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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hitchens takes on God

God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything is the latest offering from Christopher Hitchens. The title says it all.

In Man v God, Janice Turner in The Times presents a rather revealing portrait of a rather strange personality.

"He observes Passover (he discovered late in life that he was Jewish, his mother’s family having changed their name from Levin), which his Jewish wife thinks is contemptible. “She never felt she should identify with anything except to be an American. To say you’re Jewish or anything else is sectarian. I should praise that, but why don’t I? Because somehow it would be banal. And I want my daughter to know what the tradition is.
...
He was married to his first wife in a Greek Orthodox church, to his second, Carol Blue, by a rabbi. He had his son, Alexander, now 23, baptised. He educates his daughter, Antonia, 13, at a Quaker school, Sidwell Friends, alma mater of Chelsea Clinton and Al Gore’s son. He has taken her to Washington’s Anglican cathedral to familiarise her with the liturgy. He worries that without the scriptures – which he can quote chapter and verse – she will never understand Milton or Shakespeare.
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I wonder whether he envies the faithful as he gets older and death looms, since all that secularism offers in place of everlasting life is “life’s a bitch and then you die”. “Well, that is not said as a gloomy thing, is it? People say it to cheer themselves up.” But it is a dark statement. “There is comfort in noir,” says Hitchens.”

In So, Mr. Hitchens, why are we here? Carl Olson examines some features of Hitchens` book which present a very pessimistic view of life.

Father Raymond J. de Souza, in "Hitchens’ flat world." National Post, (Canada) May 12, 2007 reviews the book.

"“Religion has run out of justifications,” Hitchens concludes. “Thanks to the telescope and the microscope, it no longer offers an explanation of anything important.” Hitchens is not unlike the zealots he assails, which explains how an obviously intelligent man could write something so embarrassingly stupid.

Here are some unimportant questions for which a microscope is rather unhelpful in answering: Why are we here? Why is there something instead of nothing? What is the purpose of human existence? Hitchens is so fascinated with what he can see in the skies or in the laboratory that he is blind to the world in which men actually live. Perhaps he thinks that without religion there would be more peace, wisdom and beauty in a world dominated by politics, science, entertainment and industry. There is no evidence for that claim whatsoever, and good reason to believe that such a flat world would be more brutal to live in.

In the end, I suspect that the principal objection Hitchens has is to the Christian doctrine of original sin, namely that human wickedness, freely chosen, has made our world one in which beastly things are done to us and by us, and that this world needs a redeemer. On the contrary, the world glimpsed through the telescope and microscope is one where there is no room for freedom — asteroids and atoms do not make choices — and therefore no room for sin or sanctity, and no need of a redeemer. Indeed, there is no room even for man, the measure of which cannot be reduced to scientific instruments.

God has no place in the world Hitchens wants, but nobody else has ever lived there either."