“god is not GREAT” by Christopher Hitchens

Last evening I finished “god is not GREAT : how religion poisons everything.” I have to say, again, it was, and of course still is, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. My enjoyment does not rest on my being an atheist, though over 20 years ago I had a brief hiatus away from God. This work has been another emotional, intellectual and spiritual vehicle which I rode across proverbial state lines.

Many pastors and priests know of the horrific potentials in their churches/parishes. Few of their members will ever behave in fashions that I knew professionally. Probably all of them have seen a woman beaten by a husband, a child injured by a mother, teenagers being sexual predators, etc… Within my work experience I’ve seen few Christians who, psychosocially, are any different than Mr. Hitchens’ himself. Probably, over 90% of the fellow believers I know take at least adequate steps to deal with sin, mis-judgements and psychosocial problems. Their efforts match up well with my experiences with others of other religions, agnostics and atheist. Just as he rightfully portrays Christianity’s historical resistance to discovering the world through our own eyes, I see him committing the same in reverse.

Let me reset the stage to address that point from another direction . I wish that believers in our Risen Lord would relinquish our historical strivings to dominate the world. This is a point where Hitchens and I agree. He wants humanity to be freed from our sorry strivings to make those others see god as we see god. By keeping the word “god” in lower case I am dropping a stern hint. I am not agreeing with Mr. Hitchens that there is no such thing as god. Rather, I am standing in the midst of believers trying to get at least a few of us to wonder if the “god” we project onto this world is really “God”?

Yeah, I’m speaking in a kind of pesudo-Freudian fashion. I am wondering whether trusting in “our” views of God is not the problem Mr. Hitchens is pointing at? Perhaps you can now begin to catch sight of my point. If not, then look at others who call themselves Christians but because they do not see the Scriptures as you do they are probably worshipping an idol. I can say, after having been a Protestant, that some Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers have the same kind of view of Protestants. To me this is another fashion of mutual projections onto one another. It is in this region of human experience that I agree with Hitchens while also doubting that he sees himself doing the same.

Just as he demands openness in those in whom he rightfully reveals resistance/projection, he likewise displays resistances from another direction. As I said above, I don’t agree that the body of believers are the evil Hitchens sees. He looks exclusively at those parts of our history which agrees with his “predicate”. When he points at the grievous pulling together of believers to do horrible things, like the Inquisition, he doesn’t question whether it was belief that bound them together. My knowledge base doesn’t agree with his “predicate”. Belief was the vehicle used to pull people together to protect themselves from what was feared.

So then, I see Mr. Hitchens as guilty of projections as I see the faithful. His projections, like ours, strives to keep reality in line with what he wants to it to be.



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  1. Hitchens is correct about those who follow their idols. I suspect that he has had little real contact with those who follow God. I know I’ve had far less contact with the later group than I would like.

    When I am lost in the idolatry of my ideas about God, I too become a villain.

  2. Accolading atheists when they point out how many theists confuse God with their own personal idolatrous projections is a nice (and old) sentiment to say the least. But it results invariably in two things: atheists feel vindicated while Christian believers constrain their missionary reach for niceness’ sake. Secularists don’t care if we’re nice or not, as long as we’re ejected from the public arena and locked up in our churches.

    If Hitchens were a believer, I would pay him due attention. Since he isn’t, and militantly so, he has little to teach, much less the right to sermonize, Christian believers.


    • David Felker 05/31/2010 — 2:56 pm

      Theo, it is your last paragraph that bothers me. Wasn’t it Balaam’s “ass” who sermonized well to him? I then want us paying attention to God scowling at us through the likes of a Christopher Hitchens!

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