Friday, May 18, 2007

God is not great?

How exciting, a new vitriolic attack on religion: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christoher Hitchens. Having been swept up into initial exhilaration and a few weeks of confusion by Sam Harris's book in this genre (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason), I'll approach Hitchens's book with circumspection. But read it I plan to do (God willing). Excerpts from Michael Kinsley's review, "In God, Distrust" in the May 13 New York Times Book Review:
...The big strategic challenge for a career like [Hitchens's] is to remain interesting, and the easiest tactic for doing that is surprise. If they expect you to say X, you say minus X...One obvious possibility stood out: Hitchens, known to be a fervid atheist, would find God and take up religion....

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Hitchens is either playing the contrarian at a very high level or possibly he is even sincere. But just as he had us expecting minus X, he confounds us by reverting to X. He has written, with tremendous brio and great wit, but also with an underlying genuine anger, an all-out attack on all aspects of religion...

Hitchens is an old-fashioned village atheist, standing in the square trying to pick arguments with the good citizens on their way to church...How could Christ have died for our sins, when supposedly he also did not die at all? Did the Jews not know that murder and adultery were wrong before they received the Ten Commandments, and if they did know, why was this such a wonderful gift?...Whether sallies like these give pause to the believer is a question I can’t answer...

...Hitchens notes tartly that if any one of the major faiths is true, then the others must be false in important respects—an obvious point often forgotten in the warm haze of ecumenism....

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