Put an -ism onto it, and whatever it is, noted polemicist and contrarian Hitchens (Love, Poverty, and War, 2005, etc.) is likely to decimate it. So he reveals in this pleasingly intemperate assault on organized religion.
Hitchens opens by recalling an epistemological crisis. Why, if God was great, did he need to be praised “so incessantly for doing what came to him naturally”? If Jesus could heal the blind, why didn’t he do away with blindness? Such doubts arrive to all proper questioners; sometimes they turn into C.S. Lewis or Malcolm Muggeridge, sometimes they turn into committed atheists. Hitchens, forthrightly in the latter camp, offers “four irreducible objections to religious faith” at the outset, namely that religion misrepresents human origins and those of the universe at large; that owing to this, religion combines “the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism”; that religion suppresses sexuality to a dangerous degree; and that religion is a species of wishful-thinking. And the author adds another twist of the knife: Religion makes people crazy, violent and ill-behaved. Just ask Salman Rushdie—or Giordano Bruno. Hitchens, a brave grappler quite obviously unafraid of giving offense, cheerfully takes on all comers, from mullahs to commissars to Mahatma Gandhi—and a noted televangelist who once challenged him with a thought experiment in which, in a foreign land, Hitchens is approached by a large group of men. Wouldn’t he feel more comfortable, the televangelist asked, to learn that they had just left a religious service? Citing personal experiences in cities only beginning with B—Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem and Baghdad—Hitchens answers emphatically in the negative. And all that’s before taking on Joseph Smith, and Mohammed, and . . .
It’s clear from page to page that Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair, is having a grand time twitting the folks in the white collars and purple dresses, in the turbans and beehives. Like-minded readers will enjoy his arguments, too.