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The Rage Against God
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Peter Hitchens was pursued by his publisher to deliver this title, likely because it feeds off a brotherly rivalry with Christopher, notorious publicist for dubious ideas. I was attracted to Peter's book because I do feel that the decline of religious faith opens the door to all sorts of utopianism, of which PC is but the leading edge.

Peter divides his book into roughly two parts, one focusing on his personal story and relating it to his move away from, then back to, religion. Then he launches into a broad-horizon attack on the most noxious trends in modern history and society -- most of which he relates to the culture's move away from God.

The Soviet revolution gets most of the attention, mostly because of his experience in Moscow as a reporter. He found a dreadful society, slovenly and irresponsible in the fullest sense. He relates this to the downgrading of individual conscience and morality. He also criticizes his own and others' (hello, Christopher) foolish interest in monsters like Lenin and Trotsky, who set in motion this tragedy. Peter finds atheism at the root of the Soviet disaster and fervently reiterates that link.

Elsewhere, he sees steady moral decline, notably in Britain, whose specific history (WWI losses, decline of Empire, Suez, etc.) is apparently the root of British disaffection with churches. This is not too convincing, as other societies have experienced the effects of secularization, with no similar history.

Peter H. calls himself a graduate of the University of Fleet Street, and it shows. He is good with anecdotes and descriptive bits. But his reasoning and philosophical grounds for some judgements are pretty weak.

When he says that there can be no binding definition of the good or obligatory moral action without God, he cobbles together various arguments. At one point, I looked at the index for references to Immanuel Kant, arguably the greatest modern philosopher; he spent hundreds of pages reasoning this all out. No reference at all. Has this Fleet Street journalist read Kant? In truth, I dunno. No mention of Nietzsche either, and the figures of the Enlightenment only fleetingly.

And even on its own terms, Peter H.'s argument fails to address inconsistencies; for example, he cites Bertrand Russell as an outspoken agnostic/atheist, yet also a man of sturdy common sense. Russell met Lenin and Trotsky in 1920 and quickly sized them up as fanatics, and the latter as a dangerous crackpot with his hands on the secret police. Russell was not at all seduced by their utopianism. Why?

Really, more depth needed for a full discussion of religion and morality, although as a confession of a life gone wrong (Marxism), then redeemed (the Gospels), this book can be quite interesting.
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on 23 November 2014
Of all the books Peter Hitchens has written this is perhaps his most personal in terms of his beliefs, and his response to his brother Christopher(RIP) and other prominent Atheist commentators and believers who seek to undermine the christian faith.

And what a response it is, while standing up for his faith and his particular brand of christianity, Hitchens also gives insight on why particularly in the uk, it has declined decade after decade since the 1st world war. Hitchens also chronicles his own experiences in how he became a Christian (he used to be just as zealous an atheist) and how his experience in visiting "godless" nations had such an effect on his gradual transition.

Don't expect much theological or scientific argument from this book here, it in a lot of ways comes from a personal, political and moral perspective, but anyone familiar with Hitchens books and mailonsunday blog, will find the usual high standard of prose that is the norm from this superb writer and journalist.

The only reason I've given it 4 stars, is it is rather short at 160 pages, and from being an avid Hitchens reader I think he could have easily added more content into this, perhaps from an evolution perspective, or even provide more detail on his beliefs on the effect of christianity and the first world war.

That said these are really minor quibbles as the book itself is very much worth the read, but as someone who has now read 95% of Hitchens books and knows what the man is capable of, it does give you a sense of "what could have been" .
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VINE VOICEon 21 April 2012
Peter Hitchen's is the brother of Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, but unlike his brother he is a Christian.

In this book he examines the loss of faith in Britain and the west, through his own personal journey from atheism to faith.

Peter Hitchens grew up after the second world war to think this country was wonderful and everything was fine. Like many he saw the march of progress as being about believing in science as the solution to our problems and seeing religion as part of a superstitious and irrational past that was best left behind. Also like many others he saw the left and socialism as being about utilising the forces of progress and science to create a better society for all.

Yet during a visit to France he saw Rogier van der Weynden's `Last Judgement' and it had a profound affect on him, he writes:

"I did not have a `religious experience' Nothing mystical or inexplicable took place - no trance, no swoon, no vision, no voices, no blaze of light. But I had a sudden strong sense of religion being a thing of the present day, not imprisoned under thick layers of time" (p.75)

Gradually Christianity comes to make sense to him. At Christmas he attends a carol service and enjoys it, so a few days later he attends another one and this time actually joins in with the singing. He has a desire to get married in church and the religious part of the ceremony he finds profoundly meaningful.

We don't get a clear statement of exactly what version of Christianity Peter Hitchens believes - it is more understated, he writes for example:

"I am particularly fond of Philip Larkin's line about "trees are coming into leaf, like something almost being said", because this feeling that something is almost but not quite being said seizes me when I encounter certain passages of music and certain buildings" (p.74).

This new faith then leads him to reflect on a different version of history - not one of a new civilisation based on science progressing to a new Jerusalem, but now one in which society and faith have been horrifyingly separated - as in Pullman's Northern Lights (His Dark Materials) when the child's daemon and the child are separated - a separation that has resulted in pain and anguish.

Hitchens now sees the anti-religious fanaticism of the enlightenment, seen most brutally in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and those that followed on from them. He writes passionately how Christianity was strangled and basically died in Russia following the Revolution, existing only in a few hollow forms. All teaching of religion in schools was forbidden by Anatoly Lunacharsky's education decree on 26th October 1917, followed by another decree on 3rd January 1922 which banned all teaching of religion to children, even singly, in churches, church buildings and private homes.

This attitude to religion was taken up by the other Marxist revolutions in the twentieth century such as in China.

But Hitchens doesn't just berate Marxists for persecuting Christians. He points out that this intolerant, anti-religious attitude comes from the enlightenment, and has been vigorously supported by many intellectuals. During the time of the USSR many western intellectuals - such as Beatrice and Sidney Webb - supported suppression of religion, which they agreed was nothing more than superstition and society could only be improved by its total elimination.

Hitchens then makes the link with this attitude and the one appearing today from the New Atheists. People like Richard Dawkins today call teaching of religion to children "child abuse", the media frequently portrays religion as damaging and the source of conflict - the violent actions of extremists are magnified and the peaceful and principled actions of many religious people ignored.

It seems to me that Hitchens makes some telling points about the tensions within the tradition of the enlightenment between science and religion and joins some dots that perhaps haven't been joined before.

Nevertheless it seems too much to say that the loss of religion in itself was responsible for the damage to the Russian psyche - because not only was religion suppressed, so to were many of the arts - how much writing, music, art, drama and a thousand other forms of expression were denied people in the USSR? Who can quantify the psychological damage of a totalitarian society whether religious or not? A healthy society is one in which multiple forms of self-expression are encouraged, and tolerance and dialogue are valued.

Also Hitchens (a Daily Mail columnist) will alienate a number of his readers by peddling his own hobby-horses that really are separate to his central argument, for example:

"Most of the people who would have apologised for Stalin in his day have now found other causes - the cultural and sexual revolution, campaigns to tax the Western poor to provide money for Africa's rich, and above all the intolerant and puritan secular fundamentalism that gathers around the belief in man-made global warming. Others are devotees of the idea that the introduction of Western democracy in the Muslim world is possible." (p.125)

Well done Peter, in one paragraph you have probably alienated most of your audience with at least one of those jaw-dropping absurdities.

In spite of the ups and downs of the book, it finishes on a touching note as he writes about his relationship with his brother Christopher. Clearly very different people - although both valuing expressing their opinions through the written word - he writes of how they achieved a reconciliation as Christopher reached the end of his life, and describes some very moving scenes of their final days together.

In summary a fascinating book by someone you are never going to totally agree with, but who has lived a full and varied life, who has not been afraid to change his mind, and writes eloquently about a topic that engages many people today.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is a decent book. Peter Hitchens uses his own life experience to help explain why a "rage against God" has arisen. He describes his own journey through school religion to teenage scepticism to atheism to his eventual rediscovery of faith.

He has had an interesting life, in particular with his past Marxism, and his direct observations of the effects of the atheist creed of communism in action in the Soviet Union.

He shows well the untoward consequences of a purely materialistic view of the world and our place within it. He provides good arguments for moving back towards faith.

He writes gently but firmly, and with clear descriptions of facts, and of the conclusions he draws from them.

This new book I think shows a gentler side of Peter Hitchens, and exemplifies the power of repentance- the act of thinking again about an issue. Hitchens does not claim to be an angel, but I think in this reflective book he shows how he has learnt from his experiences. He presents his experiences and arguments in a helpful way that we can learn form.

I recommend this book to other readers.
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on 24 August 2015
This book has one selling point: The fact that the author is a Christian and the brother of the world famous atheist/anti-theist Christopher Hitchens. Peter Hitchens says he used to be an atheist too. Mainly, it seems, because he wanted to be a rebel at the age of twelve. Now he is a Christian and he longs for the good old days of his childhood, when the UK wasn't so secular and the Church of England wasn't so modern. In the second half of the book, Hitchens claims to address "three failedd arguments of atheism" but instead spends the rest of the book writing about the evils of Communism in the Soviet Union, because he claims most ahteists are leftists and, if we were to believe Hitchens, would support the totalitarian state atheism of the Soviet Union. News flash: Many atheists are not communists or even leftists. Case in point: Ayn Rand.

There were some interesting parts in the book but they were few and far between. Mostly, it seems Hitchens is trying to cash in on his more famous brother. And, in the end, the book never did did explain "how atheism led me to faith" as the subtitle says, or even why he became a Chistian at all (he even says in the book that the story of his conversion is too personal to tell to strangers. Well, then maybe he shouldn't write a book about it.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2010
There are already some good reviews here, so there's no need to duplicate the basic outline of this book.

"The Rage Against God" is a good general reposte to the "New Atheism" which seems to be getting too much attention these days.

It must have been somewhat more difficult to write in the context of Peter's relationship with his brother Christopher (who wrote the appalling book "God is Not Great").

The New Atheism is a completely failed philosophy - and Peter Hitchen's explains why. I heartily recommend his book.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 5 August 2010
I read this book as one journeying like Mr Hitchens from Atheism toward (Anglican) Christianity, and I was disappointed he did not write more on this. In general I agree that Dawkins and Hitchens major are wrong. In particular, I find the arguments here weak, and I am always suspicious of anyone who puts the word "science" in quotation marks where it is not gramatically appropriate (it was just then, when I did it!).

So, I found much to both agree and disagree with here. A few examples of where I disagree. I was honestly bored by the first part of the book. Very readable in style, but it just seemed to me that Mr Hitchens bitterly regrets his youthful rejection of the church, and was saddened on his return to it as a changed entity. His views here seem parochial, elitist, and not without snobbery. If he genuinely believes that the Church is the only remaining bulwark against the abuses of the powerful (and it so happens I agree with him, it is), then to be effective in this role the church needs to grow and to widen its appeal; not remain some elitist club of the upper middle class, muttering the BCP in empty churches. And I have come to enjoy the BCP, despite a lower middle class and Roman Catholic upbringing which fails to recognise the Church or the England whose loss Hitchens bemoans. This section of the book comes across as mawkish and embittered whingeing.

I continue to believe that atheism doesn't in itself lead to any of the iniquities Hitchens speaks of; there is a sense that he is caricaturing here. The landscape of belief is much more complicated than you might suppose from reading this, and it includes people I would categorise as "practical atheists", who would put C of E on their census forms, yet rarely think about Christianity at all, never go to church, live decent lives, and get included in the "71% Christian" population statistics the the Church always crows about while attracting a fraction of that to worship.

On the subject of the religious instruction of children as child abuse, I think the comparison is too strong, speaking as someone who spent much of his childhood terrified by adults telling him he would burn in hell for the slightest wrongdoing. I think the church gets it's instruction wrong anyway - I've had to relearn Christianity as an adult and constantly wonder "why didn't they explain this properly when I was a child?" - perhaps I would not have understood it, but I came to reject something that was a caricature of Christianity - and Christianity itself was entirely to blame.

There are numerous other areas of the particular where I disagree with Hitchens - it would be tiresome to list them all - but I agree with his conclusions about the "new atheism", and just wish he had written more about what had led him down this path.
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on 18 July 2012
Hitchens' book is a delightful read but it isn't really a response to the so-called `New Atheists'. Other than being the brother of Christopher Hitchens, and an Anglican, he is probably not best placed to supply the needed response. Hitchens, citing his personal experiences of working in godlessly violent societies as a journalist, warns that the success of the atheists could release similar dark forces in our own country (which he notes is already in an advanced state of moral decline). This isn't unreasonable, but many will not find it compelling. And I'm not sure that his section on what might be called `civil religion' is necessary at all. Far more interesting is the early biographical material and the brilliantly written conversion. It did strike me as ironic that his writing style is not that unlike his brother (who perhaps has the stronger imagination that lends itself to good writing). The book is in any case very enjoyable, but don't spend too much on it; it is quite a short book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2010
While I generally agree with the author's central premise, the solution to our increasing barbarity would seem still to elude us. Where do we go from here? Well, I suppose if Peter Hitchens is correct we know where we are going, I am still not sure how we might avoid it.

A useful polemic from the religious to stack up against those of the evangelical atheists.
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on 26 February 2014
There are a number of things to really like about the book. Firstly that it is a personal journey put in to a much bigger context which everyone can reflect upon. There is a great deal of interesting and enlightening truth here. I think the title is poignantly accurate, because there is a rage in modern atheism which doesn't need to be there but rants around using words like secularism and delusion with annoying frequency. This book doesn't answer all the questions you might have, not by a long, long, way. But this is not a criticism, for on a subject such as this since what book could do this? In fact, it focuses on one small area of interest. I think Peter Hitchens has thought quite carefully about what he wanted to say and I think there's a lot in each chapter, more, than might at first meet the eye and therefore benefits from re-reading.
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