Am I my brother’s reviewer? A word of explanation is needed here. Some of you may know that I have a brother, Christopher, who disagrees with me about almost everything.
Some of those who read his books and articles also know that I exist, though they often dislike me if so. But in general we inhabit separate worlds – in more ways than one.
He is of the Left, lives in the United States and recently became an American citizen. I am of the Right and, after some years in Russia and America, live in the heart of England. Occasionally we clash in public. ...
Despite the occasional temptation, I have never reviewed any of his books until today. But now, in God Is Not Great, he has written about religion itself, attacking it as a stupid delusion.
This case, I feel, needs an answer. Most of the British elite will applaud, since they see religion as an embarrassing and (worse) unfashionable form of mania.
And I am no less qualified to defend God than Christopher is to attack him, neither of us being experts on the subject. ...
Christopher is an atheist. I am a believer. He once said in public: "The real difference between Peter and myself is the belief in the supernatural.
"I’m a materialist and he attributes his presence here to a divine plan. I can’t stand anyone who believes in God, who invokes the divinity or who is a person of faith."
I don’t feel the same way. I like atheists and enjoy their company, because they agree with me that religion is important.
I liked and enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anybody who is interested in the subject. Like everything Christopher writes, it is often elegant, frequently witty and never stupid or boring.
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. ...
Many decades have passed since I fancied the story of Adam and Eve was literal truth, if I ever did. Rather more recently I have realised the great warning against human arrogance that is contained in it, the serpent’s silky promise that if we reject the supposedly foolish, trivial restrictions imposed on us by an interfering, jealous nuisance of a God, then we shall be liberated.
As the serpent promises: "Ye shall be as gods." These may be the most important words in the whole Bible.
Take the enticing satanic advice, and you arrive, quite quickly, at revolutionary terror, at the invention of the atom bomb, at the torture chamber and the building of concentration camps for those unteachable morons who do not share your vision of a just world.
And also you arrive at the idea, embraced by Christopher, that by invading Iraq, you can make the world a better place.
I hesitated about mentioning this. Was it unfair, a jab below the belt? No....
We are in the process – encouraged by Christopher – of abolishing religion, and so of abolishing conscience, too.
It is one of his favourite jibes that a world ruled by faith is like North Korea, a place where all is known and all is ordered.
On the contrary, North Korea is the precise opposite of a land governed by conscience.
It is a country governed by men who do not believe in God or conscience, where nobody can be trusted to make his own choices, and where the State decides for the people what is right and what is wrong.
And it is the ultimate destination of atheist thought.
If you do not worship God, you end up worshipping power, whether it is Kim Jong Il, Leon Trotsky or the military might of George W. Bush. In which case, God help you.
I'm not at all sure I follow that last twist of the argument, but this fraternal debate involving lively minds and pens is most engaging.