Christopher Hitchens makes many good points about why belief in God doesn't make sense anymore, and many excellent points about the evils of religion and how it's held us back. He writes with erudition and wit, and at times, is a pleasant person to visit with. I'm inclined to agree with much of what he writes here (although since I grew up without much formal religious instruction, I don't really need the hard sell on that one) but I was confused about his purpose in writing this book. If he just wants to write a polemic for people who already agree with him, his snide tone makes sense, but he seems to feel so strongly about actually dissuading people from their beliefs. Does he think he can mock people into not believing in God? I found the contemptuous tone that intermittently seeps into his writing offensive - and I'm not even religious. I think if you're going to attempt to prod people in the tender parts of their psyche and urge them to give up something that means a lot to them - even if you're convinced it's all bunk - a little care is called for, no?
Also, he seems to think all atheists are enlightened aesthetes who spend their time pondering the fine arts, literature and science just because *he* happens to be an enlightened aesthete who does these things (and discusses Shakespeare with Salman Rushdie to boot). I think that's probably as grave a mistake as thinking that all people who believe in God are Bible-thumping maniacs who are bombing abortion clinics.
I think, in the end, though, belief doesn't really capitulate to reason, ever. It's something felt with an organ other than the brain. I came away the same agnostic I've pretty much always been (although I think that might be a function of my personal tendency towards indecision rather than anything else). I don't fault him for trying, but I wonder if he's done atheists and non-believers a favor in writing this book.
There's an interesting op ed from the nytimes today on morality without religion; click here
to go to it.
And apparently, Mark Twain agrees:
There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing and predatory as it is — in our country, particularly, and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree — it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime — the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of to-day, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor his Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilt.
Read more here:http://beyond-school.org/2010/07/11/mark-twains-posthumous-bombshells/