god is not Great

god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens   ** out of ****

Would it surprise you if I said I thought the first few chapters of god is not Great are really good? The first few chapters are a critique of how people who follow certain religions have made terrible decisions they believe are consistent with their faith. His list of atrocities – on a large scale and on a small scale – is impressive. He writes articulately and convincingly, and let’s be honest – he is right. Things done in the name of God are some of the worst things done to humanity.

By chapter 6 however, the book begins to fall apart. Chapter 6 is an attack on the belief in creation. He makes the same mistake that people on both sides of the issue make. Whenever I hear someone make a case for creation or for evolution I feel like those who make the case are actually in a dialogue of the deaf. Most of the people in favor of creation people point to their strong points while ignoring the weak points. Most of the people in favor of evolution point to their strong points without addressing the weak points. In other words, there is no real dialogue. They talk past each other and not to one another.

As a side note, for some reason Hitchens is in love with Ockham’s Razor. This is an argument that if the simple solution answers the question we need not look for any other solution. Simplicity over complexity. I wonder how Hitchens might apply Ockham’s Razor to the origin of all things. How did the big bang happen? After all, something cannot come from nothing. Of course, he does not answer this question because he ignores anything that might be difficult to answer.

Two of his weakest chapters are the chapters attacking the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament argument is probably stronger, so I’ll leave it alone. The New Testament argument is riddled with inaccuracies of timing and dating. It almost looks sloppy. And in a man that is so sure of himself, the uninformed may believe what he says.    

In the end, I felt like I had visited a magician’s show. But, I knew most of the tricks myself. I left the show saying, ‘Is that the best they can do?’ Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that god is not Great is not about God. It is about those who claim to follow Him. It is all of the problems that arise when religion loses common sense and becomes blindly fanatical. Anytime he moves to actual theology, the book stumbles. When he focuses on human behavior, the book is better. One sided, but better.

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