An Interesting Review of Hitchens' God Is Not Great
From Hitchens' flat world by Father Raymond J. De Souza as published in the National Post:
God is not Great -- lavishly excerpted in the National Post these last four days (the final instalment appearing on the opposite page) -- has lots of arguments like that. Isn't it silly for religious believers to bring themselves before God in certain places when God could see them wherever they are? And why do we need to tell an omniscient God what we need? And what if different believers pray for mutually contradictory things? And didn't you know about inconsistencies in sacred texts? And -- this example must be included because Hitchens is mightily annoyed that religion seeks to restrain the sexual appetite -- why would God create human beings with their hands close to their genitals if he didn't intend for them vigorous onanistic exertions, of which all religions take a dim view? You see, such puzzles can only be solved by realizing that the whole putrid mess is pure fabrication by fraudsters playing upon mankind's "infantile" need for consolations in a harsh world.
Hitchens writes as though he has read deeply in the history of religious thought, but if so he managed to do it without engaging what he has found there. He breezily dismisses the long examination of the great questions of divine power and human freedom, divine foreknowledge and human uncertainty, divine inspiration and human agency, human nature and the natural law, as insuperable problems that must either be ignored or shielded from the penetrating reason of clever people like Christopher Hitchens.
I'm sorry, was that an ad hominem attack? Hard to resist after reading what is, essentially, a book-length example of same. Hitchens' approach is to romp through history, using his cutting literary style to spoof and mock all the absurdities he finds in the world of religion. If Hitchens met a local vicar with bad breath, religion is to blame for halitosis. It's a fun game, but not really an argument. Hitchens claims that "religion poisons everything" -- including the aftermath of his beloved Iraq War, which was going swimmingly until the mullahs screwed it up--as though without religion history would be free of people doing beastly things.
Despite Hitchens entertaining style, his book quickly becomes tedious. If you are the sort of person who thinks it very clever to respond to, say, an argument defending the role of religious believers in a pluralistic society by shouting, "What about the Crusades?", you will be nodding along with Hitchens in emphatic agreement. If you find such ad historiam arguments tedious, you will be simply nodding off.
Page after page, Hitchens piles one outrage upon another. So convinced is he of the rightness of his conclusion -- "religion poisons everything" -- that he does not blanch from the most breathtaking rearrangements of the facts and terms of debate. With an apparently straight face he excuses the evils of secular regimes, by blaming the Catholic Church for Nazism and classifying North Korea's communist regime as a religious cult. If anti-clerical fascists and atheistic autocrats fall into the camp of religion, then the reader can only wonder why Hitchens doesn't blame the priests for inclement weather.