Saturday, May 12, 2007

G!d: So, just how great is Hitchens?

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
From The New York Times Book Review
Observers of the Christopher Hitchens phenomenon have been expecting a book about religion from him around now. But this impressive and enjoyable attack on everything so many people hold dear is not the book we were expecting....

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Hitchens is either playing the contrarian at a very high level or possibly he is even sincere. But just as he had us expecting minus X, he confounds us by reverting to X. He has written, with tremendous brio and great wit, but also with an underlying genuine anger, an all-out attack on all aspects of religion. Sometimes, instead of the word “religion,” he refers to it as “god-worship,” which, although virtually a tautology (isn’t “object of worship” almost a definition of a god?), makes the practice sound sinister and strange.

Hitchens is an old-fashioned village atheist, standing in the square trying to pick arguments with the good citizens on their way to church. The book is full of logical flourishes and conundrums, many of them entertaining to the nonbeliever....

Although Hitchens’s title refers to God, his real energy is in the subtitle: “religion poisons everything.” Disproving the existence of God (at least to his own satisfaction and, frankly, to mine) is just the beginning for Hitchens. In fact, it sometimes seems as if existence is just one of the bones Hitchens wants to pick with God — and not even the most important. If God would just leave the world alone, Hitchens would be glad to let him exist, quietly, in retirement somewhere. Possibly the Hoover Institution....

But speaking of foxes, Hitchens has outfoxed the Hitchens watchers by writing a serious and deeply felt book, totally consistent with his beliefs of a lifetime. And God should be flattered: unlike most of those clamoring for his attention, Hitchens treats him like an adult.

From a very entertaining review of both book and Hitchensiana by Michael Kinsley. Note that Jack Miles, in a work of a different sort some years back, posited that G!d had gone into retirement (one might say, absentee landlordship) quite some time ago. The Hoover Institution adds a nice touch.

[I'm trying out the "G!d" formation for the first time here--borrowed from some recent uses in Jewish renewal contexts. I kind of like it. Thoughts and reactions?]

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