‘God Is Not Great’ is not great.
Or even good. So says Paul Baumann in his review of Christopher Hitchens’s latest book, which appears in the June issue of the Washington Monthly. Regretably, it’s not online. But maybe someone with better Intertube skills than I can crack their confusing Web site. In the meantime, here’s a snippet to whet your appetite.
Finally, beyond identifying this or that particular enemy, the larger question remains: Is ridding the world of religion the best way to preserve secular pluralism and freedom of conscience? Would the world in fact be a better, freer place without religion? I doubt it. In the history of the United States alone, for instance, committed religious believers were instrumental in the struggle for independence and a constitutional democracy, the abolition of slavery, the fight for women’s suffrage, and the victories of the labor and civil rights movements. In Poland and elsewhere in Europe, meanwhile, the victims of totalitarianism found solace and a focus for resistance in the surprisingly empowering “illusions” of religion. So have many devout Chinese.
Like any other enduring human activity–science, sex, baseball–religion can be misused, and Hitchens is in good company when he denounces religious violence, intolerance, and obscurantism. But his contention that religion has always and everywhere been the enemy of civilization and human dignity is absurd.
For the rest, hunt down a copy of the WM at your nearest newsstand.
And look for Eugene McCarraher’s review of the book in the June 15 Commonweal. It doesn’t disappoint.