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Keywords: Religion, politics, faith, reason, current affairs

Title: God Is Not Great

Author: Christopher Hitchens

Publisher: Atlantic Books/Twelve Books

ISBN: 1843545861/0446579807

 

Christopher Hitchens, journalist, controversialist and political maverick, has abandoned and revised his beliefs in all areas bar one - religion. He remains as staunchly secularist now as he was when he was firmly in the ranks of the Trotskyite left. And in this latest polemic, he launches a passionate, vitriolic and wide-ranging attack on organised religion, religious belief and those who would exempt religion from criticism.

As with other recent anti-religious books, such as 'The End of Faith' by Sam Harris and 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins, Hitchens does not spare the feelings of those who believe that religious belief is somehow different from other forms of human undertaking. In his view religion more than warrants criticism and attack, and he takes great pains to show just how it is that religion kills, and has killed throughout history. And for those inclined to point to people like Gandhi as pacifists who turn against war, Hitchens points out that even the great Gandhi bears some moral responsibility for the thousands slaughtered in the partition of India and Pakistan, in part because his Hinduism.

There are no sacred cows according to Hitchens, and he weighs in against a range of targets, from those on the Left who acquiesce to Islamic fundamentalism in the belief that it's 'progressive' because it is anti-American, to Mother Theresa of Calcutta or the alleged plagiarism of the Koran.

What marks the book out from a common or garden rant is the quality of the writing. Some of the arguments here are similar to those advanced by Dawkins and Harris, for example, but Hitchens is the better writer of the three. His book is eminently readable, and displays his skills with words to good effect. He also likes to step off the beaten track, such as devoting a chapter to the ungodliness of pork or suggesting that religious education is equivalent to child abuse.

In place of religion Hitchens proposes the values of the enlightenment: reason, liberty and secularism. While these may no longer be fashionable (or identified with the Left), Hitchens argues strongly in their favour. In the end the choice is simple, to elevate ignorance and superstition as privileged if they are based on 'faith' or to accept that religion is a blind alley that justifies misery and war.

Contents © London Book Review 2007. Published September 05 2007