Thursday, March 12, 2009

God is not Great

I've been working my way through Christopher Hitchens' anti-religion polemic of the above title. He writes better than Richard Dawkins and is not afraid to have a pop at all the world's religions, including Islam, so respect etc.

Thing is, same flaw as Dawkins, many of the sorts of things he shoots at deserve targeting. Christians whose God is so small they cannot imagine him existing 13 billion years ago and opt for a ridiculous young earth creationism. Mormons who base their entire faith around the frequently castigated and derided Joseph Smith. Those who worship relics of the true cross. Pop. Pop. Pop.

To be fair Martin Luther-King and Gandhi also get a bit of a hammering. Apparently they would have done what they did even without their faith backing. Who can say? Maligning dead people is an easy way not to have an argument.

The main problem with his problem with Christianity is his problem with the Bible, specifically, the Old Testament. Hitchens supposes that Christians have a stuck theology rather than a developing one. The Bible is the story of a developing understanding of God. God doesn't change but the human grasp of him - he doesn't require child sacrifice, he does relate to people personally, he doesn't want eyes for eyes and teeth for teeth, he does want equality between men and women. None of these thoughts are clear throughout Scripture. They develop.

For Hitchens the previous failures of religion are too big and all faith must go. For us. We just admit we haven't got it right yet and start over, seeking forgiveness. If God exists, he is great. Hitchens title has one word too many.


Darren said...

Great review. I wonder if it is time for us to march on secular humanists and publicly repent for the church's former sins.

Something I have always carried with myself since my time at LBC was that 'theology is an answer to a culturally relevant question' and therefore is constantly evolving. Think I'll go and watch Dogma again :)

Mike Peatman said...

God is imaginary

God is not great

Someone might start to worry about you if they only read the post titles!

Absolutley agree with you that Hitchens, Dawkins et al are all shooting at targets many of us would agree with. The polarisation that they want to propagate is reinforced by religious fundamentalism.

Ironically Christian fundamentalists and Hitchens would both regard your (and my) position as not a proper account of Christianity. He wants a bipolar debate, not a continuum of opinion.