on both sides, pro or con—a sense of the experiences in life that might drive people toward belief or unbelief. There’s a lot of self-delusion, always, within humanity, and that includes about why we believe what we believe.”

She said she wanted her novel to suggest that part of what explains secularization and the rise of the New Atheism is that people have had life experiences that “don’t square with Christian teaching, and they want very much to be told that it doesn’t matter.”

The production opens at Catholic University’s Hartke Theater September 29 for an 11-night run. Directed by Jeffrey Fiske, who brought The Screwtape Letters to the stage a few years back, it stars Olympic and World Champion gymnast Chellsie Memmel, who takes on a mute role to accompany the main character, played by Madeleine Murphy. The play features the work of Irina Tsikurishvili, a 14-time Helen Hayes Award winning choreographer.

Eberstadt said she aimed the novel at the Millennial Generation because it didn’t seem as if any kind of rational arguments about belief were making inroads into that population.

“So my hope was that in presenting them with a story of a very recognizable young woman who has had very recognizable experiences in life, that would resonate at the level of story-telling rather than the level of rational argument,” she said.

The new production could be seen as examining another aspect of Eberstast’s recently published book It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies.

“It’s getting harder and harder for Christians to tell their story in the public square on the level of rational argument alone,” Eberstadt said. “People have been saying for a long time that we need more fiction, we need people outside the realm of social science or theology to find a different way of going at these truths. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re trying to deliver a deeply counter-cultural artistic piece that will make people think and empathize with a character instead of resonating with an argument.”

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
2
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
3
Philip Kosloski
What are the corporal works of mercy?
4
Philip Kosloski
When did Christians start praying the Hail Mary?
5
PHILIP RIVERS
Cerith Gardiner
Quarterback Philip Rivers' retirement announcement reflects his s...
6
CONSOLE
Philip Kosloski
What are the spiritual works of mercy?
7
EMOTIONAL
Bret Thoman, OFS
Need healing? An exorcist recommends this 12-word prayer
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.