Pundit Christopher Hitchens picks a fight in book, 'God is Not Great'
BY BRUCE DeSILVA The Associated Press | April 25,2007
Christopher Hitchens is an essayist and pundit who loves a good fight and is never afraid to pick on someone his own size; but this time he's outdone himself. He's picked on God.
The title of his new book, "God Is Not Great," (Warner Twelve, 294 pages, $24.99) is an intentionally inflammatory twist on "Allah Akbar." Indeed, he lambasts Islam as "not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms" from Judaism and Christianity.
But Hitchens is an equal opportunity atheist. His reviles all religions and scorns anyone foolish enough to accept any idea on faith.
A spate of atheist screeds has arrived in the bookstores lately, but Hitchens' may be the best since Bertrand Russell's "Why I Am Not a Christian" (1927), laying out the essential arguments with force and precision.
He makes his case in the elegant yet biting prose we have come to expect from him. His style is erudite (he cites Richard Dawkins, Shakespeare, George Eliot, Blaise Pascal, C.S. Lewis and Thomas Aquinas in a span of three pages) yet manages to be accessible to the casual reader. He is at once funny and mean spirited, sniffing at the absurdity of the Bible's "minor miracles" and dismissing as buffoons all who would disagree.
Hitchens is the reincarnation of H.L. Mencken, the penultimate social critic of the first half of the 20th century, who used words like gunshots and considered most Americans "boobs." Of course, reincarnation is another notion that could induce paroxysms in both of them.
Hitchens' quarrel with God is too complex to invite summary, but it can be fairly said that he considers religion just plain childish.
"It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species," he writes, "and it is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge as well as comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs. Today, the least educated of my children knows much much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion."
But Hitchens is not satisfied to merely refute religion. He must also demonize it as "an enemy of science and inquiry," as "subsisting largely on lies and fears," and as "the accomplice of ignorance and guilt as well as of slavery, genocide, racism and tyranny." Hence the book's subtitle, "How Religion Poison's Everything."
And he does mean everything. As he would have it, religion foments hate and war. It justifies the torture and murder of "heretics" and "infidels." It represses healthy human sexuality. By discouraging contraception and encouraging reliance on prayer instead of medicine, it is even bad for your health.
This is, of course, a familiar augment. Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well.
But what is the point of writing such a book? Surely, it will change no minds. Surely, with a title like this, it will not be read by anyone who does not already agree with it.
Hitchens is, if he will forgive the religious reference, preaching to the choir.