I have been reading Christopher Hitchens’ popular book, God is Not Great. I must say, that I quite thoroughly enjoyed the book and thought that there are some particular strengths of it which may be construed as weaknesses, depending on the nature of the reader. This led me to have a certain realisation. Hitchens writes, perhaps, in a way that presumes too much of the reader. This is not a work written for accessibility, or in other words, it presumes a certain level of readingand educ ation, as well as, oddly enough, a knowledge of pop culture.
I find it quite odd how some books I think that few of my immediate peers would actually be able to understand certain references. I recently read Anderson’s ‘Free’, and in that, there are a lot of references to social networking, open source initiatives and bascially, very geeky things like google reader that most people will be baffled about.
Regarding the case of Hitchens, I think a more serious case can be made. I feel that it excludes a certain kind of reader, and I feel that, if a reader has already accomplished tasks like reading Hume, one really doesn’t need to read why ‘God is Not Great’. In other words, the aim of the book is to not preach to the ‘converted’, but convince a non-antitheist audience.
I have a certain fear of this book, that it is parasitic on other arguments and works. However, another take on this is that Hitchens knows the ‘other side’, namely, the arguments of his opponents, and he knows his Biblical exegesis quite well. I find a lot in common in my intellectual and literary sentiment. The namedropping involved in Hitchen’s book is part of his eccentric writing style and, given that he is not an academic but a journalistic writer, it is more a sign of pride than self-indulgence.
I find it unfortunate that Hitchen’s critics attack on the basis of ad-hominem. Hitchens does not deserve this, especially because there are lots of elements in his book that are unique, non-parasitic and signify that he is not trynig to be exclusive in rallying out old arguments and rehash. Hitchens, for instance, talks of his contact with the Sai Baba cult and how he is recognised as a minor prophet by Sai Baba followers (this is a particularly sad story, yet funny and disturbing at the same time). Hitchens also, through his journalistic pursuits has an interesting story about Mother Theresa which says more about the people trying to beatify her than any kind of religious insight whatsoever.
I did some homework on Hitchen’s bgraphy and it looks like any ignorant reader would find it easy to make an ad-hominem argument against him. Hitchen’s was part of a Trotskyist group and a writer for a socialist publication, and then he is later associated with having ‘far right’ views, like the support of the Iraqi invasion (which is quite an interesting perspective on the issue). I find myself quite liking Mr. Hitchens, and the fact that he is terribly knowledgeable for a man who wrote for Vanity Fair.