Christopher Hitchens is well known on television and for his polemic against religion, God is Not Great. Lesser known is his brother, Peter Hitchens, who has authored a response to his brother, The Rage Against God, how atheism led me to faith. Peter Hitchens is a British journalist, author and broadcaster. 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. A former revolutionary (Trotskyite), he attributes his return to faith largely to his experience of socialism in practice, which he witnessed during his many years reporting in Eastern Europe and his nearly three years as a resident correspondent in Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The book is largely autobiographical, surveying his rebellion against the establishment in England during his teenage years. He describes the decline of Christianity in Europe and the turn to multiculturalism. He sees a commitment to social welfare at home and liberal anti-colonialism abroad as the politically correct substitute for Christian faith. He maintains that God is the leftists’ chief rival.
“Christian belief, by subjecting all men to divine authority and by asserting in the words ‘my kingdom is not of this world’ that the ideal society does not exist in this life, is the most coherent and potent obstacle to secular utopianism….The concepts of sin, of conscience, of eternal life, and of divine justice under an unalterable law are the ultimate defense against the utopian’s belief that ends justify means and that morality is relative. These concepts are safeguards against the worship of human power…..by refusing to teach the previously accepted canon of literature, history, and philosophy, by attempting to turn Christianity into a museum-piece, and by abandoning the concept of authority – has left advanced societies entirely disarmed against intellectual assaults they could once have repulsed with ease.” (134,135)
He addresses the three failed arguments of atheism:
- “Are Conflicts Fought in the Name of Religion Conflicts About Religion?” Mostly not. Wars are mostly about gaining power, wealth or land.
- “Is It Possible to Determine What is Right and What is Wrong without God?” No, because, in order to decide what is good, you have to go beyond what is humanly expedient. To be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter.
- “Are Atheist States Not Actually Atheist?” The most compelling section in his book is his description of the way Lenin and his followers tried to stamp out Christianity. Just as faith has often led to cruel violence and intolerant persecution, Godless regimes and movements have given birth to terrible persecutions and massacres. Utopia can only ever be approached across a sea of blood. Atheist states have a consistent tendency to commit mass murders in the name of the greater good.
Finally, he criticizes the claims of Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and his brother in his book, that teaching religion to children is a form of child abuse. “This has the stench of totalitarian slander, paving the road to suppression and persecution….. it is ridiculous to pretend that it is a neutral act to inform an infant that the heavens are empty, that the universe is founded on chaos rather than love, and that his grandparents, on dying, have ceased altogether to exist. I personally think it wrong to tell children such things, because I believe them to be false and wrong and roads to misery of various kinds.” (205,206)
The book is an easy read and well worth the attention. It is a wake up call to the dangers of secular utopianism – trying to create the kingdom of good on earth by state power. It has been tried and failed. Russia is now a gangster society because it destroyed conscience, morality and the fear of God. We do not want to go down that road.
I will be on vacation during the month of August.