Tuesday, July 10, 2007

There's only one Richard Dawkins

I've started reading God is not Great, by Christopher Hitchens, and I have to say it's not as good as Dawkins's book, The God Delusion. First of all, there's a distinct and unavoidable feeling of deja vu . The Dawk was here first, and that's just the end of it. Take the following passage:

"Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience."

He's right, of course: most religion in most of the world, at most times in history, is just like this. The trouble is that Dawkins established something like the same proposition only six months or so ago. The other problem is that Hitchens uses a higher rhetoric-to-reason ratio than Dawkins. Like most journalists, Hitchens tries to convince by manipulating the emotions with anecdote and story; in contrast, Dawkins tries to convince by the use of reason. Notwithstanding these reservations, Hitchens does identify a few home truths about religion:

"The level of intensity fluctuates according to time and place, but it can be stated as a truth that religion does not, and in the long run cannot, be content with its own marvelous claims and sublime assurances. It must seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths. It may speak about the bliss of the next world, but it wants power in this one. This is only to be expected. It is, after all, wholly man-made. And it does not have the confidence in its own various preachings even to allow coexistence between different faiths."


elberry said...

on that last quote, surely not every single religious adherent is like that? mystics, for example, are usually fairly benign & uninterested in stamping out other religions. i've even met Muslims (from the Middle East rather than here) who had Xian friends and didn't give it any thought. Having said that, stupid & bad people generally become more so when they get religion, and so many people are stupid & bad.

Gordon McCabe said...


I've stopped reading it for the moment, actually, because the persistent rancour makes it quite heavy going. But then I guess Hitchens didn't have the benefit of Lalla Ward reading the text back to him.

Neil Forsyth said...

I don't think I'll bother with Hitchens after reading this post. I don't want any more rancour in my life. And I don't like deja vu. I don't like most of what I see first time round.

Gordon McCabe said...

I suffer from pre-emptive ennui.

Neil Forsyth said...

I do sympathise, Gordon. Although it could be worse: you could be one of those insufferably optimistic, energetic types. Dullards the lot of 'em, in my experience.