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Book Review: The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens

July 6, 2010

Many of you may have heard of the famous Anti-Theist atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of God is not Great and debate partner with pastor Douglas Wilson in the movie Collison. You also may have hear about Christopher’s brother, Peter, author of the newly released book The Rage Against God. If not, you should have.

At first I was a little nervous about this book. The brother of Christopher Hitchens suddenly has a book deal and is a devout Christian? It could be seen as slightly opportunistic on Peter’s part, a ploy by a Christian publishing house to stick it to the famous Atheist and make a few bucks in the process. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

For starters, Peter Hitchens memoir about his faith journey is very different than a typical American faith memoir (like Blue Like Jazz for instance). What is the difference? A good dose of British restraint. Hitchens doesn’t feel the need to delve into every sinful deed or thought he ever had. The book is written with simplicity and clarity of prose and purpose that marks a good journalist (which, surprise, Hitchens is and has been for nearly thirty years).

Hitchens recounts the ideas that led him away from his faith during his teenage years and traces those ideological currents as they blossom in his generation. The memoir portion of the book is the best part by far. It is a simple, humble testimony to the providence of God working in the heart of one man. Hitchens writes with surprisingly genuine humility. He doesn’t want to become the next Christian superstar (in fact, he seems repulsed by the idea). He simply has something to say and says it well.

For those of you who appreciate the quick wit and humor of Christopher Hitchens, his brother Peter has it in ample supply as well. Though Peter contends that he and Christopher are nothing alike, I almost forgot a few times that this wasn’t Christopher writing, the styles are so similar (minus Christopher’s arrogance). 

The second and third parts of the book weren’t as strong as the first part. In the second part, Peter seeks to answer three major “street-level” objections to the existence of God. He makes several good points, but others have done it better. In the third part he connects the ideological heritage of Communist Russia with the New Atheists, and provides some chilling similarities. He is uniquely qualified for this as his first hand experience in Soviet Russia as a journalist was part of his return to faith.

Overall I was completely surprised by this book and enjoyed it thoroughly. I would highly recommend it to anyone. Here are some quotes:

On changing his brother’s mind with this book, “It is my belief that passions as strong as his are far more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time. I am grateful, even so, for the opportunity to challenge his certainties (12).”

“Unlike Christians, Atheists have a high opinion of their own virtue (25).”

“It is not the doomed baby that the parents hate. It is the life they might have to live if the baby is born (30).”

“Christianity is without a doubt difficult and taxing, and all of us fail to emulate the perfection of Christ himself. But we are far better for trying than for not trying, and we know that there is forgiveness available for honest failure (144).”

“Again and again, for civilization to exist and advance, human creatures are required to do things they would not “naturally” do as mammals. Marriage is unnatural. Building for the future is unnatural. Medicine is unnatural. Charity is unnatural. Education is unnatural…The Beaver may be able to build a dam, but it has always been the same dam. Only mankind can advance from making huts of branches to building the Parthenon (145).”

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