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men (including Christopher Hitchens) are not Great

7 October, 2009


Christopher Hitchens’s book god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is an international bestseller, and he has had many interviews on shows such as Bill Maher (not surprising), Hannity and Colmes, and Hardball. Hitchens is a very gifted rhetorician and his British accent only helps him among American listeners. He has garnered quite a following on the Internet and people find his views compelling. Although his promote atheistic fundamentalism, I sympathize with his criticisms of Christian fundamentalists and his criticisms of the horrible acts done by theists: but—interestingly enough—it does not seem to dawn on Hitchens that atheists have done just as many bad things in the name of irreligion. As I have listened to several of Hitchens’s interviews, the thing that keeps coming to mind is that Hitchens is not great. Perhaps he would have been better off titling his book: men (including Hitchens) are not Great: How They Poison Everything.

An equally impressive Brit, Terry Eagleton, has gone after Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (calling them “Ditchkins”) in his book Reason, Faith, and Revolution. Eagleton picks up on something that struck me while I was listening to interviews and reading some of Hitchens’s stuff. Hitchens suffers from a very bad case of misrepresentation and false characterization. He ignores the best arguments that intelligent Christians have to offer, resembling the big bad wolf, hunting hapless little pigs in unfortified straw houses. Eagleton describes Hitchens nicely,

The straw-targeting of Christianity is now drearily commonplace among academics and intellectuals—that is to say, among those who would not allow a first-year student to get away with the vulgar caricatures in which they themselves indulge in insouciance. Ditchkins on theology is rather like someone who lays claim to the title of literary criticism by commenting that there are some nice bits in the novel and some scary bits as well, and it’s all very sad at the end. He thinks for example, that all Christians are fideists, holding that reason is irrelevant to faith, which is rather like believing that all Scots are stingy…Hitchens’s God Is Not Great is littered with elementary theological howlers. We learn that the God of the Old Testament never speaks of solidarity and compassion; that Christ has no human nature; and that the doctrine of the resurrection means that he did not die (p. 52).

Hitchens’s representation of Christianity is far too common in the academy. I heard many of these same crass characterizations at my university. Now, surely some Christians do have this sort of ignorance—in fact a good majority of them argue these claims with fervor. Christianity is plagued with biblical illiterates and anti-intellectualists, but Hitchens only deals a death-blow to Christian houses made of hay and stubble.

Not only does Hitchens impute his neighbor’s understanding of Christianity on all Christians, but also he makes many mistakes when it comes to the basic facts of the New Testament and its scholarship. Dr. Mark Roberts, a New Testament expert, has interacted quite extensively with Hitchens’s book (see god is not Great: A Response), noting how often he gets the biblical facts wrong. Some of the more appalling mistakes are his misdating of Jesus’s birth and saying that Jesus was the one who invented hell. Hitchens’s errors demonstrate that he is devoted to the same fundamentalism that Rev. Jerry Falwell was, except with an atheistic twist. Hitchens undoubtedly would not like to be mentioned in the same camp as Falwell (after all, he said some pretty hateful things immediately after Rev. Falwell’s death), but I think that they have more in common with each other than Hitchens would concede. Like a crazy, fundamentalist preacher ranting about how great God is, Hitchens joins the chorus with the same kind of fundamentalist vitriol, with one slight difference: he argues how lame God is. To me, Rev. Falwell and Rev. Hitchens imbibe the same inanity. Many are impressed with Htichens’s ignorance and fundamentalism, but I am convinced that God is great and Hitchens is not. At least God did not muck up the facts when he said that the fool says in his heart that there is no God.


  1. 8 October, 2009 2:39 am

    What a coincidence. Alisia and I just watched Ben Stein’s “Expelled” with our Pastor and his family. It’s funny how religious the Atheists are when you finally corner them and get them to reveal their idolatrous silliness. At the end, Dawkins suggested (scientifically speaking of course) that a better alternative to our mean Old Testament Yahweh as Creator is the “attractive” possibility that higher life forms from other planets (who would have evolved of course) “seeded” life here on Earth. So much for Science and “just the facts, Mam!”

    I’ve also been reading Lesslie Newbigin’s “Truth to Tell.” He shows that it’s very obvious that even Bacon and Descartes can’t escape the chains to “absolutes” of their own.

    The world is becoming more and more a job for Dr. Peter Jones.

  2. Darren permalink
    12 October, 2009 6:34 am

    men are not great, but this post is great

  3. 12 October, 2009 7:47 pm

    Thanks for the compliment, Darren.


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