The rage against God
Continuum; 2010, £16.99, Hardback, 168p., ISBN 9781441105721
After reviewing the autobiography of former Fleet Street journalist Tom Davies in an earlier issue, it was interesting to turn to this recent book from another member of the journalists’ profession who has found his way back to the Christian faith by an interesting route.
Peter Hitchens, currently a columnist on the Mail on Sunday, describes his early public school upbringing and how he rejected the Christian faith of his childhood, even to the extent of publicly burning his copy of the Bible as an expression of his new-found unbelief. He goes on to explain that for many years he was a Trotskyist and a dedicated opponent of religious belief. A period as a foreign correspondent in Moscow, however, in the early 1990s, caused him to question the claims of the Communist system, and other philosophies that seek to create a perfect society on earth.
The book contains an interesting chapter on the realities of life in the Soviet Union during the dying days of the Communist regime and looks back at atrocities committed during the earlier days of Lenin and Stalin. This part of the book reminded me of the writings of the late Malcolm Muggeridge, whose disillusionment with the Soviet system while working as a foreign correspondent, also prepared the way for a return to Christianity in later life.
The author is the brother of Christopher Hitchens whose book God is Not Great spearheaded the recent “new atheist” attack on religious belief. Peter Hitchens responds to some of his brother’s arguments in the present book, while acknowledging that, on a personal level, relations between the two brothers are better than they have been for many years. In particular, he questions his brother’s argument that the the excesses of the Soviet system only occurred because Marxism is itself a quasi-religious system.
The author tackles a number of other questions raised by the new atheists. For example: Are conflicts fought in the name of religion really conflicts about religion? Is it possible to determine what is right and wrong without God?
The Rage Against God makes a powerful plea for the followers of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, et al to re-examine their assumption that non-belief is the only sensible option for intelligent people. It should be recommended to anyone interested in the current debate about the role of religion in society.
Contributed by:Graham Hedges, Hon. FCLIP, MCLIP, who is CLIS Secretary. Until retirement Grahame worked for the public library service in the London Borough of Wandsworth.