Monday, April 16, 2012

"The Rage Against God" by Peter Hitchens

Friday Night, I was out with my wife and decided to stop by a book store and purchase Peter Hitchens' book The Rage Against God (promo video above).

Peter Hitchens is the brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, the famous anti-theist who comprised one quarter of the self-styled "Four Horsemen" of the "new-atheism." The other three horsemen being Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett.

For those who've been living in a cave...or an insulated Evangelical bubble...since around 2006, the "new-atheism" isn't necessarily made new by the arguments. It's made new by the way in which those arguments are often presented - through strident militancy and shame-based condescension of believers. 

Clearly, I'm tipping my hand with such a description. Fans of the four-horsemen might argue that my assessment either unfairly describes "new-atheism" or unfairly implies that such brazen ridicule of faith isn't justified or necessary. 

I can sincerely say Christopher Hitchens was my favorite of the four. I disagreed with at least ninety percent of what he said...but, he said it all so well, didn't he? He was clearly talented, perhaps even...dare I say...gifted as a writer and speaker. But, more than that, I got the sense that despite (or maybe even because of) his curmudgeonly personality (or personae), he's someone I would have genuinely liked if I had known him. 

His brother, Peter, has many of the same qualities. He's a gifted writer and speaker with a clearly brilliant mind, and he's willing to use his talents to boldly proclaim his convictions.  But, his convictions are quite different from his brother's. 

Peter is a Christian.  

Moreover, he's a former anti-theist and Marxist himself (having burned a Bible at the age of fifteen). So, his book is largely a "there and back again" journey. 

I started the book at around 11:15 Friday evening...and finished it around 5:00 the next morning. I was riveted. It's hard to explain why because being a semi-autobiographical, cultural analysis and apologetic, it's obviously not the type of plot driven narratives what we describe as "page-turners."  

Perhaps its largely because I find the mere existence of Peter Hitchens and his faith fascinating and delightful for particular reasons.  His faith stands in direct contrast to all the self-congratulatory compliments so many skeptics often pay themselves. (Seriously. How much pride and condescension emanates from the self-given moniker "freethinker?") We're so often told this is a battle of faith vs. reason and that the educated, intelligent, and perhaps even well bred will pick their side accordingly. Yet, here we have two brothers with a nearly identical upbringing, education, culture, and even DNA. 

One believes. The other does not.  How affirming or infuriating depending on your point of view. 

If you have a genuine interest in apologetics, how Christianity simultaneously effects and is effected by culture, and how hard-hearted skeptics come to conclude that there is a God after all and that Jesus Christ is His Son (Peter says it's more likely to be by art than by argument), then you'll love this book. 

For a much more thorough review of the book itself, I recommend this series on Doug Wilson's blog. Start at the bottom and work your way up.

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