I like Christopher Hitchens. He’s witty, he’s British so he has that cool accent working for him, he’s intelligent (he uses big words, anyway), and he’s outspoken. He can hold his own with and sometimes even out-talk Chris Matthews. He doesn’t seem to belong in any one camp, so it’s often hard to tell what he will think on any one issue. He’s a critic of Mother Theresa (??) and a supporter of the invasion of Iraq. One thing that he’s consistent about is his atheism, and with the recent wave of publications by outspoken atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, Hitchens has followed suit with his own book, with the somewhat inflammatory title God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
As you might expect, the reviews are all over the place on this book. A Booklist review called him “utterly rational” while Publishers Weekly said that the book’s claim that religion poisons everything “tips over into barely disguised misanthropy.” “Books and Culture” (a Christianity Today publication) has chosen this as their Book of the Week. In their review, Preston Jones comments “we are dealing with a very intelligent and well-read author who, when it comes to “religion,” is simply incapable of reason.” My favorite line from the Publishers Weekly review is that Hitchens is “delightful reading … even when he’s wrong.”
However, as obnoxious as Dawkins and Harris can be, Hitchens’ book sounds like it may be the most caustic; Hitchens’ acerbic wit is obviously one of his endearing qualities, and in this book he apparently lashes out at everything religious, including Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King.
There is no doubt that religious people of all flavors have done some remarkably stupid and evil things. I am often (okay, very often) critical of the stupid things that Christians say and do, and I can’t justify stupidity or immorality no matter what the reasoning behind it may be. However, atheists have also done some remarkably evil things. It may be better argued that humans share a tendency for evil (Christians often call it a “sinful nature”). If that is the case, then the poison already exists, and the real discussion should be on the antidote.
But, that wouldn’t be as much fun, and probably wouldn’t sell as many books.