Christopher Hitchens is most certainly clever and well-read and, when he talks about religion in particular, I invariably find myself in agreement with him.
However, he should be careful when it comes to confronting what is the most nonsensical gobbledegook with “rational” arguments based on fact. That, of course, is not to say that the gobbledegook shouldn’t be confronted with rational arguments from time to time. Nevertheless, I would plead that we stick to simple and lucid arguments when tackling the ‘God Squad'”. Unfortunately, Christopher invariably fails to do this and tends gets lost in his own verbosity, and while he might indeed be the autodidact par excellence, the question might be asked, has he really read all five volumes of Pierre-Simon de Laplace’s “Celestial Mechanics”, and a has he really read all of the countless other works that he quotes? Nevertheless, he might have and, while I doubt that he has, it could even be argued that this “top down” disguised as “bottom up” approach that he uses is sufficient to substantiate his main arguments.
However, I believe that Christopher has a habit of relying on his own schemata too much and that this often fails him. For instance, in his book, ‘God is not Great’, he appears to use the German “Schadenfreude” as some sort of philosophical basis for a theory, or concept, of “guilty joy”. The German “Schadenfreude” would of course, be translated as “taking pleasure in others misfortunes”. This in itself, is not too important but it becomes important when it is used to generalise in a manner that smacks of waffle at best. Even when I went through my Christian phase at school, which many schoolboys in Glasgow did in the 60s, I did not as Christopher suggests, “have a repressed desire to see everything smashed up.” Alright, a lot of young boys in Glasgow in the 60s wanted to smash things up, but that was not because of what Christopher calls, “guilty joy”. No, Mr Hitchens is too verbose and he is too inaccurate. Of course, there are occasions where we need the arguments to confront the believers in the big pie in the sky. Nonetheless, simple arguments will suffice in tackling their nonsense, thank you!
Still, Mr Hitchens could be forgiven if verbosity, generalisation, and, indeed, inaccuracy were the exception rather than the rule. However, they are not and once again we find the waffle becoming all too blatant when he attacks Nietzsche’s pronouncement that god was dead as “histrionic and self-contradictory”. Most of us know exactly what Nietzsche meant by this statement and even if we don’t, the fact that he very well knew about Feuerbach would quickly bring us to the conclusion that what he meant was that the this absurd belief in a god could, or rather should, no longer play a role in people’s lives. At times it would appear that Christopher’s brain is indeed like a dung heap and if you leave it long enough something will appear. Religion does not need this as an adversary, indeed, it is an adversary that the “simple man” would simply ignore. Moreover, while I would agree with Socrates when he says that “an unexamined life is not worth living” I would add that a very simple examination of that life is all that is required if we are to reject any of organised religion for the nonsense that it is and if we are seeking to convince others, I feel that simple arguments can follow the simple examination.
It is outside the scope of this post to continue by picking on other areas where Christopher’s schemata lets him down. He is a clever chap but when you confront the “gobbledegookers” they will get you to cross your “ts” and dot your “eyes” and, if you fail to do this, they will poke out your eye. In the “Kingdom of the Blind” the one-eyed man can be king but he will not become so by persuasion. Ultimately, the best way to challenge the “gobbledegookers” is to adopt the Monty Python approach; “religion is nonsense” “no, it isn’t”, “yes it is” and what is more, it is so silly we only need very basic arguments to knock it down, what we don’t need are, 21st century Hegel’s, that German philosopher who all Germans revere because they don’t understand him.