6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2014
I'm not the biggest fan of Peter Hitchens but this book is rather a good read. His experiences in Russia were of particular interest, especially the cultural insights, his journey from apathy and atheism is also fascinating. It's well written, however, if your looking for some evidentialist apologetic read this isn't it but it is helpful to see the journey Peter has taken. The impact art had on his conversion was enlightening and demonstrates the power that art can hold over the human mind and we ignore it to our detriment.
91 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2010
Not perhaps what I expected - less a tightly argued polemic than an occasionally argumentative memoir. Thankfully, like The Broken Compass, it happens to be some of the best biographical writing around today - much as Hitchens would probably disown such a judgement.
For all his image as a snarling conservative, Hitchens' written persona is a joy to spend time with. Fiercely but properly original (his observations all have solid premises, rather than being cheap shocks), curmudgeonly but graceful, and with winning depths of earnestness and nostalgia; he is never boring, frequently compelling, and usually provocative and sympathetic in equal measure. The trouble is, there are so few people out there actually writing down proper thoughts in proper sentences anymore. Most writing today is just the wisdom of the age in the clichés of the time: dislocated, tedious and hollow. It's like reading through mental smog. So I'm sure those who do not agree with a drop of Hitchens' politics or religion would still find the sheer clarity and warmth of this book's prose engaging.
I think one or two of its points are so striking that a little more tracing out of their foundations and implications would have been enjoyable. The death of faith in England, and the likely conclusion of atheism, are perhaps the two most important subjects when looking at the past century and looking ahead in the present one. But the book's subtle approach to its subject is haunting and memorable even without this. And much of its message is perhaps more powerful for being unspoken.
Probably the best English political writer since Orwell. And certainly the least self-satisfied, most interesting autobiographer writing in England today.
86 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2010
"The Rage Against God" isn't a conventional work of apologetics. There are already plenty of those out there. This book is less about theory than about practice. Why do people really reject or accept God? Why is their rejection of God often so very virulent? What part has religion played in recent English history? How important was atheism to the history of communism, and to the cultural revolution that swept through the Western world in the last few decades?
The first part of the book-- essentially a memoir of Peter Hitchens's changing attitudes to religion-- is the most readable. Hitchens is at his best when he's evoking the England of his childhood. (At one point he apologises for indulging this tendency. He shouldn't.) I relished his description of Evensong ("the very heart of English Christianity"), of his boyhood feelings of utter security while lying in bed and listening to the sirens of ocean liners in Portsmouth harbour, of the austere and stoical Remembrance Sunday ceremony ("No outsider could possibly have penetrated its English mystery, or imagined that we were in fact enjoying ourselves, But we were.".)
But the very particularity of this book, though it makes it a powerful memoir, somewhat limits its importance as a tract. Hitchens is writing primarily about English Christianity, and its long decline (which, he shows, long predated his own childhood). As an anglophile and an admirer of Hitchens's writing, I found it enthralling. As an Irish Catholic, I found it of limited relevance. Hitchens devotes a long section to criticising (affectionately and reverentially) the surrogate religion of English patriotism. He's also scathing about the modernising tendencies within the Church of England. One is led to wonder why he feels compelled to remain within a church that has disillusioned him so much, whether he is in fact letting his patriotism decide his denomination.
The book becomes less compelling, but of wider relevance, when he goes on to examine the role of atheism in the USSR and in the psychology of social liberalism (and Hitchens is surely justified in tracing a continuity between them). He gives the lie to the canard that atheism was somehow incidental to the Soviet regime, showing that it was absolutely central to the communist project. (How anybody can doubt this is mystifying.) As he points out, the USSR changed its policy on many subjects over the decades-- swinging from sexual liberalism to puritanism and back, tolerating private enterprise in the NEP era, and cultivating nationalism during the Great Patriotic War-- but its persecution of religion remained constant and unwavering. He shows, too, how successful this secularisation proved-- the predicted resurgence of Russian Orthodoxy when communism fell was a cosmetic phenomenon. A generation had been denied religious education, and the spiritual void has never been filled. Rather chillingly, he goes on to describe how Richard Dawkins and his sympathisers aim to inflict the very same materialist indoctrination on today's children.
I believe he is absolutely right, too, in his claim that atheism is at the very heart of the social liberal/cultural revolutionary project. (This was brought home to me with particular force when Channel 4 allowed the president of Iran to deliver its "alternative Christmas" message in 2008. Why would Channel 4 give a platform to the president of a country which discriminated against women and persecuted homosexuals? Didn't they care passionately about human rights? Apparently not; insulting Christianity always trumps other considerations. It appears to be the very essence of the social liberal project.)
The book is perhaps too short-- perhaps Hithens might have included some essays on a related theme to fatten it out. But altogether, it is a worthy, courageous and timely contribution to the most important subject there is. Hats off to Peter Hitchens!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2010
A very personal work this from Mr Hitchens. It is rooted in his own journey from childhood belief, through adolescent skepticism, and then to adult faith. Hitchens is now a Prayer Book and Authorised Version Anglican!
This book is also rooted in his disagreement with his atheist brother, Christopher.
In this book, Hitchens tackles the arguments usually put forward by atheists against (essentially) Christianity. He does a good job.
However, for me, his most interesting observation is why totalitarian/atheist states are so aggressive towards Christianity. The answer being is that Christians have a higher allegiance than simply to the state.
As militant atheism assumes greater political influence in the UK: the slide towards totalitarianism becomes much greater.
A timely book on the British scene.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2010
This is a short and interesting book in which Peter Hitchens looks at religion in a personal, social and political context. In fact, the personal element is confined to demonstrating how Mr Hitchens moved from the outright rejection of Christianity fairly typical to the clever boys of his generation to a position in which Christianity has become for him the ultimate guarantee of truth, decency and humanity in a corrupt, debased and increasingly intolerant world.
This personal perspective, is, in some ways, the most interesting part of the book. To move from Trotsky to Jesus Christ in less than half a lifetime is something of a pilgrimage, though the misidentification between the two, and Che Guevara for that matter, is not as uncommon as you might think.
In fact, one sees in the Young Peter Hitchens (on whom Old Peter Hitchens is somewhat severe) a not uncommendable fury at the diet of lies and hypocrisy which his generation were invited to swallow about the system that presided over the second war and the system that tried to deny its true consequences for the nation. But that angry generation itself is now seen by Hitchens as having fallen for shallow, and self-indulgent alternatives posited on sexual licence, material selfishness and moral cowardice under the comfortable shelter of liberal righteousness.
For Mr Hitchens, as for the Psalmist 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (Psalm 111.10). The oppression and moral squalor which he later witnessed in 1990 in Moscow, and the terror and viciousness to which he almost fell victim two years lare in Mogadishu became a touchstone to test two views of humanity. Shortly afterwards, he was to come face to face in Beaune with the 'Last Judgment' by Roger van der Weyden, and in a moment of epiphany, saw that 'these people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation. Because they were naked, they were not imprisoned in their own age by time-bound fashions. On the contrary their hair, and, in an odd way, the set of their faces were entirely in the style of my own time.'
In short, the decisive moment for Mr Hitchens is the moment when he becomes aware of his own sinfulness, and the sinfulness of his generation. It is a revelation as old as John the Baptist and as modern as Malcolm Muggeridge.
Interestingly, however, Mr Hitchens does not lose sight of the fact that repentance, while redeeming the sinner, does not erase consequences. The Anglican Church to which he returns is a body which has been twisted out of true by the overwhelming influence of the secular world that surrounds it, and the assumptions that Mr Hitchens previously held are, in their general acceptance, seen as a growing threat to everything he has now come to value. It is this bitter realisation of the damage done that constitutes the most interesting passage of the book, though this reader was amused by the somewhat insular assertion that it is to Thomas Cranmer's 'skill' as a 'dramatist' that we owe the fact that 'the service of Holy Communion is a perpetual re-enactment of the night of the last supper' - there's over a thousand years of history missing there, isn't there?
Mr Hitchens deals rather more conventionally, but none the less ably, with the arguments tthat secular atheists have deployed with such anger against religion. The book makes a very significant point when it illustrates with judicious quotation, the persistent ignorance, folly, and moral blindness of the worldly wise. Virginia Woolf is shown sitting, like a cultural Caiaphas, in judgment on the conversion of T.S.Eliot (he 'may be called dead to us from this day forward'); Beatrice and Sidney Webb hail the advent of the kingdom of heaven on earth in Stalin's Russia; and Professor Richard Dawkins opines that the religious education of children by their parents is worse than child sex abuse - which is a good demonstration of the limits of unsupported 'rationalism'. In the end, says Mr.Hitchens, people will believe what they want to believe, usually because it suits them,personally. And while he admits that this applies equally to Christians, Mr Hitchens nevertheless suggests that there are such things as absolute standards, and that the objects of a man's illusions are often the best way of judging what sort of person he is. Here too, he says nothing new, for as Solomon put it -'Every way of a man is right in his own sight, but the Lord weigheth hearts (Proverbs 21.2).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2014
Peter Hitchins writes well with logic and grace. His logic is turned to the folly of those who seek after utopia, his grace extended towards his atheist brother who has been a life long antagonist. Hitchins starts with autobiography, his journey from compulsory chapel at public school to avowed atheism, Trotskyite politics, success in journalism then a gradual coming to faith motivated by retiring to ponder the fear of God. He examines reasons for loss of Christian faith in Britain and the horrible effects of atheism in the USSR. I would differ from his placing the two world wars as the major cause of decline of Christianity in Britain. For me the cause and blame are at the door of those who, while professing Christianity, lost faith in the veracity of Scripture and the reality of the supernatural. He then addresses three failed arguments of atheism. First conflicts fought in the name of religion are not about religion. Religion has not been the cause of recent conflicts. They are about power and control. Is it possible to determine what is right and wrong without God?
Are atheist states actually atheist or are their leaders self-proclaimed false gods? Finally he looks at militant atheism He describes the folly of Leftists in the west who admired the pre-war Soviet regime. He tells of the Soviets systematic campaign against Christianity. He shows how today's new atheists, like the old USSR, would prohibit parents teaching the faith to their children. Finally he concludes by telling us why he will no longer engage in pub;ic debate with his brother. The book was published before his brother's death. This is an excellent critique of atheism old and new, of all utopianism, secularism and socialism. It is a book which can encourage believers despite Hitchen's pessimism concerning the prospect of a godless future.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2013
A very interesting insight on how faith shapes and guides our societies ethics and values. The points put forward in this book are free from angst riddled codes of rhetoric. This book seemed to me to be a genuine account of a man's disillusion with philosophies posed by modern day free thinkers and the repercussions they have on a societies moral conscience. Overall I found that Peter Hitchens 'Rage Against God' provides a mature attitude towards faith in Christ , I also found his commentary on countries run without tolerance for faith very telling of humanities ambitions and where they can lead us. This is a very enjoyable read that explains a man's journey from atheism to finding faith.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 31 August 2010
I'm about the same age as the author, so can very much relate to the lost world he describes. He writes well in any easy readable style. This isn't a high flown philosophical treatise, to be valued mainly for its powerful arguments. On the other hand it does give some insight into the motivations of the militant atheists whose anger and intolerance so mystify those who disagree with them.
I liked the epilogue best where the author describes the beginnings of a restored relationship with his brother despite their great differences
55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2010
I actually can't recommend this book enough. I read the book in a day, which is a testament to how brilliant Peter Hitchen's writing style is. The book was written in a captivating prose, and was thoroughly entertaining, whilst still educating.
The book starts out biographically and summaries why Peter turned to Atheism, and why he turned back to Theism. He then goes onto consider the argument that Atheism doesn't need God to decide what is right and wrong. Next he considers the myth that Atheist states are not evil. He refutes these arguments not through philosophy or science, but simply through his own experiences of Communist Russia. He looks at some of the ways that regime damaged humans lives, did acts that were simply horrendous and all in the name of the `common good'.
Finally, and this is the part of the book that left me with Goosebumps, was his comments on Dawkins' argument that raising children in a faith is equivalent to child abuse. It was horrifying to see how close such Atheist statements were to Russian propaganda (illustrations given in the book), and really made one consider what the future of our society held if we continue like this. Such a future most certainly includes the wilful limitation of rights in accordance with such Atheist manifestos.
Its harrowing to see how this was recently attempted by Harriet Harmans' Equality Bill, which wanted to dictate that one no longer had a choice on what they thought about homosexuality, or other personal beliefs they held. According to the Act if one discriminated against another they would be `criminally' liable (emphasis added). The limitation of such fundamental Human Rights as freedom of speech or thought should never be considered a good thing no matter what the crux issue used is to open this rift (in most cases it's now religion). It's also interesting to cross reference the corruption that is Harman Office against the corruption that was the Atheist state of Russia. Doing so tends to show us where our country is heading.
Having read Peter's book I have suddenly developed a new found love for CS Lewis' moral argument. I have to agree with Peter, as a lawyer it's obvious that our country is based on Christian morality. At the end of the day belief in God is a personal choice. God cannot be proved nor disproved on the basis that he is transcendent and beyond enquiry. Some would say that this argument is simply a cop-out, whilst others would not. However at the end of the day, like Peter, I have to be honest and say our society is better with its Christian morals and history than without. And so I wilfully believe in God and exult in our national religion, and the place it affords me in history. Knowing that I am part of a national identify that goes back over a thousand years is something I have missed for far too long.
I simply hope others will read this book and take away a similar message to me. As Peter suggests, it may already be too late to holt the destruction of our society being done here, but if we don't wake up soon the shock maybe even greater than we expect.
Enjoyed the book, and thoroughly recommend the same. It the eye opening factor itself was worth the money so much so that I have now moved onto reading Peter's Broken Compass book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book is very well written, and Peter Hitchens is an excellent writer, knowledgeable, honest and has a very readable, free flowing, informative and direct style.
Peter Hitchens makes his point, and makes it well and manages to convince.
His arguments are well laid out, coherent and make perfect sense.
My only issue was with his dwelling too much on Communist USSR rather than summarising it and then sticking to Britain and The West (his point about State Atheism was made very early and he needlessly continued - I suspect he wanted to make us know how much he despised the USSR), and I feel the book should have been longer, with more depth and his conclusions more fleshed out, explained and more in-depth.
The book was over all too quick with me wanting to know more, more about the Rage Against God in society, more of Peter Hitchens thoughts, his feelings and hopes, along with more of his fears and solutions.
Well worth the read though.