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April 25, 2007, 12:04 PM

Thank God for Christopher Hitchens

For he has written the finest of the down-with-God books.

By Mark Warren

[more from this author]

Christopher Hitchens

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Christopher Hitchens

In creating Christopher Hitchens, God took special care and did a hell of a job. A writer touched by greatness, following his own broken compass all over the map, servile to no one, insulter of many, drinker and smoker nonpareil. A man of consequence. A writer. Thank you, God.

Hooey to that, Hitchens would say. Bullshit. If I am great or if I live under a bridge, no divinity made it so. He would reject the smug obeisance to the Unseen embedded in the compliment as just so much Sunday-morning claptrap, the kind that drives him around the bend and compelled him to write God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Warner Twelve, $25). In it, the nine-year-old Hitchens asks the jaundiced question, "With all this continual prayer, why no result?" before chronicling the in fact horrible results of predicating one's idea of existence on make-believe: Belief in one's personal god makes people want to kill people who don't believe in Him, for one. And this fact cannot be denied: God has achieved a mighty body count.

And speaking of violence, did anybody read The God Delusion, by that guy Richard Dawkins, who says that all the atheists should designate themselves as "brights" to differentiate them from all the knuckle-dragging morons who believe? What an asshole. Or how about the wishfully thinking The End of Faith, by Sam Harris? Harris is a neuroscientist, you know, and that's quite a credential.

But what have we done to deserve this ungodly publishing trend? Well, seeing as how He has had all of time to make His case to a captive humanity, and seeing as how He is accountable for several great and many not-so-great religions, and seeing as how some of the top stars of those religions are maniacs, and seeing as how He Himself is responsible for a few of the best-selling books ever, it is only right and proper that we now face the season of the down-with-God books. This is a healthy development, for the religious have not been well behaved lately.

One need not say any more about the ridiculous Osama bin Laden and the crazy violent fundamentalists worldwide, but what on earth have we done to deserve the Catholic League, for instance, with its public face, the dashing Bill Donohue, who said the accusers of child-raping priests were guilty of "sexual McCarthyism"? (Bill, if you're listening, I offer this advice, one obnoxious former altar boy to another: Shut your trap. You're killing the Church in America. On second thought, carry on.) It is all enough to make one want to banish God. Hence all these books. But do yourself a favor and skip the Dawkins and Harris; they're smug, turgid, and boring, with all the human feeling of a tax return. Read Hitchens instead. Test your faith severely or find a champion for your feelings, but read Hitchens. It's a tendentious delight, a caustic and even brilliant book. And with the title alone, he takes his life in his hands, which right there has got to be some proof of his thesis.

But yet, there's something all these utterly rational missalettes miss. The hunger. The need. And for all the bad things it has wrought, the profound and revolutionary social force that religion has been in the life of man. Because we need Him, He persists. No matter how big the book thrown at Him, His book is always bigger. No matter how much closer we get to finding God's face through a telescope, many more of us will still be baying, or praying, at the moon.

And so, thank God for Christopher Hitchens.

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