Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Rage Against God: How atheism led me to faith by Peter Hitchens

From Tower Books
Peter Hitchens, the brother of famed atheist polemicist Christopher Hitchens, tells the story of his personal journey to faith in the pages of The Rage Against God: How atheism led me to faith. This story is a fascinating and brilliantly written one, and well worth reading.

That is not to say it is a perfect book. Far from it. It strikes me that Peter is definitely of the same seed as his brother, and at times The Rage Against God can certainly descend into polemic mirroring his brothers, though always filled with more charity. I do not think this book is the sort that would persuade anyone to faith, nor, in fact, does Peter. This is his story, and when it focuses on that it is at its strongest. As such, the beginning section where Peter tells his own story, and the final section where he reflects closely on the case of Soviet Russia (a world he lived in for quite some time as a reporter) are the best parts of the book. In the middle, Peter goes through a rapid-fire examination of some of the more famous arguments of the "New Atheists," and while it is interesting I doubt it could change anyone's mind.

The personality that comes across in the book also varies. At times, Peter seems the compassionate prophet, concerned deeply with the decay he has seen progress in his society during his lifetime, targeting genuine problems and weeping for his nation. At other times, Peter can come across as an old cranky man complaining about this new-fangled modern art.

But in the end, reading this book, I find myself quite likely Peter, and his command of prose is to be envied. I also share with Peter his largest concern, the fear over the totalitarian nature of the New Atheist rhetoric. On my good days, I like to think the best of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and their ilk. I don't believe they have any desire to harm the religious, though they certainly seem to fear us. Yet, their language carries with it the seeds of just such injustice. The world is broken, they rightly say, and it could be made better if only religion were gone. Of course, religion is not something that stands on its own, religion is only there because of the religious, and so they are the ones in the way of utopia. That is, as Peter points out, always the language of bloody revolutions, "the world would be perfect if only these people were gone." Again, I do not think Dawkins or the elder Hitchens want this, nor do I think Peter believes they do, but it's only a matter of time until the language they use inspires someone to think in just such a way.

 So, pick up this book if your interested in the heart and journey of a man so close to one of the vanguards of the New Atheist movement. In many ways, Peter is man Christopher might have been had he taken a different road. Don't expect to be persuaded one way or another on the questions he addresses, but enjoy the exploration of the man's heart and his skill with words.