Thursday, May 24, 2007

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great

In this exquisitely written and often hilarious book, Hitchens provides comfort to those of us who have parted ways with the comforting lie of religion. To lose one's faith is a difficult thing, as Hitchens, who recalls in the book his former faith in an ideology he no longer espouses and the occasional pangs he feels having left it, knows. But it is, on balance, far better to face the truth.

In this case, that truth is that the religions of the West are based on rantings of desert dwellers thousands of years ago, in what Hitchens convincingly labels and explains as the childhood of our species. The major religions have twisted and turned to fit new discoveries into their antiquated prisms for viewing the world, but over the course of 280 pages Hitchens argues that we know enough today to know that we can view the world without such prisms. We can see it for what it is. Indeed, our survival may depend on being willing and able to apply reason, rather than faith, to our interactions with one another and with our planet.

Hitchens has shown himself to be capable of churning out a book a year and to write on almost any topic with wit and precision. But I, for one, hope that he takes up the topic of this book as his cause from now on. The U.S., especially, needs to have a debate about the role of religion in our political system. Hitchens provides those of us who would speak against mingling church and state with a stockpile of weapons to use in making our argument. But so much the better if he carries on making it himself!

In sum: An excellent, entertaining read. It may not convert the faithful, but those on the fence will find much to think about and those already with Hitchens will enjoy the way he makes his case.

This review also appears on

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