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Customer Review

22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing, and not really an argument, 5 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Rage Against God: Why Faith is the Foundation of Civilisation (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Mar 2011 23:06:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Mar 2011 23:12:09 GMT
Franco says:
A good review. And much of it is your own personal opinion as to why you did not enjoy certain aspects of the book, which is something I cannot really assail because A) everyone is entitled to an opinion, and B) I have not read the book, though I am interested in doing so.

However, one point of contention I can argue with in your review, is where you say that "the church needs to grow and to widen its appeal". Now this is quite an ambiguous point. And if you are implying that the Church ought to adapt in its methods of tackling modern cultural changes in Britain which have been anti-Christian and against its teaching, then I agree with you.

However, if you are implying that the Church needs to modernise in its beliefs on unfashionable, controversial, and now in some instances unlawful views, then I completely disagree, as the Church is established to teach the absolute morals of Christianity, and not to pander to the whims and prevailing wind of society and the moral zeitgeist that goes with it.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Mar 2011 08:57:55 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Mar 2011 08:58:48 GMT
Thank you. I'm sure a discussion of how and why the Church should widen its appeal would be very interesting. On your first point, I think that far too much is made of "anti-Christian" trends in society; there is always a sense of exaggeration and dare I say paranoia about it. There's no smoke without fire, however.

Your second point - well, I'm sure you would find plenty of people within the Church who would agree with you, and plenty who would agree with me. I do not think that there are any "absolute morals", morals have always changed with the times (at one point we thought slavery was fine, for example). To say that one must always hold to a set of standards written in a 2,000 year old book is absurd; and nobody does this anyway. Even different groups of Christians pick and choose which laws they feel should be obeyed, and ignore others. And I feel this is based largely on their own preconceived ideas. Or if it isn't, what else is it based on? As a trivial example, I saw a photograph recently of someone who had the Leviticus injunction against homosexuality tattooed on his arm, in apparent ignorance of the Leviticus injunction against tattoos.

Posted on 29 Aug 2011 18:21:30 BDT
mad_humanist says:
A really excellent review that captures a lot of what I felt when reading the book. I don't think Peter really fully grasps why us "new atheists" are so angry with religion. But in terms of helping me understand why more people don't share my views it is a revelation. More explanation of why he has come to believe would be nice, but I can well understand since I am sure no explanation can stand in prose.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Sep 2011 08:35:09 BDT
Thanks for your comments. You're probably right. I'm sure I couldn't write a coherent account of my "almost" conversion. You would need to write it all down "as it happened" and what your thoughts were. And then re-reading it you might decide it makes no sense and change your mind.
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