God Is [not] Great

This started out as a book review, but morphed into a full-scale rebuttal, not of every false claim by Hitchens (because he is somewhat repetitious), but certainly of a lot of them. Hitchens has 19 chapters:

Hitchens chapter: 1  2 3  4 5  6 7 8 9  10 11  12 13 14 15  16 17  18 19 My conclusion

P.217  You might be tempted to guess from the title of chapter 16 "Is Religion Child Abuse?" and its opening paragraph that Hitchens is now going to argue that the atheists alone should be allowed the priviledge of causing "many children [to have] their psychological and physical lives irreparably maimed by the compulsory inculcation of [atheist] faith." But after three pages of repeating his tiresome whine against theists warning the atheists about their eternal destiny, he abandons the whole notion of ideas as "child abuse" and proceeds to spend two pages arguing against his own atheist colleagues who mostly favor abortion -- and rightly so: abortion is in fact evil, no matter who is for or against it -- then ends that tirade in support of unborn-child-killing. As a Darwinist, of course, he would want to promote the murder of all children but his own gene pool, but of course a culture dominated by closet Christian ethics (including Hitchens himself) would not take kindly to such an agenda.

P.226  Hitchens devotes most of the chapter (six pages) to railing against circumcision "now exposed for what it is -- a mutilation of a powerless infant with the aim of ruining it future sex life." I will not defend the Muslim practice of female mutilation, nor (assuming Hitchens accurately describes it) the Orthodox Jewish practice involving the rabbi's mouth, but Hitchens offers no support for his claim that infant boy circumcision interferes with adult sexual pleasure -- how could he? The only way to know would be to run before-and-after experiments, which by the nature of the case are impossible, or else to collect data in a double-blind survey, which probably also can't be done. Absent such evidence, this chapter represents little more than a projection of Hitchens' own sexual hang-ups, which we already knew about from the first chapter. We certainly know that the future sex life of a child killed by abortion is utterly ruined, but that's so obvious it seems to have escaped Hitchens' attention. Whether he likes it or not, the vast majority of human sacrifices (abortions) today are performed by atheists, mostly in China. It's the Christians, not the athesits, who are fighting the cruel practice here in the US and worldwide.

P.229  Hitchens cannot be ignorant of the most damning criticism of ("we don't need God to be moral") neo-atheism, and he is not. The disingenuously titled chapter 17 "The Last-Ditch 'Case' Against Secularism" pretends to address the problem Hitler and Stalin pose for atheists, but he really dodges the issue. He cannot, and does not, deny that from his adopted (Christian) ethical perspective, Hitler and Stalin were evil. But he also does not acknowledge that he, Christopher Hitchens, is the one in (partial) violation of the ethical teachings of his chosen religion, and not those tyrants. Christian ethics teach care and protection for the helpless; atheistic Darwinism teaches "red in tooth and claw" elimination of the helpless and "less fit" species and members thereof. Christian ethics teach a value for the truth; atheism teaches only survival at any cost, which includes lying or pretending to adopt the values of the surrounding culture when necessary. Hitchens appears to have complied with some or all of that part. While the rest of us eagerly applaud Hitchens when he seems to abandon the "red in tooth and claw" ethic, it leaves him no moral foundation for criticizing Christians who also violate our own ethical teaching more often than complying. The criticism is valid, but it is hypocritical coming from an atheist.

P.230  "One could go further and say that secular totalitarianism has actually provided us with the summa of human evil. The examples most in common use -- those of the Hitler and Stalin regimes -- show us with terrible clarity what can happen when men usurp the role of gods." It seems to me that if there are no gods -- as Hitchens certainly believed if not persuasively argued -- then men are the highest gods, and there is nothing to usurp. Hitler and Stalin were acting consistent with atheistic teaching, and Hitchens cannot deny it. He does not deny it. He mostly avoids saying anything at all about Hitler and Stalin, preferring to point his damning finger instead at the Christians who collaborated with the Bad Guys, as if that were somehow worse than the Bad Guys themselves.

P.232  Hitchens claims that "the object of perfecting the species -- which is the very root and source of the totalitarian impulse -- is in essence a religious one." Hitchens seems amazingly ignorant of Darwin when it suits his agenda. It might be argued that urging ethical behavior on people for the good of all is indeed a religious goal, but that is hardly "totalitarian" except to the extent that the definition of "ethical behavior" becomes too narrow. Narrow-mindedness is not the exclusive property of religion (unless you include all religions, specifically atheism). Anyway, the poster boys of this chapter, Hitler and Stalin, are the patent disproof of Hitchens' claim.

P.235  Hitchens devotes several pages to the complicity of the Catholic church with "fascism" -- which term is used to dissociate Hitler from his atheism, because Franco was certainly not an atheist. Of course, Franco did nothing like the pogroms of his atheist friend to the east, nor like their common enemy, the atheist Soviet dictator even farther east. In support of this guilt by association, Hitchens says, "it is certainly not a coincidence that the Catholic church was generally sympathetic to fascism as an idea." Let me again remind his readers that not all Catholics were completely true to the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. Martin Luther achieved his prominance precisely because they had strayed so far, nor did they correct the problem with any alacrity. The Latin liturgy and the inaccessibility of Biblical teachings to the public made it easier for the leadership to abuse their position.

P.242  "Those who invoke 'secular' tyranny in contrast to religion are hoping we will forget two things: the connection between the Christian churches and fascism, and the capitulation of the Christian churches to National Socialism." As an aside, I find it curious that Hitchens refuses to capitalize "God" everywhere in this book (including the title, but excepting direct quotes) in an obvious effort to belittle Deity, but withholds such displeasure from "National Socialism" (Nazi politics). Hitchens is in no place to criticize, certainly not in this chapter, the failings of the Church. The famous atheist despots acted consistently with their religion, but the Christians had a tough choice between the Biblical teaching to "submit to those who are in authority" and the occasionally opposing Biblical teaching to "serve God rather than men." Where to draw that line is a judgment call, which Hitchens has abdicated any right he might have to judge. Different people drew that line in different places, as Hitchens admits, even while attempting to deny the religious motivation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others like him (p.241).

P.245  Hitchens approvingly quotes Czeslaw Milosz in linking Christians to the totalitarian despots: "I have known many Christians who were strict Stalinists in the field of politics but who retained certain inner reservations, believing God would make corrections once the bloody sentences of the all-mighties of History were carried out." Nowhere does Hitchens point out how far these "liberation theologians" have strayed from Biblical teaching, although he does admit that they were later denounced by the Pope.

P.247  "There is nothing in modern secular argument that even hints at any ban on religious observance." That is patently false even in this book, although Hitchens died shortly before seeing a country pass a law against circumcision (including that for religious observance). There are many atheist countries today that have forbidden any gatherings for religious observance throughout most of Hitchens' life. He cannot be ignorant of the practices of China and Viet Nam, and he even admits that Albania was doing it. Maybe Hitchens covertly crosses his fingers while explaining "what the meaning of 'is' is" -- in this case "modern" should be read to exclude the people whose arguments and behavior contradict this bogus claim, in other words, excluding all atheists in control of whole countries.

P.249  "Let me admit at once that some of the bravest of these resistors are fundamentalist Christian anti-Communists." Right on! Except Hitchens goes on to tell about one of them who felt conflict between what he was doing and what his church taught in what I have to believe is a misrepresentation of what the guy actually meant to be saying (Hitchens offers no direct quote). Christianity is no way a totalitarianism comparable to North Korea. However,

"Religion even at its meekest has to admit that what it is proposing is a 'total' solution," which is true, including the atheist religion,

"...in which faith must be to some extent blind," which is certainly true of most religions (including atheism); however, classic Christianity does not demand blind faith, but only trust in God which goes beyond the evidence and never against it,

"...and in which all aspects of the public and private life must be submitted to a permanent higher supervision." Yup, God certainly has the right to make that demand, but the Christian God is Good, so such a demand is not onerous -- unless of course you want to do harmful things to other people. Notice, further, that this generalization is still true today of the atheists in places where there is no theistic majority keeping them in check, such as China and Viet Nam. Of course in those cases there is no god in that position, so the government takes on the role of "a permanent higher supervision."

P.252  Hitchens concludes his attempt to deflect the just criticism of atheism onto religionists who did (or defended) similar things in less measure, "The alternative to these grotesque phenomena is not the chimera of secular dictatorship, but the defense of secular pluralism and of the right not to believe or be compelled to believe." Because history shows that Christians and other religionists fare little better than the atheists in their will to dominate, but only fall short of the atheists (and Muslims) in their success at killing off the opposition, I'm inclined to agree. However, it should be noted that the atheists are in fact compelling belief in their religious dogma (Darwinism) even today in the so-called pluralistic United States. Physician, heal thyself!

P.253  Not only is Hitchens aware of the problem of evil atheists (Hitler and Stalin), he also knows God's judgment on his religion, the first verse of Psalm 14 (and, as Hitchens wryly points out, also Psalm 53), which he quotes: "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." For some reason, Hitchens considers this a "null remark," but it is only null if in fact there is no God. Hitchens only assumes, but never proves that hypothesis -- indeed he cannot prove it -- and for the rest of us who might be open to the facts wherever they might lead, it is a word of warning that points inexorably to the folly of trying to claim as true what cannot be proved.

P.254  Hitchens reasonably supposes that we cannot "know how many ostensibly devout people were secretly unbelievers," but Jesus actually gave us the disproof of that claim when he said "by their fruits you shall know them." As Hitchens is only too eager to point out, there are far too many nominal Christians who behave(d) like unbelievers. I would say "like atheists" but that is an unnecessary provocation. They are one and the same.

Later on the same page Hitchens tries to argue or assume or at least imply -- wholly without evidence other than his own "wish-thinking" (his term, used earlier in the book) -- that most or all of the scientific and great artistic achievements done by Christians and other theists throughout history were in fact done by covert atheists. But Hitchens has never let facts interfere with his opinions.

P.255  While admitting that Socrates was not an actual atheist, it is important to Hitchens that he deviated sufficiently from the established religion of Athens to have that effect, namely death at the hands of the religionists, so he spends four pages on the Greek philosopher. Again, Hitchens is aware of the vastly better attested quality of the New Testament manuscripts than what little we know of Socrates, so he throws in this little (half-true, but totally misleading) barb: "The records of his life and his words are secondhand, almost but not quite as much as are the books of the Jewish and Christian Bible..."

P.256  "All [Socrates] really 'knew,' he said, was the extent of his own ignorance. This to me is still the definition of an educated person." I think that's a great definition -- in part because it seems to exclude from its domain the person who wrote it, but even more because it reflects a criticism I often level at people, that "he doesn't know what he doesn't know." Anybody claiming to be an atheist doesn't know what he doesn't know.

Hitchens attributes to Socrates the insight "that conscience is innate." The Apostle Paule said so too, rather independently, and Hitchens himself considers it an important insight. The problem is not that the atheists have no conscience, but that they have no ultimate accountability to urge them to obey their conscience. Minority atheists like Hitchens in a Christian -- or perhaps Socrates in the Athenian -- theistic culture have the laws of the state as a source of accountability to coerce conformity to the social mores drilled into their little psyches very early in life, but what happens when the atheist is at the top of the food chain of accountability? Hitler and Stalin had nobody at all to hold them accountable, so they were able with (temporary) impunity to violate their presumed consciences. Hitchens does not address that problem.

"Those who believe that the existence of conscience is a proof of a godly design are advancing an argument that simply cannot be disproved because there is no evidence for or against it." I do not agree. That everybody (psychopaths possibly excepted) have consciences Hitchens and I agree on. Bacteria and worms do not have consciences, as I think we also would agree. Our conscience urges us to do things not obviously in our own selfish interest because it is the Right thing to do. Perhaps Hitchens might disagree with that definition, but not for long: we only need to enumerate a bunch of things a conscience does to people to see that it is true. If God didn't put the conscience into the human  psyche, where did it come from? Evolution? That would require that it contribute to the survival of the person with conscience -- which it does, but only in a culture where everybody already has a conscience. The first individual to evolve by neo-Darwinistic random mutation whatever genetic apparatus is necessary to support this (agreed) innate conscience, could only demonstrate that new and hitherto unique conscience by acting against his own immediate self-interest, which by Darwinian theology makes such an individual less fit for survival, thereby removing the genetic apparatus from the gene pool. The Darwinists don't have an answer to that problem, but it certainly is evidence against a non-theistic explanation of conscience.

P.262  I guess the point of this chapter is to argue that the only "rational" people throughout all history were atheists. Hitchens needs to stretch the truth rather hard with some of them, Socrates and Isaac Newton, at least, and perhaps also Spinoza. "Spinoza's definition of a god made manifest throughout the natural world comes very close to defining a religious god out of existence. And if there is a pervasive, preexisting cosmic deity, who is part of what he creates, then there is no space left for a god who intervenes in human affairs." That does not follow. Any deity who might choose to create a space-time continuum that he is then somehow part of -- recall that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, so this is not totally illogical -- could certainly choose to change the rules of himself = his universe any time he wants to, and however temporarily as he so chose (that is, perform miracles not available to the rest of us). To believe otherwise is nothing more or less than an atheistic denial of any god capable of creating anything at all, not even a pantheistic universe. Hitchens was such an atheist, but I cannot say the same of Spinoza.

P.265  Hitchens finally gets around to saying something about the various arguments for the existence of God in his discussion of Immanuel Kant. "He overthrew the cosmological proof of god -- which suggests that one's own existence must posit another necessary existence -- by saying it only restated the ontological argument." I have not read enough of Kant to know if that accurately reports his views, but he has a sufficiently high reputation to justify my disbelief. The Cosmological Argument is in fact quite different from the Ontological Argument. I suspect both have evolved somewhat since Kant, precisely to deal with his objections. IMHO the Ontological Argument still has flaws, but making existence an attribute is no longer one of them. The modern Cosmological Argument, on the other hand, is built on several premises, only one of which is the existence of self (or the universe, which is approximately but not exactly the same); other premises are the observed necessity of a cause for everything that has a beginning, and the observed scientific fact that the universe did indeed have a beginning. The Ontological Argument argues strictly from reason to existence, but the Cosmological Argument is built squarely on empirical science. Hitchens offers this thought experiment against the Ontological Argument:

"Are there dragons," she asked. I said that there were not. "Have there ever been?" I said all the evidence was to the contrary. "But if there is a word dragon," she said, "then once there must have been dragons."
Maybe not all the evidence: we do have their fossils. There are no fossil unicorns, yet we have that word, too. Obviously we can invent words for things that exist only in our imaginations. Despite the best efforts of atheists like Hitchens, "God" is not in that set. But the Ontological Argument does not clearly prove it, as I show elsewhere. "A hundred thalers that I merely imagine have all the same predicates as a hundred real thalers." So much for existence being a predicate. As I said, the Plantinga version of the argument does not make existence a predicate.

P.266  Continuing his discussion of Kant, Hitchens mentions his "categorical imperative" as "an echo of Rabbi Hillel's 'Golden Rule'" which Hitchens neglects to tell us Hillel got from the Pentateuch many centuries earlier. Hitchens adds, "In this summary of mutual interest and solidarity, there is no requirement for any enforcing or supernatural authority." Indeed not. Nor is there any requirement for people to act according to it! They do so (at the expense of self interest) only when they believe in the greater good, which in Darwinist terms better reproduces their own DNA at the expense of that "greater good." No Darwinist has ever credibly explained how that came to be, as far as I know. Maybe there is some possible atheistic creation myth that does not depend on Darwin's failed hypothesis, but they are not offering any yet.

P.267  In reference to Ben Franklin, Hitchens wants us to "Remember that we are examining the childhood of our species." Get real. Even by Bishop Ussher's chronology, Franklin was 97% of the way to where we are now; in the neo-Darwinian chronology he was 99.99% of the way to here. By that reckoning, a 100-year-old man was a child three days ago. Nonsense. Unless Hitchens wants us to believe we are all still "children" and his atheism is merely an infantile fiction that the human race will eventually grow out of. I didn't think so.

P.268  Hitchens attributes to David Hume the argument from evil, which has adequately been answered by Christians elsewhere, although Hitchens gives no hint that he was aware of it. Why am I not surprised.

"Where do all the creatures come from? Hume's answer anticipates Darwin by saying in effect they evolve: the efficient ones survive and the inefficient ones die out." That doesn't tell us anything at all about where they come from, but only where they went. To know where they came from, you need some mechanism that creates new creatures. Darwin did not offer any, and while his successors say random genetic mutation does it, the scientific evidence does not support such a claim.

In reference to the US Constitution, Hitchens repeats the less-than-true claim that it "mentioned religion only when guaranteeing that it would always be separated from the state." The word "separate" in any of its forms appears in the US Constitution as many times as the word "God" does: exactly none. The Constitution only guarantees that Congress must not intrude on religion, nor give any religion (I still include here the atheist religion) any prominence over another. Unfortunately, nobody believes in the Constitution any more, except in name. The supreme Law of the land is only what King SCOTUS says it is, not more and not less.

P.269  "Charles Darwin['s] work was eventually able to transcend the limitations of ignorance." Wish-thinking again. The only ignorance I see in connection with Darwinism is concerning what his theory actually teaches, and what science supports it, both forms of ignorance being today widespread and growing. All popular presentations (for example any movie) that mention evolution get it essentially wrong. Anybody attempting to defend Darwinism only does so by invoking the authority of the Establishment Church (as they did to Galileo), and never by citing actual peer-reviewed science.

As an example of the first kind of ignorance, Hitchens says of Darwin, "if he ever found an adaptation conforming to environment, he would have to confess to... the absence of a first cause or grand design." I don't know what Darwin actually said that inspired Hitchens to write this silliness, but I did not find anything like these words in Darwin's Origin of the Species. If Darwin ever found any "adaptation" at all, it would (by the definition of the word) be conforming to the environment. Maybe he, unlike some modern theistic evolutionists (which are properly ridiculed both by the scientists and by Bible-believing Christians) cannot find a "grand design" in his evolution, but there's nothing in his theory to eliminate a first cause that got the universe going.

P.275  Hitchens ends this chapter with a now known ridiculous reference to "infect[ing] healthy grown with its junk DNA." Five years after this book was published, and one year after Hitchens died, the biologists are now denying that there is any such thing as "junk DNA." God always gets the last laugh.

P.277  "In point of fact, we do not have the option of 'choosing' absolute truth, or faith." It's an interesting confession Hitchens makes here. He continues, "We only have the right to say of those who do claim to know the truth of revelation, that they are deceiving themselves and attempting to deceive -- or to intimidate -- others." Would Hitchens admit that this applies to himself when he claims (or rather assumes, without proof) that there is no God? Or when he insists, as in the title of this book (even with examples of the effect), to know the "truth" that "religion poisons everything"?

P.278  "To 'choose' dogma and faith over doubt and experiment is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid." Maybe so, but in my humble opinion, doubt and experiment have been discarded by the Darwinists. We may not like the alternative, but honest "doubt and experiment" offers us no other option. Hitchens simply didn't do his homework.

P.283  I have marked numerous other items in this book that are wrong or even wrong-headed, but it's getting tiresome to say so, and this document is far too long already. Hitchens ends this last chapter with a mention of the Greek advice to "Know yourself." He turns that around, "To clear the mind for this project, it has become necessary to know the enemy, and to prepare to fight it." I agree reciprocally.


If you want to declare yourself to be an atheist, this book will give you plausible excuses to justify your folly. If you want to give due diligence to the truth before finally deciding, you need to look elsewhere, because Hitchens has not said much that is clearly true.

Hitchens gives us in this book a dazzling array of negative things about people of faith, some very bad, some only repugnant to atheists. With less effort he could also (but chose not to) say like things about fellow atheists, and about people unrelated to their religion -- indeed some of those things are in this book, falsely laid at the feet of believers. So what? People do goofy and wrong-headed things, and it's easy to criticize their failures and ignore the good. Hitchens' purpose for this book is to shake his fist in the face of God, and to reject His Son Jesus Christ. In a fair court of law, with an equally determined advocate for the other side, no jury would find for Hitchens. In the real world that is still happening: atheists are still a tiny (and by some accounts, shrinking) minority, and they are all atheists for reasons other than given in this book.

If there is a God who created the universe, then He has the right of ownership to tell His creation how to live, just as Christopher Hitchens has the right of ownership to expect this his book to communicate the message he, Hitchens, wants it to say. The book has no natural right to say otherwise, nor do we as God's creatures have any right to disobey. I think in his heart Hitchens knew that, which is why it was important to him to be an atheist and to crusade for the non-existance of any -- especially the Christian Creator God. But Hitchens was also a professional journalist; his job was to learn and report the truth. He chose to do otherwise in the most important reporting job he or anybody else can ever be given. On Judgment Day, I suspect that will be evident to everybody.

All male atheists I have encountered (including Hitchens; there aren't very many open female atheists) give as the primary reason for their choice of religion, a misogynist hostility to religious teachings of monogamy -- which by extension (in the Christian teachings) also relates people to God. This hostility is repeated over and over in this book. Humans were designed for a lifetime commitment to a single sexual partner, but that design is broken most often in men. However, even the most polyamorous of them still honor the principle by their preference for virgins. The evils of divorce and abortion and single mothers living in poverty, and a government willing to subjugate them to that life of dependency and poverty, and atheism, all come from the destruction of the principle of monogamy. I think it's great that Hitchens (mostly, but we really don't know) was monogamous; nevertheless, his constant railing against the policy shows a deep-seated hatred for the benefits it affords to women. It isn't religion that poisons everything, it's misogynist men seeking to dominate women that poison everything.

One of the things that offends Hitchens, and he repeats it over and over, is that people who claim to believe in a God of love are so eager to consign him (Hitchens) and his colleagues to Hell. God is not willing that any should perish, and we should not be either, but it is the nature of sin that innocent people get hurt, and Heaven would not be Heaven if God allowed into that state of perfection people who do not want Jesus Christ to reign over them. Hitchens repeatedly tells us in his book that he does not want God telling him what to do; he wants to do things that hurt people. He doesn't say that, and perhaps the harm he wants to inflict on other people is less severe than what his fellow atheists Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler did, but this book is filled with lies and things hurtful to other people, and Christopher Hitchens willfully put them there. For people who do not want to live under the rule of a benevolent God and do only good to other persons, God lovingly gives them their wish. They get to go to a place where God is not. It's not nice there, just like it's not nice in North Korea, but that's because God is not there, and His people are not there doing Good. Everyone who goes to Hell willingly chose that destination over Heaven and Heaven's God. It's our responsibility as Christians to warn people of the consequences of their choices, and Hitchens heard that warning and made his choice. Hitchens has now passed on to his eternal reward.

To the rest of you, God's message is the same: Repent!

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Minor corrections added 2013 January 2