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The Rage Against God Paperback – 6 Feb 2011
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The book will be especially satisfying for those who share the author's feelings without being able to express them with such deftness, vigour and occasional epigram. Even those unconvinced or... only almost persuaded will never find it dull... --Contemporary Review, Volume 293 No. 1703
'The two best-written books were Christopher Hitchens's memoirs Hitch 22 and his brother Peter's The Rage Against God. Even though the authors set the benchmark for sibling rivalry, their books prove there is something special about them. Both are restless romantics, enemies of cosy consensus, original minds - and products of an education system that wanted all children to be cultured and questioning. Peter's book reads as if Cardinal Newman were reflecting on life after battle-scarred years as a foreign correspondent, while Christopher's book, if it were a thoroughbred horse, would be by George Orwell out of Kingsley Amis. I can think of no better pair of books for Christmas reflection.' --Michael Gove, Mail on Sunday, 5th December 2010
About the Author
Peter Hitchens is a British journalist, author and broadcaster. He witnessed most of the final scenes of the Cold War, and was a resident correspondent in the Soviet capital and in Washington, DC. He frequently revisits both Russia and the USA. He currently writes for the Mail on Sunday, where he is a columnist and occasional foreign correspondent, reporting most recently from Iran, North Korea, Burma, The Congo and China, winning the journalism category in the 2010 George Orwell Prize for this correspondence.
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Whilst he evidently looks back on his childhood with some level of nostalgia, I think many people do, and that's not necessarily symptomatic of how objectively 'good' society was, but rather how he personally found it. For example, at one point he recounts how there never used to be 'fathers of fourteen years old', except teenage pregnancy rates are currently extremely low.
I also found it extremely frustrating the way he attacked the Soviet Union for being the epitome of the left's utopia, whilst ignoring the fact that intellectuals at the time like George Orwell denounced the whole idea of it. Communism in the Soviet Union also had a lot more in common with feudalism than Karl Marx' doctrine, in that the general population were equally oppressed and unhappy, but a minority of elites were afforded special privileges. That being said, he did have some very valuable things to say in the later chapters, and it some ideas were highly thought provoking.
Much of Hitchens book is set in his home UK environment, but is largely applicable to other similar societies, such as Australia or the USA. He frequently uses his more famous atheist brother as a starting-point and at times the book becomes more of a memoir than argument, which makes for a more enjoyable balance for the reader. But writing-style aside, the reason I rate this book highly is because of its appeal to reason, its standing-up to the modern evil of 'conventional wisdom' where citizens in 'free' democracies are increasingly discouraged from analytical thought anymore. Hitchens blames in this the rise of the 'Left' into the mainstream. By this term, he refers to the centralists, the socialists, the political correctionists and control freaks who have grown up from the social revolution from the 1960s onwards, largely overthrown the old values and replaced them in the palace. Hitchens raises the dilemma that if the revolutionaries now occupy the palace and become the 'conventional wisdom', then who stands against them - ie who are the revolutionaries against the revolutionaries ? He identifies the similarities in the failed Soviet Union and its micromanagement of its citizens to the point of despair, with the modern trend for intolerance of 'conventional wisdom' in Britain. This book therefore makes a good companion piece to his 'The Cameron Delusion'.
Some books create an awful feeling that it is impossible to justify the hours of one's life spent reading them, given their poor execution or ideas. Hitchens's book succeeds both in being well-written and also containing a refreshing challenge to 'conventional wisdom' in its call for people to stop swallowing pints fo reality TV and start thinking about what is happening, being analytical rather than gullible. It is an irony that Hitchens reinforces throughout his book - much of the criticism of Christianity centres around its failure to provoke questioning and analysis, but the 'conventional wisdom' which seeks to replace it is, if anything, even less tolerant than Christianity in permitting dissent or opposing positions. If you wish to be jolted out of your current soma-drenched, electronic-stimulated lethargy, I thoroughly recommend this book.