Hitchens Joins the Party

Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris have had things to themselves for too long. Now it’s time for Christopher Hitchens to join the party. His new book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is now available.

So, my summer reading list just got one title longer. In general I have mixed feelings about Hitchens. He’s a terrific writer, and his essays are always enjoyable to read even when I disagree with him. I’ve consistently been impressed by his writing on religion, most notably his columns for Free Inquiry magazine.

The trouble is, he very rarely defends an actual position. Usually he merely attacks, with considerably savagery, anyone taking a position contrary to his own. Which is fine, when he is attacking someone I think deserves to be attacked. But in the last decade or so he has chosen some poor targets indeed.

His fanatical and mostly irrational hatred of Bill Clinton rendered much of his writing from the late nineties worthless. And, of course, he jumped on the Iraq War bandwagon with considerable enthusiasm. He was quite clear that the people who questioned the existence of Saddam’s WMD stockpiles were being foolish. He had no doubt that we would be greeted as liberators and that we could install democracy in Iraq as if it were a washing machine. His rather pathetic attempt to explain how, actually, he’s been right about everything all along is available here.

Slate has run several excertps from Htichen’s book. Here’s an excerpt from one of the excerpts:

The argument with faith is the foundation and origin of all arguments, because it is the beginning–but not the end–of all arguments about philosophy, science, history, and human nature. It is also the beginning–but by no means the end–of all disputes about the good life and the just city. Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other. For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could. Very generous of me, you may say. But will the religious grant me the same indulgence? I ask because there is a real and serious difference between me and my religious friends, and the real and serious friends are sufficiently honest to admit it. I would be quite content to go to their children’s bar mitzvahs, to marvel at their Gothic cathedrals, to “respect” their belief that the Koran was dictated, though exclusively in Arabic, to an illiterate merchant, or to interest myself in Wicca and Hindu and Jain consolations. And as it happens, I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition–which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing. As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon. Religion poisons everything.

Sounds about right. I’ll look forward to reading the book.


  1. #1 Howard
    May 1, 2007

    Religion medicates everything. It is poisonous in overdose.

  2. #2 cxhax
    May 1, 2007

    This is what I believe –

    Belief in God comes from Him. He determines whether or not you believe in Him. Not you. It is a gift that He gives you. If you donít believe in God, youíre not to blame. God is responsible. But, if you arenít able to believe today, tomorrow is a new day. And belief is extremely complex and dynamic, just as He & the universe He created for us. Try to think of something that is never moving or changing in it. No simple thing.

    God was responsible for Hitlerís behavior. Just as he is responsible for O.J.ís, and mine and Saddamís.

    Thatís what the Cross is all about. God accepting responsibility for manís deficiencies & inadequacies.

    And who is responsible for the behavior of ministers of the various faiths who improperly, inadequately or insufficiently preach to the followers of their faith? And for those who intentionally misrepresent themselves to their followers or mislead them? God is.

    And weíve been at this a pretty good while. Weíve still got a ways to go.

  3. #3 lazarou
    May 2, 2007

    I’ll buy the book as I agree with Hitchens as far as religion goes – his book exposing Mother Theresa was fantastic – but he is utterly contemptible swine in all other areas. A miserable, bitter, booze addled warhawk with no integrity whatsoever.

    In the UK we get the Daily Show a day behind the US so I saw his appearance last night. I was genuinely embarrassed for the man, he was almost unable to sit up straight in his seat and it looked like it took him a good few seconds to parse whatever simplistic questions Jon Stewart was firing at him. Not a good advert for his book or atheism in general.

    To be honest I’d be a lot happier if he either left the party or just downed his jug of vodka and fell asleep in the corner so no-one would notice him.

  4. #4 MJ Memphis
    May 2, 2007

    Honestly, I’ll take a Barry Lynn, MLK Jr., Oscar Romero, Abbe Pierre, etc. over a drunken warmonger like Hitchens any day.

  5. #5 jedipunk
    May 3, 2007

    Review from HuffingtonPost…

    So, what’s the big error I mentioned at the beginning of this post? On p. 54, Hitchens writes, “Orthodox Jews conduct Congress by means of a hole in the sheet…” This is, as even most idiots know, a total fabrication. As a lie, it’s not as bad as the blood libel, but it’s not so far from the old tales of sexual perversion in Catholic monasteries and convents — it’s a lie meant to discredit a whole people by making them seem sexually bizarre and far outside decent society.


  6. #6 Changcho
    May 3, 2007

    The record clearly shows (i.e., agitating for the Irar war; discrediting anyone who had it right in the first place, etc. etc.) that one should not take C. Hitchens very seriously. I think that the qualifier “contemptible swine”, used by a commenter here certainly applies. In discussing matters of atheism, I think a person like Dawkins is one to be taken seriously.

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