Thursday, July 16, 2009

God is Not Great

I have just finished reading Christopher Hitchens' above-named book. He is, to some extent, the hard man to Dawkins' soft man. His is the text of the tabloid essayist masquerading as high-brow. Time and again the expressions of religion he chose to beat up totally deserved their mauling. The God he does not believe in, who is not great, is the God I don't believe in also. Daily Mail targets rarely move fast. He hits them, again and again.

I think, like so many current apologists for secular humanism, he cannot abide the idea of a thoughtful, non-prescriptive, biblical liberalism. Those of us who say, 'Check it out for yourself' and force nothing down anyone's throat are the ones who are really unbelievable to him. We've found our meta-narrative; we believe there is reality behind it.

Dawkins' argument, that evolution taught us that the earlier creatures would be simpler than the later so God can't be more complex than creation, can be demolished by saying that if you are looking for a god in an evolutionary chain you are clearly looking in the wrong direction. You will find that sort of god at the end not the beginning. Not that I believe in Dawkins non-god. So what of Hitchens' non-god?

Yes, religion has killed. Yes, scriptural texts borrow from each other. No, religion doesn't make people 'behave.' Yes, arguments for the existence of God from design are flawed. And yes (and some Christians might struggle with this), some forms of Sunday School are closer to indoctrination and thus child abuse than education. What does this prove?

Hitchens really hates fundamentalism - I suspect he would hate it in any guise, not only religious. Creationists, zealots, the militant, hell-raisers and those who promise eternity with 72 virgins ('Can't I have one woman who knows what she's doing?' said Clive James) all deserve their put-downs. And Hitchens does do it rather well.

But the problem for me, as ever, is this. The god he disproves is too small. The god he hates is indeed not great. Not at all. I think I have caught a glimpse of the likeness of the invisible God. I like what I see.

No comments: