Seriously. I don’t know how much he gets paid to crank out tripe like this, but I’ll do it for half the price. Not only does this guy butcher basic grammar, he also has the stylistic sense of a high school Freshman who’s been told he’s a genius a few times too many. And I should know, I used to be that high school Freshman.

And honestly, I can overlook bad grammar and bad style if the content is solid. After all, it’s better to be right than to seem right. But Bywater’s entire column is so wrong that it’s not even wrong. It’s just hundreds of words of nonsense mixed liberally with factual errors. Don’t believe me? Here’s his fourth paragraph in its entirety:

The last really successful religion – the only successful one for 1,340 years, since Islam kicked off with the Qur’an – was started way before the online Distraction Machine. One article in the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction started the whole thing going. The author was a red-headed pulp sci-fi writer with a sideline in Westerns and fantasy who to the astonishment of his colleagues churned out about a million words a year at 70 words a minute. Clearly he hadn’t just been cooling his heels for the remaining 46 weeks of the year, but thinking up something spectacular. The new religion (or at least its core idea) was no flash in the pan; its author, writes sociologist Stephen Kent, “had been discussing and developing his ideas at least as far back as the previous summer”. Assuming he could think twice as fast as he could type, that’s roughly 18 million words of thinking before he went into print. No wonder the idea caught on.

Bullshit on stilts this is. It starts with a baldfaced lie, descends into illogical horseshit, and ends up in one of the most stunning non-sequitors I’ve ever read. Bywater comes across as so clueless that he couldn’t get a clue if he walked into a discount clue shop with a suitcase full of hundred dollar bills.

Scientology is the only successful religion since Islam? Sit down, Mr. Bywater, this list is going to take awhile:

  • Tibetan Buddhism
  • Shingon (Japanese) Buddhism
  • Sikhism
  • Lutheranism
  • Anglicanism
  • Calvinism
  • Presbyterianism
  • Baptism
  • Russian Orthodox
  • Wahhabism
  • Sunni Islam
  • Shia Islam
  • Suffi Islam
  • Shakers
  • Quakers
  • Mormonism
  • Baha’i
  • Seventh-Day Adventism
  • Swaminarayan Hinduism
  • Wicca
  • Rastafarianism
  • Yogic Transcendentalism
  • Iglesia ni Cristo

All of these religions were founded between Islam and Scientology. And shit, this even leaves out some of the weird ones that were never popular, but still had huge influences (e.g. Thelema, Church of Satan, Raelism). Even with the most stringent interpretation of “successful” the list above still contains several that have many more followers than Scientology and/or have much higher name recognition. To skip over these faiths and simply state that there’s a 1300-years of religious downtime between the founding of Islam and the founding of Scientology is, at best, horribly ignorant. And I mean that literally; that is absolutely the best possible interpretation. The best case scenario here is that Michael Bywater is so ignorant about religion that he’s unqualified to write a vapid puff piece on a minor freakshow of a religion.

A more probably and far less flattering interpretation of Mr. Bywater’s statement is that he knows about at least some of these religions, but their existence was inconvenient to his thesis, and so he ignored them. I would say that this makes Mr. Bywater a rhetorical whore, but I’m sure most sex workers have a hell of a lot more professionalism and intellectual honesty than does Mr. Bywater.

Then there’s the absolutely mess of a description of L. Ron Hubbard that follows. He writes a million words a year. But he apparently only writes for 6 weeks of the year, because there’s a nonsensical reference to “the other 46 weeks”. Also, apparently a million words at 70 WPM is an astounding number. That 40 minutes of typing per day must have really taken it out of ol’ Mr. Hubbard.

Then there’s some odd implication that he worked long and hard on Scientology, followed by a quote that says he’d been working on it for at most a year. Then some bizarre calculation about the number of “words of thinking” that Hubbard put into Scientology. A calculation, by the way, that is wrong, even by Bywater’s own standards. If L. Ron wrote a million words a year, thought twice that fast, and took a year to invent Scientology, that’s two million thought-words.

Which would mean something if “number of words of thought” meant anything at all, which it doesn’t, because Michael Bywater is a hack who is so full of shit that it makes me irrationally angry just thinking about it.

And none of this even touches on his bizarre sidetrack into Solipsism later in the article. Apparently everything (literally everything) is bollocks, according to Mr. Bywater. Well, as the saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Maybe if all you can write is bullshit, every topic looks like nonsense.

In summary, Mr. Bywater is, at best, incompetent. At worst he’s an unprofessional and sophistic hack.

In other news, I really need to learn how to get less worked up about these things.