Hitchens vs Hitchens

Apropos recent discussions, Peter Hitchens reviews Christopher Hitchens' book God Is Not Great. Some excerpts:

I also think it is wrong, mostly in the way that it blames faith for so many bad things and gives it no credit for any of the good it may have done.

I think it misunderstands religious people and their aims and desires. And I think it asserts a number of things as true and obvious that are nothing of the sort.


It is astonishing, in one so set against the idea of design or authority in the universe, how often he appeals to mysterious intuitions and "innate" knowledge of this kind, and uses religious language such as "awesome" – in awe of whom or what?

Or "mysterious". What is the mystery, if all is explained by science, the telescope and the microscope? He even refers to "conscience" and makes frequent thunderous denunciations of various evil actions.

Where is his certain knowledge of what is right and wrong supposed to have come from?

How can the idea of a conscience have any meaning in a world of random chance, where in the end we are all just collections of molecules swirling in a purposeless confusion?

If you are getting inner promptings, why should you pay any attention to them? It is as absurd as the idea of a compass with no magnetic North. You might as well take moral instruction from your bile duct.

Two pages later, speaking for atheists in general, he announces: "Our belief is not a belief."

To which one can only reply: "Really? And that thing in the middle of your face. I suppose that’s not a nose, either?"

Christopher is not tentative about his view on God. He describes himself as an "anti-theist", so certain of his, er, faith that he wars with bitter mockery against those who doubt his truth.

Well, I wish I were as certain about any of these things as Christopher is about his anti-creed.

He reminds me rather more of the bearded Muslim sages of the Deoband Islamic university in India I met last year, than of the cool, thoughtful Anglicanism that we were both more or less brought up in.

For the purposes of this book, religion is identified as a fanatical certainty. No doubt there are plenty of zealots who suffer from this problem.

But it is obvious to anyone that vast numbers of believers in every faith are filled with doubt, and open to reason. The Church of England’s greatest martyr, Thomas Cranmer, was burned at the stake for changing his mind once too often.

The noblest thinker of that Church, Richard Hooker, enthroned reason, alongside tradition and scripture, as one of the governing principles of faith, and warned against crude literal use of the Bible to justify or prohibit any action.

What bugs me about the recently popular anti-theist sentiment is the certainty and ridicule with which anti-theists approach the question of God's existence while at the same time making similar "leaps of faith" about other questions about the universe.

Leave theism and anti-theism to the true believers; give me skepticism.

Share this

The bicquering itself is

The bicquering itself is proof enough of the existence of Eris.